NOW Ventura
185 E. Santa Clara St.

After a long day at the fair, the final Saturday before returning to weeknights that end in silence rather than a barrage of fireworks at 10 p.m., I needed a drink. The fair’s fare leaves a lot to the imagination (and a dent on the wallet), and the scent of barnyard animals doesn’t pair well with an IPA — so we headed around the corner to NOW Ventura for a nice comedown over a cocktail or two.

wine glass with orange slice and sangria

Sangria at NOW

At 10 o’clock on a Saturday evening, the crowd on the patio at NOW was sparse, which seems to be the norm for a lot of downtown businesses when the fair is in town, but the mood lighting and sleek interior made for a stark contrast to the fair’s dust-covered gaudiness. The kitchen had just closed, so we made for the drinks list.

Feeling rather Sex in the City-ish, I ordered the cucumber and basil martini ($9) made with Ventura Spirits vodka, muddled cucumber and basil, simple syrup and a splash of lime. We also ordered the house sangria ($7). The latter made for a refreshing nightcap, replete with an entire wheel of orange floating atop.

The martini, on the other hand, was a nice sipper. Basil and cucumber are very summery; and on that particular night, with the easterly winds bringing warm, fire-season weather into the area, the martini was a perfect match.

NOW offers a slew of interesting cocktails to boot: the “In the Now” ($8) cocktail features vodka, St. Germain, muddled cucumber, mint, simple syrup and fresh lime. As much as I tried to persuade my friend to order it, he went with the Peroni ($6), dashing my dreams of a girls’ night out over cocktails.

The restaurant also offers several barrel-aged cocktails, which the menu says are aged for a month or longer. I’ll have to give a try on my next visit.

The fair may be gone, but NOW is still there, tucked away on that sleepy corner just off the beaten path. Get there, have a seat and stay a while — the cocktails are worth the walk.

Chris O’Neal does not miss the fair. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.