While Santa Fe has a decades-old history as a hotbed of fine-dining innovation, several mixologists are working hard to bring the beverage end of their menus up to speed.
The mélange of Native American, Spanish and European cultures solidify Santa Fe's status as an ideal home base for painters, authors, sculptors, designers (Tom Ford) and, of course, celebrity chefs including Mark Miller, Martin Rios, Katharine Kagel and Eric DiStefano. In the same vein, ambitious mixologists and beverage directors are tapping in to locally crafted spirits, fresh regional produce and hyperlocal flavor profiles to make the same impact as their culinary counterparts in the kitchen.
Author/mixologist Natalie Bovis, who recently moved back to Santa Fe permanently, feels there's still work to be done individually and collaboratively to get Santa Fe on a par with major metropolitan areas and resort towns. "Santa Fe has a small but dynamic mixology scene," she says. "However, there are some who aren't yet on board with the value [of a] well-crafted cocktail program and staff training. My hope is for more industry people in Santa Fe to fully grasp that a cocktail program can be an extension of the food menu."
People who are "on board" include Chris Milligan (Secreto), Soharu Staples (Pink Adobe/The Dragon Room) and James Reis (Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi). These mixologists are driven to build on cocktail classics like Margaritas and Martinis to reflect Santa Fe's brand of culinary eclecticism.
"Since we are such a service industry-driven city, we all strive to keep ourselves at the top of our game," observes Staples. "It also helps that we have visitors from all over the country and world who inspire us daily. I also find mixologists here take advantage of locally sourced ingredients, like chili peppers, local stone fruit and apples when in season."
Milligan sees the trajectory of Santa Fe's expanding cocktail scene steadily moving forward, thanks to a mix of a local ingredients emphasis and creative marketing. Examples of this is Secreto's build-your-own cocktail menu and summertime promotion "Fashion Your Old Fashioneds," allowing customers to pick a spirit, a bitter and a flavored sugar to concoct a custom cocktail.
"I believe that the cocktail should be positioned as the first course for an evening out," says Milligan. "It sets the tone for everything else to follow, especially when local product is involved. At Secreto, I have at least one drink on my menu that features at least one with a local spirit made here."
Though one of the most popular drinks on the Inn at the Anazasi's menu is their take on the Margarita, James Reis is turning heads with his miniature "couptails."
"The idea behind couptails was an intersection of two different challenges," says Reis. "Some people come to a hotel bar with very little time to properly or comfortably finish a drink. There is also growing interest in low-proof cocktails that don't sacrifice flavor. A drink that's one or two ounces allows customers to have portion control, or try several different things over the course of an evening."
Mi Casa, Su Casa
While some Santa Fe hotels keep their beverage programs traditional, others strive to mix things up.
"I enjoy the multiculturalism, the ease of access to outdoor activities and the opportunity to manage some of the best venues Santa Fe has to offer," says Shawn Murphy, Beverage Director at La Fonda Hotel. "While tequila is not a local spirit, its influence is present throughout Santa Fe, as the Margarita is Santa Fe's go-to cocktail, so it's a focus."
Mark Montoya, La Posada de Santa Fe Resort's Beverage Director, in contrast acknowledges while some cocktail trends hit their area after major cities, they are open to customer feedback to help them update their beverage programs.
"Our willingness to try out new products gives us an edge," says Montoya. "When our team gets a new spirit in, we'll put together a nightly special integrating local and seasonal fruits and herbs and see how it goes over. After we get feedback, we will put the most popular things our menu for a season."
As of May 15, La Posada joined the ranks of the luxury hotel group Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which has a "Cocktail Collection" of cocktails inspired by their various properties around the globe. Recipes were being developed at press time for a Santa Fe entry to that list.
Local mixologists are justifiably proud of Northern New Mexico's cottage spirits industry. Staples has KGB Spirits 5-Year Rye Whiskey, Viracocha Vodka, Hacienda Gin and Brimstone Absinthe on her bar, and is teaming up with Santa Fe Spirits to concoct some new signature cocktails. Milligan is a fan of The Bitter End Bitters, Wheeler's Gin, Santa Fe Spirits' Silver Coyote White Whisky, Weaver Gin and Expedition Vodka. Bovis was so impressed with KGB Spirits' portfolio that she signed on as a brand ambassador/educator, spending time at the Alcalde, NM where KGB distills Hacienda Gin and Brimstone Absinthe, and ages Taos Lightning Whiskey.
"We've gotten on board with many of the local spirits in recent years," affirms La Posada's Montoya. "We support Taos Whisky, which is good, as well as Silver Coyote whisky. There is also Santa Fe Silver Coin Tequila, distilled in Jalisco, Mexico and bottled in Santa Fe, which is about to be re-launched on the well in our bar."
La Fonda on the Plaza
½ oz. blue curaçao
1½ oz. Hornitos Tequila
Smoked Sage Margarita
by Chris Milligan
1½ oz. Republic Añejo Organic Tequila
1 oz. DeKuyper 03 Orange Liqueur
¾ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 sage leaves
Combine tequila, orange liqueur, and lime in a mixing glass. Make a pyramid of three Boston shakers and burn one of the sage leaves capturing in the smoke in the top shaker. Add ice to the mixing glass and cap with the smoke filled Boston shaker and shake for 10 seconds. Double strain into a hickory smoked salt-rimmed glass and garnish with second sage leaf and lime wheel.
by Chris Milligan
5 black grapes
½ oz. agave syrup (2:1 organic light agave nectar to water)
½ oz. fresh lime juice
1 quarter-inch New Mexico or Anaheim green chili ring
1½ oz. reposado tequila
Place grapes, chili, lime and agave in a mixing glass and muddle. Add tequila and ice then shake for 10-12 seconds). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with one more each grape and green chili ring.
La Posada Resort & Spa
1½ oz. Green Chile Infused Sauza Blue Reposado Tequila *
¾ oz. Patrón Citronge
1½ oz. fresh lemon sour **
*Green Chile Infused Tequila
Infuse the tequila by placing a peeled and roasted green (Hatch New Mexico) chili in the tequila for 72 hours to set the right flavor. As a substitution, use an Anaheim chili. Generally, 1 to 2 chiles are used per bottle-whole peeled New Mexico-grown chiles without seeds. Adding jalapeños to the tequila makes it even hotter.
**Fresh Lemon Sour
1 part lemon juice to 2 parts sugar syrup.
Sugar syrup is 1 part water to 2 parts sugar.
Bell Ringer Margarita
La Fonda on the Plaza
The Bell Ringer is a new addition to La Fonda's cocktail menu, created especially for the reopening of the hotel's fifth-floor rooftop lounge, the Bell Tower Bar, last fall.
1¼ oz. Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila
¾ oz. Patrón Citronge
Lemon and lime juice
Serve over ice and salted rim glass, garnished with a slice of jalapeño.
La Fonda on the Plaza
Biscochitos are the state cookie of New Mexico—an anise-flavored shortbread cookie, especially popular around the holidays.
1¼ oz. Baileys
1 oz. Meukow Vanilla Cognac
Drizzle of Sambuca
Rim glass with cinnamon and sugar
The Black Dragon and The Pink Dragon
by Soharu Staples, The Dragon Room at Pink Adobe
2 oz. premium 100% agave silver tequila
1 oz. Cointreau
Juice of two whole limes
½ to ¾ oz. simple syrup (1 cup superfine sugar and 1 cup water ,mixed)
Pour all ingredients into shaker, shake vigorously, then strain into a salted glass of your choosing. To make the Black Dragon, sink ¾ oz. of Chambord black raspberry liqueur into glass. To make the Pink Dragon, sink ¾ oz. of prickly pear purée into glass.
The following "couptails" are created by James Reis, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi
½ oz. Maestro Dobel Tequila
¼ oz. Grey Goose Cherry Noir
¼ oz. Godiva Chocolate
Garnish with a chili-chocolate rim.
½ oz. Bushmills Irish Honey Whiskey
¼ oz. PAMA Liqueur
¼ oz. Bols Amaretto