Going out for a night of drinking, as a woman—either with friends, on a date or alone (the best, as far as I'm concerned)—involves a lot of variables. You have to know how to get the best possible experience out of every stage of the evening. And you have to know where your favorite drinks are, who makes them best and the best possible order in which to drink them.
If I'm in the mood for beer I head to one of Santa Fe's many gastropubs and microbreweries. The relatively new Second Street Brewery Rufina Taproom (2920 Rufina St., 954-1068) offers a selection of Second Street beers on tap alongside a couple of other local offerings. I'm a fan in particular of the Enchanted Cherry Cider by Santa Fe Cider Works ($4), which is tart yet sweet.
It's easy enough, then, to head to Meow Wolf (1352 Rufina Circle, 395-6369), an art installation/performance space that defies easy categorization but definitely puts on one hell of a good show. Meow Wolf has recently expanded its beverage program, offering a selection of spirits and mixed drinks alongside beer and wine. The MeowGarita ($12) is a grown-up's version of a carnival treat; made with reposed tequila, local naranjo liqueur, fresh lime, agave nectar and popping strawberry pearls, topped with homemade cotton candy. Bar manager Evan Schultz says his goal with the new cocktail list is to make "serious cocktails not so serious."
If I'm in the mood for wine I go to the Railyard, where the by-the-glass selection at Joseph's (428 Agua Fría St., 982-1272) is low-key one of the best in Santa Fe. You can get a glass of Guímaro Vino Tinto Mencia for $13 or the excellent Alberto Nanclares Dandelion Albariñofor $14, two of the most cutting-edge wines currently coming out of Spain.
For a more cocktail-focused approach, the right bar depends entirely on who's behind the stick. Good drinks are really more about people than programs. Sometimes a bar that is perfectly satisfying on its own is elevated when the person making your drink has a passion for cocktails that goes above and beyond the norm.
I like Eloisa at the Drury Plaza Hotel (228 E Palace Ave., 982-0883) on the nights that Tom Street is working (Monday through Thursday, by the way). Street is the owner of Street Brothers Beverage Company, and his knowledge and experience go above and beyond crafting the perfect Manhattan to end the night on. Try the Pretty in Pink ($13), a cocktail made from rhum agricole, Lillet Rose and Giffard Pamplemousse Rose, served up with a grapefruit twist. "We love to make this because it is a very pretty drink that packs a lot of flavor and complexity," Street says.
Or go to the hotel's roof, to Bar Alto for the Sangre de Cristo ($12), made from Angelisco Reposado tequila, spiced orange liqueur, cinnamon syrup, bitters and soda. This is a drink that showcases an alternative way to drink tequila (with cinnamon and orange as opposed to salt and lime).
El Farol (808 Canyon Road, 983-9912), has Andrew Roy, winner of the 2016 Arizona Cocktail Week's Last Slinger Standing competition—and a certified sommelier who cut his teeth behind the bar at the Coyote Cantina. He brings a vibrant enthusiasm and energy to a newly renovated Canyon Road institution. Try the Extra Añejo Oaxacan Negroni, a twist on the boozy Italian classic that substitutes barrel-aged mezcal for gin. Like the Sangre de Cristo, it's another cocktail that features a unique twist on an agave-based spirit.
For a more traditional experience, head to La Posada de Santa Fe's Staab House Lounge (303 E Palace Ave., 986-0000) and talk to Chris Milligan, formerly of Secreto at the St. Francis Hotel, who brings an encyclopedic knowledge of classic cocktails to the table (or bar counter, as it were). The cocktail list at La Posada focuses on the classics, so order a Sazerac for $16, a deceptively simple (in this case) cognac-based drink served with a little sugar and absinthe that, in the right hands, becomes absolutely divine. I asked Milligan why it's his favorite, to which he says, simply: "Because it's a Sazerac."
For a late-night treat, visit Winston Greene, proprietor of Tonic (103 E Water St., 982-1189). He is a treasure trove of historic cocktail lore, and brings that sensibility to a bar that provides a refreshingly upscale respite from the usual late-night downtown Santa Fe offerings. I recommend getting a Martinez ($12), the cocktail grandfather of the martini, only with maraschino liqueur and sweet vermouth instead of dry.
And then Lyft home, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. You'll have to wake up and think of a hangover cure before you know it.