Dining Reviews

Venus Spirits Cocktails and Kitchen Opens for Outdoor Dining, Takeout

Plus, Soif and La Posta are now offering outdoor dining

The chocolate torte is just one of the offerings made to complement the drinks from Venus Spirits. PHOTO: COURTESY VENUS SPIRITS COCKTAILS AND KITCHEN

Venus Spirits Cocktails and Kitchen opened last weekend. The long-awaited opening of the restaurant in the hand-craft distillery had been delayed by several months due to Covid-19, but will now open with outdoor dining and to-go food and cocktails. 

The menu—featuring an assortment of made-from-scratch snacks, small plates, fresh salads, and shareable entrees—has been designed to complement various Venus Spirits distilled spirits. Chef James Manss, who has served as executive chef at both Sotola and Süda, has taken on the role of executive chef. Sous Chef Gabrielle Molina met Manss at Süda, and the pair will work together at Venus Spirits Cocktails and Kitchen. 

The Venus plan is for a cocktail menu to include favorites from the tasting room along with classic and creative cocktails by bar manager Lindsay Eshleman, who ran the cocktail program at Seascape Beach Resort for several years. An award-winning competitor and spirit educator, Lindsay has also bartended at Jack Rose in Los Gatos. 

The new distillery is right next door to Venus Spirits Cocktails and Kitchen, allowing guests to view where the spirits are made through an assortment of windows that have been placed in the shared wall. Cocktails may be enjoyed on the outdoor patios and most drinks will be available to-go. Entrepreneur Sean Venus always seems to surf the edge, and this latest expansion is just another example of his thinking. Gin and tonic in a can, hand-crafted spirits of every flavor and hue, and now a major kitchen/restaurant operation, opening in these unusual socially distanced times, yet with full-blown optimism and a stunning menu for outdoor seating. 

The mouth-watering new menu is devoted to contemporary comfort foods, and it includes cornbread with bourbon bacon jam, fried chicken with sweet and spicy peppers, grilled rockfish tacos with salsa verde and avocado, and cheeseburgers you’ll want to eat all day and all night. The Venus Spirits Kitchen even sports an amazing wayward chocolate torte accented by cinnamon, chili and cacao nibs. It’s a good reason to mask up and come check out this exciting new dining venue. 

427 Swift Street, Suite A, Santa Cruz. Thursday and Sunday, 3-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 3-9pm. venusspirits.com.

Wine of the Week

Livermore Ranch Merlot 2013 is an appealing red wine loaded with berry jam yet plenty of structure and 13.8% alcohol. It goes with everything! A true value purchase, on the Bargain Wine rack at Shopper’s Corner for a ridiculously low $9.99. Grab a couple bottles while they last.

Open al Fresco

Soif and La Posta are now offering outside dining. Soif’s new outdoor seating on Walnut Avenue is open Thursday-Sunday, 1-7pm, and La Posta’s open air dining is available Thursday-Sunday, 4-8pm. Soif will not be taking reservations, with seating on a first come, first served basis. Soif continues to offer takeout food, wine and cocktails. Takeout food orders may be placed by calling 831-423-2020 from 1-6pm or by ordering at the counter. For La Posta takeout call 831-457-2782 or email [email protected].

Notes for the Season 

Right now is the moment for local halibut, never fresher and sweeter, that we especially like to get from Ocean2Table or Shopper’s Corner. Peaches and nectarines are exceptional, as are dry farmed tomatoes and richly-flavored red bell peppers. It’s the heart of harvest time and we live in the best of places for abundant organic produce.


Check out our continually updating guide to local takeout, delivery and outdoor dining options.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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