Lago's Artisanal Cocktails: Purists' Margarita and Caprese Cocktail

— by Caroline on Crack


I’ve passed Locanda del Lago aka Lago on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade a thousand times and have never once checked it out. I figured it was one of those overpriced tourist traps since it’s on the main drag on the corner of Arizona and 3rd and has prime fashion police patrol patio action. Little did I know that this Italian restaurant has been around for 18 years, sports an artisanal cocktail menu and has a happy hour 4-7pm seven days a week.

Yup, every day (only at the bar on the weekends and all day long on Tuesdays) you can score $3 beers, $4 house wine and half-priced appetizers and pizzas. The cocktails, which are normally $12-$14, only come down to $8. But I’d suggest ordering the one-liter carafe of cocktail for $20 (regularly $28) which amounts to about four drinks for $5 each. That’s more like it.

So I was lucky enough to be invited to check out the brand-new artisanal cocktails which all boast fresh ingredients from the Farmer’s Market that takes place every Wednesday and Saturday just at the restaurant’s doorstep.

The drinks we sampled:

  • Meyer Limonata: Meyer lemon, Veev liqueur acai berry, prosecco
  • Market Margarita: Ruby red and oro blanco grapefruit, blood orange, lime, 4 Copas Tequila
  • Sage Mist: Sage, Square One Cucumber Vodka, prosecco
  • Mint Berry: Strawberry, mint, Veev liqueur acai berry
  • Caprese: Cherry tomato, basil, Crop Tomato Vodka, Balsamic

All were fresh and weren’t uber sweet or synthetic tasting. I’d enjoy the Meyer Limonata, a refreshing spiked lemonade that was jokingly touted as great detox cocktail for its lemon and acai berry liqueur, and the summery Mint Berry cocktails on the patio during a sunny day.

The Sage Mist and Caprese cocktails were a bit too salad-y for my taste but I bet they’d pair nicely with the Carpaccio ($13) and Margarita Fresca Pizza ($11), respectively. And the Market Margarita was unlike any margarita I’ve ever tasted before in that it was so simple — just fresh fruit juices and tequila. No sweet and sour, no triple sec, no Grand Marnier, no margarita mix. Apparently this is the perfect margarita for purists who prefer to actually taste the tequila.

As a bonus, the Lago bartenders, Joe and Greg, fixed me up a spicy cucumber cocktail and an espresso one. These two concoctions were probably my favorites of the ones I tried. The cucumber one was made of cucumber, chile, tequila, sugar and a pepino and was both spicy and refreshing. I was actually surprised I liked it considering I’m not a fan of cucumbers but it worked well with that kick of tequila and hot stuff. It’s not on the menu yet but just ask Joe to fix you one. They’re still working on a name for it so if you have suggestions let them know. And no, I don’t think they’d go for “Joe’s Spicy Cucumber.”

I was also skeptical about the espresso cocktail at first considering all other espresso cocktails I’ve tried before it were usually syrupy and too creamy leaving me with a tummy ache the next day. But here, it was soooo good. Actually tasted like real coffee as it is made with actual espresso and not an espresso liqueur. This would make the perfect après dinner drink.

BTW the restaurant still has about 17 other cocktails on its menu, stuff like French Martinis and tangerine cosmos, but they’re more liqueurs and liquor, unlike the new drinks with the fresh fruits and herbs.

So yeah, I’m glad I found yet another place in Santa Monica to add to my growing collection of bars with artisanal cocktails. You can fresh cocktail barhop from Copa d’Oro (on Broadway) to Lago to The Fig (on Wilshire)!

More pics of Lago’s artisanal cocktails.

Locanda del Lago
231 Arizona Avenue
Santa Monica, California 90401 (map)
(310) 451-3525