This Silicon Valley mountain town may be named after cats, but ain’t nobody in Los Gatos got time or reason for drinking milk—unless it’s the milk punch offered at The Lex’s monthly Brunch & Punch event. Rather, people thirsting for finely crafted libations can stand in the middle of Santa Cruz Avenue, choose a direction, and find four exceptional bars for artisan cocktails.
The eight bar seats at The Lex are the true hot spots in this fine-dining and -drinking establishment stocked with only the best, often local, small-batch spirits. Carefully curated and frequently changing, the drinks menu features house cocktails crafted by the proprietor-bartenders, Jimmy Marino and Stephen Shelton, plus nods to classics. Start off with one of Shelton’s seasonal drinks, like “La Sangre”: housemade blood orange reduction, agricole rum, Benedictine, and lemon juice. Then finish your night with a spirits flight or Marino’s “Coffee and Cigarettes”: coffee liqueur, bourbon, sweet vermouth, orgeat, and a scotch rinse. Some say it’s better than sex.
Even before Chef Ross Hanson switched concepts from Restaurant James Randall to the more casual pizza spot called Oak & Rye, 300 N. Santa Cruz was known for potent cocktails created with housemade spirit infusions. The spicy Juan de La Cruz may no longer be on the menu, but drinks like “Smokey the Bear”—with tequila, aperol, yellow chartreuse, lime, and aleppo pepper—are drawing crowds to the newly updated bar. Even the classic Moscow Mule comes with a twist: house-crafted ginger beer mixed with vodka and lime packs a strong, spicy kick.
Chef David Kinch’s 2-Michelin-starred restaurant is renowned for its farm-to-table cuisine, but not many people know that its petite bar serves up equally stellar garden-to-glass cocktails. The chef’s partnership with nearby Love Apple Farms ensures exceptional produce, and the talented mixologist Ally Micheals creates cocktails inspired by seasonal harvests. The eponymous “Love Apple” is crafted from apple brandy, ginger infusion, lemon, Eric Bordelet cider, and apple bitters. But a cocktail like the “Shizuka” truly spotlights the garden’s bounty with ingredients like Love Apple Farms cucumbers, shiso, and aloe mixed with Hendrick’s gin, tonic, and Green Chartreuse V.E.P.
Although not in downtown Los Gatos, Jack Rose is worth the short drive up Highway 9. Nestled between Los Gatos and Saratoga, it’s named after a cocktail mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. And Papa Hemingway would feel right at home in this contemporary hunting lodge-like cocktail bar that manages to be both woodsy and swanky. The namesake “Jack Rose” appears on the drinks list, naturally, prepared with Laird’s 100 proof apple brandy, lemon, and house-made grenadine. But you can choose from other seasonal cocktails, like the “Figtitious Manhattan” (house bourbon blend, house-made fig jam, Carpano Antica, and fresh lemon juice). And be sure to wear your best fur.
Photo Credits for Jack Rose: Nicole Quihuis
Photo Credits for Lexington: Anthony Marino/Marino Photography)