Saturday, January 28, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 48

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Multiple businesses compete in Santa Maria Valley's 2023 Craft Cocktail Contest


The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce is asking the public to get out and vote—but not, in this case, for any politicians whom their ideologies happen to align with. The 2022 election season is over, but the voting period for Santa Maria’s 2023 Craft Cocktail Contest began in mid-January.

Blast 825 Brewery is one of several competing businesses participating in both Santa Maria Valley’s Craft Cocktail Contest and Restaurant Month programs.

Through Feb. 12, Central Coast locals and visitors alike will have the opportunity to vote via social media for their favorite restaurants and bars in the Santa Maria area that are participating in the competition, which coincides with this year’s Restaurant Month

“The goal of the promotion is to support our local restaurants during a month of the year that is typically pretty rough,” said Taz Dougherty, tourism coordinator for the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. 

Mix it up
Visit for more info on Santa Maria Valley’s 2023 Craft Cocktail Contest and Restaurant Month. To vote for your favorite cocktail in the contest, post a photo of the drink with the hashtag, #SMVCraftCocktail, and tag the business. The award for People’s Choice will be given to the cocktail with the most posts.

Participants of Restaurant Month, aka Dine Out Santa Maria Style, are offering special entrees and combos for $20.23 in honor of the program, while entrants in the Craft Cocktail Contest are mixing unique cocktails, each themed after some aspect of Santa Maria’s history or culture.

Santa Maria’s Restaurant Month originated as Restaurant Week more than a decade ago, before expanding to multiple weeks in January of 2020, Dougherty said. The Craft Cocktail Contest began in 2019.

“We wanted to spice up the normal Restaurant Month promo,” said Dougherty, who added that the Chamber envisioned starting a cocktail competition after discovering “an untapped experience in a handful of our restaurants, which was craft cocktails.”

“It was also a fun way to get the community involved, since they were able to go out and vote on cocktails for the People’s Choice Winner,” Dougherty continued.

In early 2022, the public was encouraged to cast their votes for their favorite participants of Santa Maria Valley’s Craft Cocktail Contest, with drink entries that included this cocktail found at the Salty Brigade Kitchen—which is competing once again in the 2023 contest.

Another coveted award participants of the Craft Cocktail Contest are competing for is the title of Santa Maria Valley’s Craft Cocktail of the Year, which will be determined by a group of judges sent out to visit each establishment. Participating businesses in this year’s contest include Blast 825 Brewery, Cool Hand Luke’s, Cubanissimo Cafe, Me-n-Ed’s Pizzeria and Craft House, Roscoe’s Kitchen, the Salty Brigade Kitchen, Vintner’s Bar and Grill, and the Historic Santa Maria Inn’s Century Room.

The 2023 entry of the latter venue is the Dead Horse Old Fashioned, while past libation submissions from the Historic Santa Maria Inn have included The Hollywood, themed after some of the local landmark’s notable history, Dougherty explained.

Dougherty described The Hollywood as “a reference to the Santa Maria Valley region being a well-known getaway destination for celebrities, many of whom stayed at the Historic Santa Maria Inn.”

Dougherty hasn’t been able to try this year’s cocktail entries from participating businesses yet, but he said that, like past years, each submission reflects something about its respective entrant and that entrant’s ties to local history. Cocktails in the 2023 contest include Cool Hand Luke’s Luke’s Wild West Bourbon Berry, Cubanissimo Cafe’s guava mojito, the Salty Brigade Kitchen’s Spicy Pacific, and Me-n-Ed’s Swept Away.

The Historic Santa Maria Inn’s Century Room and Radisson Hotel’s Vintner’s Grill both participated in the 2022 Craft Cocktail Contest and this year’s competition. The venues’ two entries last year were The Cardinal (left) and Oaxacan Sunrise (right), respectively.

“Each restaurant gets to give their take on culture and how it fits into their restaurant,” Dougherty said.

All eight of this year’s Craft Cocktail Contest entrants are participating in Restaurant Month as well, alongside several other businesses across the Santa Maria Valley, including Charcuter’Dee and Fromagerie, Cups and Crumbs (both Orcutt and Santa Maria locations), Giavanni’s Pizza, The Homestead, Straw Hat Pizza, and Pizzeria Bello Forno.

There is a diverse range of $20.23 offerings from the pool of participants, including a three-course dinner from the Salty Brigade Kitchen, for example, or an extra large two-topping pizza from Straw Hat Pizza.

“I think I really want to hammer home that this is a great way to help local restaurants and eateries get through generally a tough month for sales,” Dougherty said. “It is also a fun way to become more acquainted with local establishments and enjoy their foods.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is one tough cookie but not tough to get in touch with. Send comments to

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