Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 7:29 pm | Partly Cloudy 55º


Tara Jones


Tara Jones: The Bar at Nuance Lives Up to Its Name

New mixologist favors creative spins on old favorites and some original libations on the cocktail menu

Daniel Bennett, Nuance’s new head mixologist, stands at the ready with his ice mallet in hand.
Daniel Bennett, Nuance’s new head mixologist, stands at the ready with his ice mallet in hand. (Tara Jones / Noozhawk photo )

The bar at Nuance is not like your standard haunt, so, if you’re looking for a Jack and Coke, keep walking.

Former head mixologist Julian Cox brought much to the table — er, bar — and left no room for complaint, designing a bar program the likes of which most Santa Barbara bars have not seen.

His attention to the tiniest of details, like which type of ice to use when chilling drinks in a shaker to extremely selective brand choices, have shaped Nuance into a top shelf bar which in turn is creating memorable tasting experiences.

Needless to say, Cox’s recent absence at Nuance has left big shoes to fill. The new guy behind the bar, 33-year-old Daniel Bennett, has his work cut out for him, but seems to be having no problems taking over.

As I watched the pomp and circumstance of various cocktails being made, I peppered Bennett with questions from the shape of ice (yes, that matters) to domestic and imported spirit brands.

According to Bennett, “everything crafted at Nuance is made to stimulate the three main senses: sight, smell and taste.”

I watched as he slung the nitro out of a glass over his shoulder, which disappeared into thin air, before vigorously handling the cocktail shaker filled with a specialty concoction and cylindrical ice.

Bennett hand chisels all the ice into perfect sizes and shapes that are necessary to keep the cocktails perfectly chilled while preventing dilution. Click to view larger
Bennett hand chisels all the ice into perfect sizes and shapes that are necessary to keep the cocktails perfectly chilled while preventing dilution. (Tara Jones / Noozhawk photo )

If you haven’t figured out by now, watching your cocktail be prepared is half the fun.

When asked what his favorite cocktail is, Bennett simply replied, “The Penicillin.”

Not found on the menu but likely to be made if requested, the Penicillin is a scotch whiskey-based drink, on which Bennett puts his own spin with a spritz of Scotch peat to enhance the aromatics.

He also claims you won’t appreciate a White Russian anywhere else in town, and I’m game to take him at his word.

I tried a few different cocktails on the menu and am happy to report that you won’t find a typical bar menu at this joint, but rather some creative spins on old favorites plus a few original ideas.

My favorite on the menu: The Cunning Stunt, a cleverly named drink refreshingly smooth with hints of summer peach and a tinge of chili sambal spice.

While I’m not your typical tequila fan, I also enjoyed The Diving Bell.

The Diving Bell cocktail at Nuance. Click to view larger
The Diving Bell cocktail at Nuance. (Tara Jones / Noozhawk photo )

This complex and smoky margarita-type concoction will fool you into thinking it’s a simple and demure drink, being housed in a delicate glass, but don’t be fooled.

It has a light spicy finish and delightful tropical pineapple flavors that will make you wish you were sitting a little closer to the beach.

So, dip your toe in the water that is Nuance and taste from their reasonably priced cocktail menu.

Located at 119 State Street in Santa Barbara, Nuance is open for breakfast 7–11 a.m. and dinner 4–10 p.m. and stays open until 11 p.m. on weekends.

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.

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