Photography ©Avery Pearson.

Flavor of the Town

“Spirits” (and Beer and Wine) Aren’t Just for Halloween

by Nicholas Peña

Every year, Santa Fe welcomes approximately two million visitors from around the world. Most guests are drawn by the City Different’s outstanding restaurants, history and experiences that are unique to Santa Fe. Not only does Santa Fe have some of the best restaurants in the country, the city has some of the best mixologists, brewers and sommeliers in the industry. Just as navigating the city’s 400 or so restaurants can be a bit daunting to out-of-towners, so can finding some of the local favorite cocktail, beer and wine spots. Below is a short cheat sheet, a beginner’s guide. Welcome to the Santa Fe Spirits Tour!

Obviously, it’s difficult to choose only a handful of the many places that serve amazing libations, but since I’m a big fan of and participant in our restaurant and bar community, I’m going to list a few of my favorite cocktail, beer and wine hangouts.

Cocktail Classics

There is no shortage of great mixologists and craft cocktails in Santa Fe, but some of my favorites can be found at SantaCafé, La Casa Sena and Paloma.

SantaCafé, 231 Washington Avenue, and is well known for its fine food and wonderful patio, but don’t skip the Yuzu Gimlet. The cocktail consists of first-pressed Japanese Yuzu, vodka and sugar. The cost is $18. Another favorite is the Blush, an inspired mix of sparkling wine, rhubarb, strawberries, star anise, cinnamon and tonic. It’s $16.

La Casa Sena, 125 East Palace Avenue, is known for its hacienda-style patio, complete with a garden. The flowers and lush greenery add to the atmosphere. This establishment just might also have the summer drink of the year. Called the Frozé, it’s made with rosé, Titos Vodka and house-made simple syrup. The tasty elixir is then frozen and served in a white-wine glass and garnished with a hibiscus flower. The cost is $12.

If you’re like me and love tequila but are not a huge fan of margaritas, try The Paloma at Paloma Restaurant.  The Paloma is a mix of Cimarron Blanco tequila, grapefruit, lime and Squirt, and is a refreshing, flavorful summer drink that runs about $11. Paloma is located at 401 South Guadalupe Street. Pro Tip: Secreto Lounge and the Pink Adobe are also great destinations for tasty cocktails.

YuZu gimlet and a Blush cocktail from SantaCafé
A handsome couple: SantaCafé's tasty YuZu gimlet and a beautiful Blush cocktail.
A bright flight of beer at Beer Creek Brewing.
A bright flight of beer at Beer Creek Brewing.

Beer Extraordinaire

Brew fans out there need not worry: I haven’t forgotten you.  Santa Feans love craft beer, and with a handful of great breweries and taprooms, what better way to explore the town than a brew crawl? Some of my personal favorites are Beer Creek Brewing, Tumbleroot Brewing and, of course, the granddaddy of New Mexico breweries, Santa Fe Brewing Company.

Beer Creek Brewing Company, 3810 State Highway 14, is a bit off the beaten path, but is well worth the drive. The Black Wedding IPA is a personal favorite of mine. IPA fans will find this 6.9% mid-range IBU beer pairs well with their slow-cooked barbeque and hand-tossed pizzas. Enjoy them on the gorgeous patio. If you’re not an IPA fan, check out the Rowe Mesa Red.

Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, 2791 Agua Fria Street, is another great stop. This brewery doubles as a distillery and is also a phenomenal music venue. The outdoor patio, complete with koi pond, is a must see. Some of my favorite beers include the Dortmunder Lager and Honey Double IPA. Both are great additions to the fare from the food truck out back. Pro Tip: They also sell spirits and their own hand sanitizer.

No brew tour is complete without stopping by The Bridge, the local taproom of the Santa Fe Brewing Company. It’s on the outskirts of Santa Fe at 37 Fire Place, and there’s a second location downtown at 510 Galisteo. Both taprooms feature great patios and an array of beers broad enough to please everyone in your group. My personal favorites are the 7K IPA, Java Stout and the Straight Up Apple Cider.

Honorable mention goes to Coyote Café for their Lava Lamp, a combination of Modelo Especial with a frozen margarita float.

Wine preferences are personal, so allow the staff to guide you to the wine that’s right for your palate and your choice of dishes.

Wine and Dine

Now for all you winos out there — I mean wine aficionados — a fun fact about New Mexico is that the state is known for having the country’s oldest wine history. I’m not sure if there is a direct correlation, but Santa Fe definitely has no shortage of places to enjoy great wines. There are literally too many to choose from, but a few to start with are the Gruet Tasting Room, Restaurant Martin and Rio Chama Steakhouse. Now, although New Mexico has a longstanding wine history, it is not particularly known for great wines, mostly because we don’t have the proper length growing season, soil and climate for producing well-developed grapes.

That said, there are always exceptions. One place that has done a really fine job since 1984 is Gruet Winery. It’s based in Albuquerque, with a tasting room there and one in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. The Gruet Tasting Room, inside Hotel St. Francis, at 210 Don Gaspar Avenue, has an intimate patio. My favorite wines are their Sauvage NV and the Sparkling Pinot Meunier Brut, but I would highly recommend any of their sparkling flights. Reservations are recommended.

Restaurant Martín, 526 Galisteo Street, is one of my favorite restaurants in Santa Fe. This nationally acclaimed eatery features fine cuisine and an incredibly solid wine list that is well-balanced and offers a broad range of choices. Enjoy a memorable dinner and wine on their beautiful patio. Reservations are recommended.  Pro Tip: Wine preferences are personal, so allow the staff to guide you to the wine that’s right for your palate and your choice of dishes.

Rio Chama Prime Steakhouse, at 414 Old Santa Fe Trail in the shadow of the state capitol, also has great wine list. I recommend a gorgeous cabernet paired with their lamb rack or prime rib. There are two patios, a lush, cozier one in front and larger one in back adorned with bright color pots of flowers.

Here’s hoping you “lift your spirits” by trying any or all of these eateries and their wonderful libations!

Nicholas Peña
Contributor

Nicholas Peña owner of Food Tour New Mexico, is a Santa Fean whose culturally rich, passionate city excursions feed clients’ hearts and minds. The former food editor of Albuquerque The Magazine, Nick is a would-be chef and above-average tequila connoisseur with a penchant for the outdoors and for Northern New Mexico fly fishing in particular.

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