Santa Cruz County is well known for our fog-drenched mountain wines and the expansive collection of breweries churning out delicious craft beer; the cocktail scene in Santa Cruz is equally full of life and offers a bounty of delicious drinks for locals and visitors to explore. This list of buzzworthy cocktail spots in Santa Cruz features the best places to explore the thriving community of creative cocktail makers. Whether you’re looking to experience cocktails in a distillery tasting room, share a round of drinks with friends at a bar while live music plays, or pair an amazing meal with a carefully crafted cocktail, there is an option for every cocktail lover in Santa Cruz!
1) After Hours
The team behind 11th Hour Coffee has transformed the Food Lounge into a thriving community center with a full craft cocktail bar. Their inventive cocktail menu focuses on seasonal highlights and experimental cocktail creations. The creativity and care that goes into developing each cocktail on the menu at After Hours makes each drink a truly exceptional experience. Drinks like the incredible Cold Brew Anonymous, which is an elevated take on an espresso martini, feature coffee from 11th Hour and candy cap mushrooms from Far West Fungi. Another favorite, the Limerence, is an effervescent dream with bold passionfruit flavors, a hint of absinthe, and an accompanying shot of sparkling wine. After Hours takes pride in offering craft cocktails with inclusivity by offering a mixed menu featuring experiential or adventurous drinks alongside incredible classics fit for any palate. In the same area as the bar, patrons can choose from several food pop-ups-like Full Steam Dumpling or Chubbs Chicken Sandwiches; additionally, on different days of the week, there are great nightly events like live music, comedy shows, and open mic nights.
Whether you’re looking for a date night spot at a classy elevated bar or a sit-down experience for delicious dinner and drinks, Süda is the perfect spot for everyone. Their exceptionally well-balanced cocktail menu has a solid selection of always-available classics like the Süda old-fashioned as well as an expansive seasonally changing selection that highlights fresh local ingredients. The Salma Hayek cocktail is a crowd-pleasing favorite on their seasonal sips menu, like a Paloma combined with a Cosmo. From spirit-forward inventive cocktails to impeccably made classics, Süda has something to try for everyone! This fantastic spot also has excellent happy hour options for those looking for casual drinks and bites every day of the week. Süda also serves delicious dinner and brunch paired with masterfully crafted cocktails that visitors will not want to miss!
3) Front and Cooper
Located in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz, Front and Cooper is the shining star of Abbott Square Market. Front and Cooper creates cutting-edge cocktails in an open courtyard where patrons can sip their cocktails, choose from various food options, and listen to live music on weekends. The stunning menu features a fantastic variety of drinks from their gin and tonics and seasonally shifting offers to delicious non-alcoholic options to ensure everyone gets to enjoy their delicious cocktails! Their signature gin and tonics are made with house-crafted tonics that elevate their fruit-forward flavors and exquisite gin choices to the next level. The Gin and Tonic #3 made with fresh muddled blackberries, raspberries, and cassis is a year-round favorite that everyone has to try! Regardless of the season, Front and Cooper serves up great inventive cocktails in a wonderful outdoor setting perfect for larger gatherings or date nights with someone you love.
4) Venus Westside Kitchen | Distillery Tasting Room
Venus Spirits is the only distillery in Santa Cruz County and its deeply nuanced and flavorful spirits help create some of the best cocktails in town. Visitors can tour the distillery and sample the full expanse of their spirits, including whiskey, gin, vodka, agave spirits, rum, and aquavit. They even offer cocktail-making classes in their Tasting Room for cocktail lovers looking to learn the craft themselves! Next to the tasting room is Venus’ Westside Kitchen and Cocktail Bar, allowing patrons to experience their incredible spirits paired with delicious seasonal forward food like vegan poke bowls or the delicious house burger. Their perfectly balanced cocktails highlight the exquisite quality of their house-made spirits and truly capture the essence of cocktail culture in Santa Cruz.
5) Hula’s Island Grill & Tiki Room
This Hawaiian hot spot in downtown Santa Cruz has an incredible cocktail bar serving up island-inspired drinks that will transport patrons to a tropical paradise. Hula’s has some of the best tiki drinks, from the classic Mai Tai and colorful Blue Hawaiian to their infamous Pain Killer and Hurricane cocktails. Hula’s is the perfect spot to grab drinks as a group because they have shared cocktails like the Scorpion Bowl which requires at least two people to order. This giant bowl of tropical juices, rums, and even a liquor shot lit on fire as it is served is a truly unique experience for adventurous cocktail drinkers looking to try something different! Pair any of these delicious drinks with food from their expansive Hawaiian-inspired menu for the perfect night out with friends.