A few spots around town go above and beyond a standard cocktail menu, creating thoughtful, imaginative, well-crafted drinks, often utilizing locally distilled spirits.
113 Washington Ave., 505-988-3236 www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/inn-of-the-anasazi-santa-fe dining/Anasazi-Bar-and-Lounge 309 W. San Francisco St.5, 05-995-4530 www.eldoradohotel.com/dining-nightlifecava-santa-fe-lounge 132 W Water St., 505-983-1615 www.coyotecafe.com
you go out for cocktails in the first place,” my drinking companion said, smoothly pivoting his glass from the bar to his lips. The weather outside wasn’t exactly frightful, but the wind was gusting and the roads and sidewalks were patched with ice, so we had stepped in out of the cold into the warm, golden-lit interior of Geronimo and secured two coveted seats at the tiny bar.
The drink in question was the Green Lotus, which combines cucumber, soju, and yuzu in an intriguing, astutely balanced cocktail — tart, sweet, and vegetal. With its salted rim, it could’ve been mistaken for the Norteño margarita, which augments the classic sweetand-sour elixir with the distinct flavor and mild heat of Romero Farms’ Alcalde Improved green chile, with which silver tequila had been infused.
As a top vacation destination, Santa Fe offers perhaps more than its fair share of watering holes where tourists and locals can unwind with their beverage of choice. In the wake of the recent “cocktail renaissance,” these days you’ll find at least a short list of classic cocktails, specialty drinks, or signature margaritas at almost any hotel or restaurant bar — the Staab House at La Posada, Low ’n Slow at the Hotel Chimayó, La Fiesta Lounge at La Fonda, Rio Chama, Pranzo, and even the Dragon Room at the Pink Adobe. A few spots around town, though, go above and beyond, creating thoughtful, imaginative, well-crafted drinks, often utilizing locally distilled spirits.
At Secreto Lounge at the Hotel St. Francis, mixologist Chris Milligan spearheaded the local cocktail resurgence. If you step in the doors of the hotel on a night when the bar is busy, you’ll detect the distinctive aroma of their signature drink, the Smoked Sage Margarita. The hot buttered rum, made with Milligan’s special “batter,” is particularly popular this time of year. At Derailed at the Sage Inn, cocktail-world veteran and “garden-to-glass” innovator Natalie Bovis (also known as the Liquid Muse) collaborated on a creative list of cocktails, utilizing such local spirits as Expedition Vodka and Wheeler’s Gin from Santa Fe Spirits. And at Coyote Café, Quinn Stephenson and his team offer an intriguing list, including the Samurai — flaming cinnamon “extinguished” with Mandarin vodka and blood-orange juice — and another iteration of the green-chile-infused Norteño margarita.
At Sazón, Fernando Olea has assembled an eyepopping list of mezcals — including several from Del Maguey, founded by Taos resident Ron Cooper, who is widely lauded for supporting Mexican producers and bringing their celebrated spirit to the global market. Sazón even incorporates mezcal into their house margarita (the Sazonrita), affording those less familiar a chance to acquaint themselves with its distinctively smoky flavor.
New Mexico is currently home to at least seven distilleries, and Santa Fe Spirits is the leader among them. At their two tasting rooms — one downtown, one on the Southside — you can sample their products straight or in an array of cocktails. Especially worthy of note are the Colkegan whiskey, made with mesquite-smoked malt; the easygoing Expedition vodka; the lovely apple brandy; and the unique Atapiño liqueur, which
singled out as the best locally made gift in New Mexico for this holiday season.
Outside of tasting rooms, local spirits are somewhat unevenly represented on menus around town. Sazón’s list currently includes the Cidra del Sud, which blends Rojo Piñon Rum from Albuquerque’s Left Turn Distilling with apple cider, ginger liqueur, and lemon. The Inn of the Anasazi uses local spirits to excellent, noteworthy effect in two spins on classic cocktails: the Anasazi Manhattan, given a smoky lift from Colkegan, and the Santa Fe 66, a nod to the French 75 that incorporates Santa Fe Spirits’ apple brandy as well as Gruet sparkling wine.
In the dark, cozy Living Room at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, the Sloe Sage Fizz is made with Wheeler’s Gin, though on the night we stopped in, it had been eighty-sixed due to lack of ingredients. KGB Spirits’ Taos Lightning and Turley Mill ryes as well as Santa Fe Spirits’ Silver Coyote and Colkegan whiskeys make appearances at brown-liquor-centric Radish & Rye, although the bourbon-based house cocktails are made using Buffalo Trace from Kentucky. The Cava bar at the Hotel Eldorado serves the Blood & Sand cocktail — made with Colkegan, blood-orange juice, cherry liqueur, and vermouth — but the spacious, well-outfitted Agave Lounge doesn’t include a single local spirit in their list of signature drinks (we sampled the Christmas margarita, which, while cheerfully colorful and seasonally appropriate, was cloying and needed more lime for balance).
The holidays are a time when we unwind and celebrate a little more than usual. But let’s make merry intelligently: Walk, choose a designated driver, call a cab, or hire an Über. From 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Capital City Cab offers $5 rides from bars or parties to residences within the city limits (the fare for three or more passengers is $10). Über suggests that you check their app for ideal travel times, since fares and demand may be higher between midnight and 3 a.m. Meanwhile, take a cup of kindness and say cheers to a new year!
10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily 5-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, closed Sundays-Tuesdays 5:30 p.m.-closing nightly