Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 4:48 pm | A Few Clouds 66º


Tara Jones


Tara Jones: Canary Hotel’s Finch & Fork Introduces New Bartender; Test Pilot Launches in Funk Zone

Joe Dohany is concocting farm-to-bar cocktails, some made with locally sourced ingredients.

For the past several months I’ve heard myself say ad nauseam:  “I need a vacation.”

And it’s true. I really could use a solid week on a beach that isn’t here with my toes in the sand and a good cocktail in hand. (Pardon the rhyme.)

And while I do, in fact, have a vacation planned that is fast approaching, I still need a place to get away to trick my mind into thinking its on holiday.

Lucky for me (lucky for all of us!) there are two such places in town that help me forget about the workday and get my shoulders to relax.

Finch & Fork

The tiki glassware is all part of the fun in the Funk Zone’s new Test Pilot bar.
The tiki glassware is all part of the fun in the Funk Zone’s new Test Pilot bar. (Tara Jones photo)

The Canary Hotel is often overlooked by us locals, but offers an incredible oasis at its bar and restaurant that makes one feel worlds away from the old ball and chain aka the office desk.

Having been a patron to the bar several times in the past, the drinks had been hit or miss. Order a standard drink and you’ll probably be OK. Order something “exotic” on the menu? Be prepared.

Until now.

Joe Dohany, former Seattleite, has brought a new flavor to Canary Hotel’s Finch & Fork and brought with him a bit of balance to the bar.

In light of the recent recession, Dohany is making lemonade with his lemons since he found his passion in the culinary world after his years of trudging through the corporate jungle came to a halt.  

He has taken his knowledge of flavor and cooking behind the bar and is concocting unique farm-to-bar cocktails, some featuring local distillers as well as local ingredients.

His guava margarita has quickly become a local favorite; blended with a jalapeño infusion that is so light it goes down like the guava juice I once had in Fiji.

And when the rains finally do come down in Santa Barbara, I’d recommend ordering the House Barrel-Aged Manhattan.

Dohany is barrel-aging Woodford Reserve rye in old Campari barrels for 30 days and putting a unique spin on the traditional Manhattan cocktail.

Test Pilot

I always thought that people who were into the tiki look were the sort that enjoyed having plastic pink flamingos on their front lawn; a uniquely tacky people group who embodied the term “campy” in every sense.

And I don’t think I’m wrong, but for Good Lion and Test Pilot owners, Brandon Ristaino and Misty Orman, the love of tiki is more evident in the drinks than the décor.

Ristaino and Orman had always had their eye on the Funk Zone neighborhood for their wild dream of opening a tiki bar, but had never had any luck at finding such a place until a year ago when Reds Bin 211, a little-known historic building, became available.

They tied the building’s history of being a former holding cell for drunken prisoners neatly into their exotic dream bar, including a bit of local lore about the rum runners who ran hooch on their boat, Sea Wolf, from the Channel Islands to the mainland during Prohibition.

Presentation plays as much a part in this bar’s experience as the tropic-inspired drinks.

Ristaino’s love and obsession with the tiki culture and search for the purest form of Trader Vic’s rum is what puts these cocktails on a whole other level and easily transports one from the beaches of Santa Barbara to an exotic locale.

The Mai Tais come standard at this bar and can’t be beat, but the real show stoppers are El Presidente and the Suisse Family Robinson, a play on the traditional creamy frothy nightcap Absinthe Suisse cocktail (or Suissesse for all you old-timers).

If you’ve heard any buzz about this new bar and thought “fruity, froufrou, sickeningly sweet drinks” like I did, you’d be wrong.

El Presidente, served in a more traditional, non-kitschy glass, was surprisingly refreshing, well balanced and savory with its concoction of rum, curacao, house-made grenadine, bitters and blanc vermouth made with fortified wine.

While I enjoy a well-made standard cocktail over something daring that doesn’t quit meet expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the Suisse Family Robinson made with px sherry (Pedro Ximenez for all you sherry neophytes) that tasted of rum-raisin with a coconut shave ice after taste.

While the days get shorter and somehow oddly hotter, you’ll find me spending some quality time in this tastefully campy bar until my real vacation date arrives.

Tara Jones leads Eat This, Shoot That! and welcomes reader tips and ideas for future columns. She can be reached at [email protected]. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >