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Central California Life Magazine

The Lime Light

Nov 19, 2014 05:07PM ● By Cen Cali Life Magazine

The Lime Light

Nick’s Picks: Santa’s favorite holiday hangout and libations

By Edgar E. Dunn III

Photos by Dan Minkler

Have you ever wondered where and how old Saint Nick relaxes when he finishes his day? At The Lime Light in Fresno, there’s a popular rumor among patrons and employees that he’s been seen there occupying his favorite stool at the cozy bar every holiday season.

Apparently, the jolly man in red enjoys his “preferred cocktails made just to his specifications,” said Corey Woods, head bartender and personal “Nicksologist” for the last decade.

“I also think Nick feels right at home in the dark wood and rich green interior of this place,” Woods speculated. That The Lime Lite is just reindeer steps from historical Christmas Tree Lane may be yet another reason why Santa seems to like to let his silver hair down here.

The stately interior of The Lime Lite has a settled-in “San Francisco steak House” sort of feel that implies it has been at its present West Shaw Avenue location for a lot longer than 15 years. The original Lime Lite – aptly named after the “…greenish glow given off from early theatrical production candle lights,” according to previous owners George and Cathy Milutinovich – was originally opened a half-century ago at Clinton Avenue and Highway 99 by Cathy’s relatives, Bob and Dolly Niklanovich. The Milutinovichs eventually bought the restaurant and bar in 1976. They operated it for the next 35 years at both the original and present locations before selling it to the present owner, Brandon Smittcamp.

The popular establishment seems ready-made for Christmas with only touches of red needed to complement the rich, green-leathered booths and barstools, which Smittcamp left intact. Add some fragrant evergreen garlands and holiday lights and it becomes Santa’s own man cave.

“My staff and I really get into the Christmas spirit and, along with decorating, enjoy creating holiday-themed cocktails for our valued customers – especially Santa, of course. He likes to spend a little jingle here before he heads north for a well-deserved rest,” said Smittcamp, with a grin that hints there’s a believing child still somewhere inside.

Given Santa’s “capacity” and his propensity for exercising mainly his taste buds, he was understandably challenged to choose just a few of his favorite celebratory libations. With Woods’ and Smittcamp’s coaxing and some joyful sampling to refresh the portly elf’s memory, Nick finally arrived at his four favorite “Christmas Cheers.”

Mrs. Claus’ Warm Apple Pie Martini: Coming in from the chill of his rigorous route, Santa is always reminded of what he’s been missing from home: the familiar taste and smell of just-baked apple pie. Not surprisingly, then, he always starts with the concoction of hot apple cider, vanilla liqueur and vodka, with a touch of ground cinnamon and squeezed lime, topped with a freshly cut apple slice. It’s liquid dessert in an elegant martini glass that warms him from the inside out with fond memories of his Mrs. Missus many miles away.

The Nog: What are the holidays without a nod to the “Nog?” Nick’s version blends a sweet combination of rum, The Lime Lite’s always-yummy homemade vanilla ice cream, and bourbon in a tall glass, sprinkled with ground cinnamon and nutmeg and stirred with a cinnamon stick. It’s like an aromatic, adult milkshake with a big reindeer kick.

Lime Lite Candy Cane: There’s no surprise here with this choice that features candy canes aplenty to sprinkle, stir and sample. Of course, let’s not forget mixing in Peppermint Schnapps, raspberry-flavored “Stoli” vodka, White Crème de Cacao, fresh half-and-half, a touch of Grenadine and just a splash of soda water. Now stir it with a Lime Lite green candy cane and you’re definitely in the holiday mood. This is a palate pleaser to be sure. And you thought devouring candy canes as a kid was a thrill.

Santa’s Sleigh Warmer Toddy: When it’s time to head out into the cold winter’s eve for the long ride home, Saint Nick always opts for his classic hot toddy. Nick’s mix is a hardy warmer-upper that he often likes to make when he’s home at “the Pole.” Just mix lemon, honey, brandy and hot water. Stir and top with a fresh lemon slice. Then prepare to clear your senses. This popular nightcap can also be served without brandy by replacing it with hot coffee or tea, especially if you’re the designated driver. As Santa said, “There’s only one red nose leading this sleigh tonight and it’s definitely not mine!”

When you need a break from this hectic holiday season of frantic shopping or perhaps after just “walking the Lane,” step into The Lime Lite to enjoy one of Santa’s favorite refreshments. If you time it just right, you might even end up sitting next to someone very familiar this time of the year.


The Lime Lite is located at 1054 W. Shaw. For more information about hours and menus, call (559) 224-1054 or visit

Edgar E. Dunn III is a marketing consultant, writer and co-host on the talk show, Radio Psyched. He’s also known to volunteer as “Santa’s helper” on occasion.