Mixology trends have taken the San Diego nightlife scene by storm and the recipes keep getting more eccentric by the minute.
The National Restaurant Association’s Top 20 of What’s Hot in 2010 survey featured “culinary cocktails,” which include a multitude of micro trends that both complement and contradict one another. Translation: if you thought eggs were only meant for omelets and cilantro was just an additive in your salsa, you are sorely mistaken.
Bring on those house-made condiments, tea infusions, bitter liqueurs and egg whites because San Diego mixologists are whipping up some real unique blends this season. Leave your lame Vodka Tonic behind with the summer sun and get your sip on with the Treaty of Paris at Searsucker to The Italian Elvis at Cucina Urbana, The Grasshopper at Tractor Room, Dirty Old Man at Quality Social, Frozen Absinthe at Wet Willie’s and Vanillapeno Margarita at The Glass Door.
Discover some of our favorite extreme cocktails at San Diego restaurants and bars.
Searsucker in Gaslamp
San Diego celebrity chef Brian Malarkey teamed up with local nightlife guru James Brennan to create the Gaslamp Quarter’s first official neighborhood restaurant and bar. While the food menu is positively exquisite, offering up a re-imagined twist on classic new American dishes, it’s the intriguing selection of specialty drinks that’ll have you hooked. You don’t order a simple gin and tonic when you come to Searsucker. We say that it’s time for you to step out of your comfort zone and order the Treaty of Paris made with aged rum, burnt sugar cherry syrup, pressed lime and tobacco cologne. Yep, we said tobacco cologne.
Craft & Commerce in Little Italy
Brought to you from the head honchos behind Neighborhood, E Dorado and Noble Experiment, the all-new Craft & Commerce in Little Italy boasts a bold vision that eliminates fast ‘n’ easy artificial stimulation and reinvents the art of real human interaction. The menu serves up hearty American food, ranging from bone marrow to Ribeye and Broiled Oysters and most definitely needs to be paired with one of their wildly crafty cocktails. Sex & the City is over, so ditch that boring old Cosmopolitan and opt for the Full Fuji Fizz made with rye whiskey, fuji apple, lemon, peychaud bitters, egg white, and of course, a dollop of fizz. Trust us, you gotta try it.
El Vitral in Dowtown
Located just steps off PETCO Park, the refurbished brick building housing the vibrant Mexican restaurant El Vitral is home to an array of unparallel flavorful cuisine. Sure you could be unoriginal and order your everyday Cadillac, but why would you ever want to pass up a San Fresa? Made with paritda reposado tequila, strawberry puree, black pepper syrup, fresh lemon juice and egg white, you’ll never utter the words ‘house margarita’ again.
Cucina Urbana in Banker’s Hill
A California-inspired Italian kitchen and wine shop, Cucina Urbana evokes a modern kitchen feel combined with the history and comfort of an old rustic country farmhouse. Chef Joe Magnanelli and Pastry Chef Ben Rollins’ menu offers affordable selections of vasi, antipasti, insalate, pizza, pasta, piatti, and dolce. Their whimsical expression of Italian classics coupled with the use of the freshest local produce, and organic and sustainable products comprise a diverse menu. Skip the wine this time and try The Italian Elvis, made with vanilla vodka, banana, peanut butter, chocolate and espresso. Actually, don’t skip the wine. Consider this your after dinner dessert.
Quality Social in Downtown
Since its grand opening back in March of 2010, Quality Social has quickly made us reveling locals realize that it’s not just the pickles and the backs that keep us coming back for more and more – it’s the playful juxtaposition of all that we love about neighborhood dives, presented in a new Quality light with no detail spared. Quality Social invites you to embrace the deliberate contradictions and create your own new nightlife experience. And hey, since changes are you’re probably already a dirt bag, why not throw back a Dirty Old Man? Made with buffalo trace bourbon, Benedictine and lemon, this drink is a sure to put some hair on your ass.
Alchemy in South Park
Part restaurant, bar and art gallery, Alchemy radiates with the positive and charming energy of the surrounding South Park community. Alchemy is a highly sustainable, locally owned and operated restaurant that is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated neighborhood hot spots in all of San Diego. This season, order up the Sweeny Hollow spirit – a blend of vodka, cranberry chutney, pumpkin paste and nutmeg, garnished with a sweet cranberry.
Wet Willie’s in Gaslamp
Wet Willie’s is a completely new nightlife concept for the Gaslamp Quarter. Everyone loves the sky-high frozen drinks in Vegas, right? Well now you can peruse a variety of frozen cocktail flavors at Wet Willie’s in San Diego. Grab a glass, fill it up and party the night away. If you want to be a real badass, we suggest you suck down an Eiffel-Tower sized Frozen Absinthe. If you’re still standing after that one then you’re a real winner in our book.
The Glass Door in Little Italy
The Glass Door is uniquely representative of the contemporary, Italian-inspired fare found in the bustling neighborhood of Little Italy. Located four floors up at the Porto Vista Hotel, locals flock to the Glass Door not only for the unparalleled skyline views, but for the delectable cuisine. Recently, the Glass Door decided to revamp their cocktail menu to feature premium ingredients, specialty spirits and freshly squeezed juices in order to create flavorful house crafted blends. We’re loving the Vanillapeno Margarito made with Fortaleza Blanco, jalapeno, agave and subtle and inviting hints of vanilla. You won’t find anything like this at El Torito’s happy hour.
Tractor Room in Hillcrest
The Tractor Room combines huntsman daring with winter lodge luxury. Dimly lit chandeliers, fashioned from faux antlers dangle over the brown and white splattered cowhide stretched over bar stools, while dark leather dominates the rest of the room. Equally brawny is the strongly flavorful and fiercely hearty menu and honest cocktail library. Out of the plethora of signature drinks, we can’t help but find The Grasshopper, made with green crème de menthe, white crème de cacao and a splash of heavy cream, to be a one-of-a-kind specialty.
Small Bar in University Heights
This San Fran style joint is probably best known for boasting 42 handles of some of the finest beers on the planet ranging from lighter notes such as Avery White Rascal and Franziskaner to the darker selections such as Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and Brewdog Zeitgeist Black Lager. But as much as we all enjoy a tasty brew, you’d be surprised to hear that Small Bar boasts a pretty kick ass cocktail menu too. If you loved getting your hands in some American Pie, then the Kentucky Road Apple with Makers Mark, Blackthorn Cider and Luxardo Amaretto and topped with ground cinnamon is the perfect spicy treat for fall.
Complete with a gold-flaked floor, a vintage jukebox and DJs on selected nights, this intimate space of El Dorado is the epitome of a good time, with the perfect mix of sophistication and eccentricity. With décor inspired by musical legends and a 1940s vibe, El Dorado takes you back in the day to show you a fun and uber hipster night on the town. The bar offers an extensive menu of specialty cocktails and fine crafted beers, all available at a refreshingly affordable price, but we have to admit that the Pisco Sour
is a fan fave. Made with pisco, egg white, lemon, sugar and aromatic bitters, this is one of the most eccentric drink combos you’re going to find.
Market in Del Mar
It’s time to relive your childhood again, except this time you don’t have to sneak the booze from your parents. Market’s Root Beer Floatini featuring Three Olives Root Beer vodka, Amaretto DiSaranno, Godiva White Chocolate liqueur and a splash of coca-cola tastes like a high-class version of an A&W drive-thru. Go on, be a kid again.
Syrah Wine Parlor in Downtown
As nice as it would be to live in a fairy tale sometimes, unfortunately Disney has yet to turn that dream into a reality. Fortunately for us locals, Syrah gives a taste of what life in Wonderland would be like. The venue is primarily a wine bar, however, Syrah offers a full selection of booze for those looking for a more intoxicating palate. Dive headfirst down the rabbit hole and order the spicy Diablo Bonita made with Blue Coat gin, lime, red bell pepper puree and rosemary. The experience itself is an overwhelming sense of wonderment.
Whisknladle in La Jolla
Since Whisknladle opened doors in 2008, restaurateur Arturo Kassel and executive chef Ryan Johnston have been satisfying patron’s culinary comfort cravings with their innovative fresh-from-scratch fare in the heart of La Jolla. Forgo the usual Sunday morning Bloody Mary for the Thai chile-garnished London’s Burning, with Tanqueray and lime juice mixed with a puréed mix of avocado, cilantro and roasted jalapeños.
Proper Gastropub in Downtown
Attention San Diego oenophiles, Wine Steals has finally found its soul mate and it’s so very “Proper.” Located just steps off PETCO Park, Proper Gastro Pub is an overtly sophisticated take on the traditional concept of grimy England pubs. With a full-flavor menu that extends far beyond commonplace pub grub you’ll find all the staples of authentic English pub fare on the Proper menu, but Executive Chef Sean Erik Magee has added his own modern updates via creative license. Take a break from the wine and order The Great Scott, Stoli Vanil, Kahlua and Guiness Stout, a clever take on an espresso martini that fits right in with the English pub theme.
Noble Experiment in Downtown
The boys behind El Dorado, Neighborhood, and Craft & Commerce must have something up their sleeves for having the skill to make four killer nightlife venues. Known for serving over 400 hand-crafted cocktails with house-made 100% clear and perfectly shaped ice blocks, Noble Experiment sets the stage for classic spirits with an intimate and edgy Mauricio Couturier-designed space. If you want a real swift kick to the tastebuds, w suggest you get after the Pan American Clipper with bonded apple brandy, lime, grenadine and Absinthe. Wowzers.
Cosmopolitan Restaurant in Old Town
Shining in dapper vintage ambience, the newly restored Cosmopolitan Hotel takes you back in time with Victorian style hospitality. But for a real taste of the Cosmo, dine in high style at the Cosmopolitan Restaurant with renowned San Diego Executive Chef Amy DiBiase and indulge in traditional foods of the 1870s with a sophisticated modern flair. Of course, the mouthwatering array of dishes would be incomplete without a list of luscious libations to go with it. Tequila may be the talk of the town at the Cosmo, but it’s the Rum Raymos mixed with Bacardi 8, egg white, cream, pressed lemon, soda water and orange flower water that’ll award your tastebuds with an intriguing treat.
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