With its laid back vibe, the sophisticated level of mixology transforming the nightlife scene in San Diego may come as a surprise. But throughout the city, long gone are the days of ‘bartenders,’ who serve up simple vodka tonics or G&T’s. The hottest trend is undoubtedly mixology. Shaken or stirred, mixologists at the city’s hottest venues are transforming classic cocktails into innovative one-of-a-kind creations that incorporate the freshest ingredients for craft libations ahead of the curve.
Read on for some of the top spots that show off SD's mixology mastery.
1503 30th St.
Frankie Thaheld, the cocktail master at Alchemy is undoubtedly ahead of the game in the national trend of beertails, (concoctions that mix beer with spirits, liqueurs, and syrups). Check out the much favored, South Park Punch that features Southern Comfort, Aperol and Ommegang Hennipen Saision, or the Skip and Go Naked pairs locally-made gin, Ballast Point Old Grove with lemon juice, fresh blood orange and Karl Strauss Golden Lager. For beer-less cocktails, Thaheld whips up delicious drinks like the Tricolore, that features red, green and yellow pepper-infused vodka with house-made blends of tomato juice and secret spice mix.
Favorite Cocktail: 30th Street Manhattan
Neighborhood: South Park
Hours: Mon-Thu 4 pm - 12 am, Fri 4 pm - 1 am, Sat-Sun 10 am - 1 am
2760 Fifth Ave.
It's not often you find a mixologist that wields nitrogen. At Avenue 5, however things look a little different with bartender Michael Yen. Maybe more of a magician than mixologist, Yen can turn a martini into a solid, or make them disappear without you ever lifting a finger. Mixing up concoctions a bit like his Cotton Candy Cuban that seem more like a science experiment, try this impressive mixture of dark rum, mint, sparkling wine, lime juice, raw sugar poured over a tangle of fairy floss that makes the mix vanish in an instant. For Yen, “Craft mixology is a complete dedication to a culture. Components are housemade. Ingredients are grown locally … even the ice has love put into it.”
Favorite Cocktail: Cotton Candy Cuban
Neighborhood: Banker's Hill
Hours: Mon-Sat 4 pm - 10 pm, Sun 10 am - 9 pm
675 W. Beech St.
Craft & Commerce defies the typical ambiance of a sophisticated cocktail bar with laid-back vibe and airy environment. With shelves lined with books and vintage liquor bottles, expect an eclectic crowd that gathers at this Little Italy venue. However, vodka drinkers be warned, not a drop of the liquor will be found on the premise, as C&C is all about cocktails full of flavor. Take friends and enjoy the communal punch-bowl cocktail ladled into antique cups, or the Darkest Storm (dark Jamaican rum, fresh ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice, topped with stout beer) a variation on the traditional trademarked favorite, Dark ‘n Stormy.
Favorite Cocktail: Eastern Prospector
Neighborhood: Little Italy
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30 am - 1 am, Sat-Sun 10 am - 1 am
At El Dorado Cocktail Lounge, the spirit sligners behind the bar are the real deal. Making sure the ice is perfectly cubed, an array of freshly squeezed juices are always available, and the seasonal drink menu keeps up the latest mixology trends, El D offers a low-key atmosphere to try new craft creations like the Honey Badger that blends premium rye, honey and bitters) together.
Favorite Cocktail: Alameda
Neighborhood: East Village
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sat-Sun 7 pm - 2 am, Fri 5 pm - 2 am
Recently named the Best Hotel Bar in the nation, it's no wonder Grant Grill located in the U.S Grant Hotel is a San Diego favorite. Mixologist Jeff Josenhans uses fresher than fresh ingredients from the hotel's rooftop garden, to make wholly sexy cocktails like the floral and citrusy, Buddha’s Hand, a spicy yet refreshing fusion of Myer's Rum and tendriled yellow citron fruit.
Favorite Cocktail: Buddha's Hand
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 6:30am–10pm, Fri-Sat 6:30am–10:30pm
548 5th Ave.
Though only open to those in the known, Prohibition is known for alluring in locals with live Jazz music, sophisticated service and classic craft cocktails. A "speakeasy," style bar though hard to find due to it's exclusive "secret door," once you enter the lush atmosphere of the dark wood and comfortable leather seating Prohibition will stun with it's homage to the 1920's. Complete with a full-bar stocked with prohibition era favorite using sweet elderflower-flavored St. Germain liqueur and Fernet Branca, at Prohibition only your imagination defines the limits of what you drink.
Favorite Cocktail: Statler Peach
Hours:Thur- Sat 9pm - 2am
3175 India St.
Beloved by locals and visitors alike, Starlite, a dazzling retro bar/lounge offers a step back in time. Serving unique cocktails craft with locally farmed ingredients, whether the Kentucky Colonel, (made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, ginger beer, lemon, and a dash of house made cherry vanilla bitters) or the classic Mule, watch out as Starlite mixologists take pride in mixing cocktails strong enough to catapult you into a different time dimension.
Favorite Cocktail: Starlite Mule
Neighborhood: Mission Hills
Hours: Mon-Sat 5 pm-2 am; Fri 4pm-2am; Sun 6 pm-2 am
777 G St.
Nothing about Noble Experiment is done the "normal," way. Tucked behind the false keg-wall of the gastropub establishment, Neighborhood, enter the narrow room lined with over 2,000 golden skulls stacked like the Catacombs of Paris. Behind the bar, mixologist Anthony Schmidt approaches cocktails like the Old Fashioned, (whiskey, bitters, sugar, stirred with ice, garnished with two thick orange rinds) like a moment of history. Drawing cues from quintessential cocktail Bible, "How to Mix Drinks," as penned by Jerry Thomas in 1862, for Schmidt, cocktails are, "a cup of velvet history, one moment strong and abrupt, the next moment folding wistfully into time.”
Neighborhood: East Village
Hours:Wed-Sun 7pm - 2am