Starlite’s Cleopatra
  • Starlite’s Cleopatra
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3175 India Street, Mission Hills

Shimmering in all its gold-plated decadence, the Starlite’s Cleopatra is worthy of the woman for whom it was named. According to Matt Hoyt, Starlite owner and sometime bartender, the drink serves as a seductive entrée into what he calls Starlite’s “thoughtful” cocktail menu, which sprang from the mind of previous bar manager Kate McWilliamson.

The gilded look to the Cleopatra, Hoyt says, comes from the saffron-infused gin which the Starlite prepares three days in advance for guests — a process facilitated by the saffron’s flexibility.

Matt Hoyt

Matt Hoyt

“I don’t know how it knows, but the saffron is like a goldfish in a fish tank,” he says. “It just seems to accommodate itself based on the size of the vessel it’s in.”

A popular drink with Starliters, the Cleopatra also allows the bashful to make their formal introduction to gin as a cocktail base.

“A lot of people don’t even know there’s gin in it when they order it,” Hoyt says. “The Cleopatra definitely fits into our ethos — which is to bring people things that they wouldn’t normally try.”

The drink has few working parts, but that’s part of its charm, Hoyt says — a simple drink with complex tastes.

“A stiff floral drink is what it’s going to taste like,” he says. “The saffron and golden raisins play off each other very well — and the saffron ends up not being as savory as you might expect, but actually being a little bit sweeter than usual. I think the Lillet helps bring that out too.”

Kitchen Proof: It’s all golden. The saffron-tamed bite of the Plymouth plays right into the chalky sweetness of the Lillet, and if a garnish serves as punctuation for a cocktail, the golden raisins present the perfect ellipses…


  • In cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour:
  • 2 oz. of saffron-Infused (see below) Plymouth Gin
  • 1/5 oz. of Lillet Blanc
  • Shake lightly, strain into a martini glass, garnish with five Lillet-soaked golden raisins, and try not to think of Actium…
  • Infusion:
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • ½ liter Plymouth Gin

Starlite Lounge

3175 India Street, San Diego


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