Fall’s Don’t-Miss-Dish in Edible Santa Barbara
At Test Pilot in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, citrus is key. So are tropical fruits, Guyanese rum and absinthe foam. Owner Brandon Ristaino, who also owns The Good Lion, is intent on supplying high-quality, delicious and interesting drinks to the neighborhood, complete with housemade ingredients and perfect garnishes.
He’s also intent on buying local, and reusing as much produce as he can. “We buy all our citrus from Mud Creek Ranch for both locations, and we resuse every citrus twist.” All twists are saved, pressed and combined with juice for cocktails or old-fashioned shrubs. Lime halves are also saved, scooped out and then filled with absinthe foam for the bar’s signature Test Pilot.
To get to 90% local produce across both bars, Ristaino is looking to Carpinteria for tropical fruit and Harvest Santa Barbara, a local farm-produce delivery service, for the winter pears in this slushy, winter spice concoction. The pears are first made into a cordial, which is a fruit-based, fortified syrup that’s concentrated and used as an ingredient in various drinks.
To make a pear cordial, Ristaino juices fresh Bartlett pears with the skin on, then strains the juice. He adds 1 part organic sugar to 1 part pear juice, and .75 ounces overproof vodka (or any neutral, clear spirit over 80 proof). Store in a fridge for up to 3 weeks.
To make the Tiki Blinders, pour 3/4 ounces each of VSOP Cognac (like Raynal VSOP), rum (like Hamilton Demerara Guyanese or El Dorado 12-year) and pear cordial into shaking tin. Add 1/4 ounces vintage or tawny port (like Ramos Pinto Reserva), 1/2 ounces lemon juice,
1 dash aromatic bitters (like Abbot’s), 1 dash cherry bark vanilla bitters and 3 dashes absinthe (like St. George). Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds with ice. Strain all contents into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg.
Test Pilot adds this to their slushy machine with some water, but to make it at home, put all ingredients but the lemon juice into a sealable plastic bag. Add 3.5 ounces water and freeze overnight. To serve, add it and the lemon juice to blender and flash-blend. In a pinch, blend all ingredients with a few ice cubes to taste.