Califonia Bountiful

Holiday spirits

November/December 2021 California Bountiful magazine

Santa Cruz distiller offers recipes to sip and savor

After making a name for himself as a distiller, Sean Venus opened a 17,000-square-foot food and drink destination in Santa Cruz. Photo: © 2021 Tomas Ovalle

For Sean Venus, good things come in threes. His business, Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen, offers one such trifecta within the bright, airy, Instagram-friendly space he opened last year on Santa Cruz's hip westside. The building's centerpiece—literally and inspirationally—is the distillery where Venus handcrafts whiskies, gins, aquavits and agave spirits. A tasting room and a restaurant bookend the building.

The original concept, Venus said, was for visitors to enjoy a tasting and tour of the distillery, then finish in the restaurant with food and a cocktail. It hasn't always played out like that.

"There are people that will come to the restaurant, sit down and eat, and then get further interested in the distillery and then come over to the tasting room. And sometimes the tasting room becomes a waiting room for the restaurant," he said. "So there's a symbiotic relationship there that works really well for us."

Although the restaurant menu offers a selection of main dishes, share plates comprise the culinary focal point. This style of eating—Venus describes a share plate as "something that lends itself to sharing, something that's a bit more indulgent than you would make at home for yourself"—is ideal for his business and for him personally.

"My favorite type of eating is just sampling," he said. "The idea behind the share plates is to give variety to the guests, and that being complemented by a few cocktails and good conversation."

Food, cocktails and time with loved ones: It's another trifecta Venus embraces—especially as the holidays approach. With that in mind, he and his team, including Executive Chef James Manss and Bar Manager Lindsay Eshleman, share the following recipes.

Barbara Arciero


Five mac and cheese

Braised market greens

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Laura Palmer

Gun Smoke

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