Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Lame jokes made funny

Just add alcohol!

Hardly Wallbanger at Sycamore Den
Hardly Wallbanger at Sycamore Den

I love craft cocktails because they’re the great American drinking innovation and because they make all my lame jokes seem wicked funny.

Place

Coin-Op Game Room

3926 30th Street, San Diego

Coin-Op

There’s much fun to be had at this arcade/bar, feeding quarters into vintage video games and pinball machines. Bartenders whip up stiff drinks for about $8.50. True Blood (mint-infused Pimm’s, raspberry, lime) is a crimson beauty. Kentucky Tippler (grapefruit-infused bourbon, honey, lemon, sarsaparilla bitters) drinks like a stronger Old Fashioned. Downright Fierce (bourbon, vanilla liquor, sugar cane, aromatic bitters) is icy cold, tastes stronger than it smells, and still manages to go down easy. Of the many beer cocktails, Double Barrel (bourbon, spiced rum, cinnamon, orgeat, and brown ale) intrigues most, though a $6 michelada never hurt.

Place

Noble Experiment

777 G Street, San Diego

Noble Experiment

Make reservations (a de facto requirement, no matter what they say) before seeking the “secret” door at the back of Neighborhood. Thirteen-dollar drinks are worth it, at least once. The Cobble Hill (rye, dry vermouth, Montenegro, and cucumber) drinks like a Manhattan, despite being nothing like one. Frankfort Praline (bourbon, rum, sugar, toasted-pecan bitters, orange) looks on paper like it should be sweet, but the effect is just the opposite. All else failing, just tell the bartender your favorite spirit and let him improvise. Who knew that amaretto, cranberry liquor, and sparkling water would be delicious?

Place

Sycamore Den

3391 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Video:

Crafting Sycamore Den's Hardly Wallbanger

Sycamore Den

Head bar guy Eric Johnson cut his chops at Noble Experiment, but the style at this cedar-scented, dad-themed, retro bar is much more laid back. Craft cocktails run $9 each, $6 during happy hour (M-F 5-7, weekends 4-7). The signature Hardly Wallbanger adds vanilla soda to the classic combo of vodka, Galliano, and OJ. Everything that includes the Dark Horse Roasters coffee syrup is worth a look, and the bartenders do a good job of coming up with thematic specials to suit any occasion.

Place

Encore Champagne Bar

531 F Street, San Diego

Encore Champagne Bar

This newcomer focuses on bubbly and a compelling menu to go alongside, but the bar also makes a selection of cocktails sporting sparkles ($13). The Encore champagne cocktail lays a heavy splash of Landy Very Special cognac atop a sugar cube, which gradually mingles with the bubbles from some Piper Sonoma Brut. The bar mixes a mean French 75 (Hendricks, lemon syrup, Piper Sonoma), and the champagne mojito is a less-sweet version of the original, with lemongrass syrup and a float of French bubbles. Bellini and Kir Royale come in a variety of flavors outside the traditional peach and blackcurrant.

Place

Salt & Cleaver

3805 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Salt and Cleaver

If such a thing is possible, the bar here designs the $10 cocktails to go well with the (delicious) sausages and indulgent bar food on the menu. Diplomatic Immunity (vodka, blueberry sage, maraschino, lime, and simple syrup on the rocks) may be fruity, but it’s deceptively strong. The sage flavor is impressive, since herbal notes are often lost in such drinks. The White Sour Beer Cocktail is fun: orangey and kind of spicy. The Abe Froman (tequila, Pimm’s, Cynar, lemon, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, cucumber) is a cool idea, largely because we don’t see many bitter tequila cocktails.

Place

Hello Betty Fish House

211 Mission Avenue, Oceanside

Hello Betty's Crispy Apple: Apple Cider Strongbow, Licor 43, Apple Pie Moonshine.

Hello Betty Fish House

Kicked-up cocktails for far North County! Million-dollar design with a flair for vintage surf culture and a wide-open vibe give this Oceanside newbie a big advantage in the looks department.

The menu is pure mariscos, but the drinks go beyond the local taco shop, which makes for a fun meeting of styles.

The bar’s specialty is margaritas, and the O’side Rita is pretty good, but try the Baja Michelada on draft; laced with rum, it’s not your average cerveza preparada.

The Betty’s go-to Mai Tai uses tarragon sugar, Bacardi 1909, and lime for a tiki-fabulous libation.

Place

Seven Grand

3054 University Avenue, San Diego

Seven Grand

Old-school cool reigns supreme at this tartan-clad whiskey bar, where the best drinks are clever riffs on the classics. The $9 draft Old Fashioned (100-proof Old Grand Dad, bitters, sugar) gets the job done; no muss, no fuss. The $11 Whiskey Sour (Seven Grand single-barrel bourbon, sugar, lemon, egg white) has a soft touch, but a strong finish. When all is said and done, the $11 Kentucky Mint Julep is the king. Woodford reserve, crushed mint, and sugar served over a snowcone of crushed ice in a pewter cup is legit, strong, and refreshing.

Place

T’s Cafe

271 North Highway 101, Solana Beach

T’s Cafe

Why wait till the sun sets to indulge? T’s has been satisfying day-drinkers with fancy Bloody Marys since before craft cocktails were a thing. The restaurant closes before most bars even open, and the Bloody Mary here is so successful they sell bottles of mix to go for $15. Quiet, beachy, Solana surroundings make for a change of pace from the moody, serious style typical of contemporary cocktail bars.

Place

Social Experiment

530 University Avenue, San Diego

Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen

Swing through here on Mondays and Tuesdays, when the happy hour lasts all night and the craft cocktails are just $7 (otherwise $9.50). Blue Ribbon embraces fruit flavors with their drinks, without spilling over into actual fruitiness. The notable black Margarita boasts undeniable blackberry overtones, but is still very much a ’Rita. The Blood-Orange Moonshine Cocktail retains the deep color of the eponymous fruit, and a sweet, boozy taste with a hint of sharpness and neutral spirit flavor from the commercial hooch. The bar’s clever take on the Manhattan substitutes Nonino (an Italian amaro) for the vermouth.

Place

HOPE 46

2223 El Cajon Boulevard, Lafayette Hotel, San Diego

Hope 46

Hanging at North Park’s famous Lafayette Hotel, the in-house restaurant’s menu tempts with pool-time libations (sangrias, punches, and spritzers galore), but the bar’s love for mid-century glam and golden-age Hollywood demands a bit more substance from the craft-cocktail menu. The “smoker’s” Old Fashioned has the spirit of the classic cocktail, but earns its name from the tobacco haze of mezcal. The classic Vieux Carré, a New Orleans original, rocks your socks with whiskey and cognac, plus a splash of Benedictine. It’s a great drink for those who would channel the Big Easy but don’t want a Sazerac.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Finding a different world inside Samarkand Uzbek Café

Don’t miss this overachieving tent restaurant tucked away in a City Heights parking lot
Next Article

Who will take over those Nordstroms?

Zoom's effect on San Diego's landscape
Hardly Wallbanger at Sycamore Den
Hardly Wallbanger at Sycamore Den

I love craft cocktails because they’re the great American drinking innovation and because they make all my lame jokes seem wicked funny.

Place

Coin-Op Game Room

3926 30th Street, San Diego

Coin-Op

There’s much fun to be had at this arcade/bar, feeding quarters into vintage video games and pinball machines. Bartenders whip up stiff drinks for about $8.50. True Blood (mint-infused Pimm’s, raspberry, lime) is a crimson beauty. Kentucky Tippler (grapefruit-infused bourbon, honey, lemon, sarsaparilla bitters) drinks like a stronger Old Fashioned. Downright Fierce (bourbon, vanilla liquor, sugar cane, aromatic bitters) is icy cold, tastes stronger than it smells, and still manages to go down easy. Of the many beer cocktails, Double Barrel (bourbon, spiced rum, cinnamon, orgeat, and brown ale) intrigues most, though a $6 michelada never hurt.

Place

Noble Experiment

777 G Street, San Diego

Noble Experiment

Make reservations (a de facto requirement, no matter what they say) before seeking the “secret” door at the back of Neighborhood. Thirteen-dollar drinks are worth it, at least once. The Cobble Hill (rye, dry vermouth, Montenegro, and cucumber) drinks like a Manhattan, despite being nothing like one. Frankfort Praline (bourbon, rum, sugar, toasted-pecan bitters, orange) looks on paper like it should be sweet, but the effect is just the opposite. All else failing, just tell the bartender your favorite spirit and let him improvise. Who knew that amaretto, cranberry liquor, and sparkling water would be delicious?

Place

Sycamore Den

3391 Adams Avenue, San Diego

Video:

Crafting Sycamore Den's Hardly Wallbanger

Sycamore Den

Head bar guy Eric Johnson cut his chops at Noble Experiment, but the style at this cedar-scented, dad-themed, retro bar is much more laid back. Craft cocktails run $9 each, $6 during happy hour (M-F 5-7, weekends 4-7). The signature Hardly Wallbanger adds vanilla soda to the classic combo of vodka, Galliano, and OJ. Everything that includes the Dark Horse Roasters coffee syrup is worth a look, and the bartenders do a good job of coming up with thematic specials to suit any occasion.

Place

Encore Champagne Bar

531 F Street, San Diego

Encore Champagne Bar

This newcomer focuses on bubbly and a compelling menu to go alongside, but the bar also makes a selection of cocktails sporting sparkles ($13). The Encore champagne cocktail lays a heavy splash of Landy Very Special cognac atop a sugar cube, which gradually mingles with the bubbles from some Piper Sonoma Brut. The bar mixes a mean French 75 (Hendricks, lemon syrup, Piper Sonoma), and the champagne mojito is a less-sweet version of the original, with lemongrass syrup and a float of French bubbles. Bellini and Kir Royale come in a variety of flavors outside the traditional peach and blackcurrant.

Place

Salt & Cleaver

3805 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Salt and Cleaver

If such a thing is possible, the bar here designs the $10 cocktails to go well with the (delicious) sausages and indulgent bar food on the menu. Diplomatic Immunity (vodka, blueberry sage, maraschino, lime, and simple syrup on the rocks) may be fruity, but it’s deceptively strong. The sage flavor is impressive, since herbal notes are often lost in such drinks. The White Sour Beer Cocktail is fun: orangey and kind of spicy. The Abe Froman (tequila, Pimm’s, Cynar, lemon, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, cucumber) is a cool idea, largely because we don’t see many bitter tequila cocktails.

Place

Hello Betty Fish House

211 Mission Avenue, Oceanside

Hello Betty's Crispy Apple: Apple Cider Strongbow, Licor 43, Apple Pie Moonshine.

Hello Betty Fish House

Kicked-up cocktails for far North County! Million-dollar design with a flair for vintage surf culture and a wide-open vibe give this Oceanside newbie a big advantage in the looks department.

The menu is pure mariscos, but the drinks go beyond the local taco shop, which makes for a fun meeting of styles.

The bar’s specialty is margaritas, and the O’side Rita is pretty good, but try the Baja Michelada on draft; laced with rum, it’s not your average cerveza preparada.

The Betty’s go-to Mai Tai uses tarragon sugar, Bacardi 1909, and lime for a tiki-fabulous libation.

Place

Seven Grand

3054 University Avenue, San Diego

Seven Grand

Old-school cool reigns supreme at this tartan-clad whiskey bar, where the best drinks are clever riffs on the classics. The $9 draft Old Fashioned (100-proof Old Grand Dad, bitters, sugar) gets the job done; no muss, no fuss. The $11 Whiskey Sour (Seven Grand single-barrel bourbon, sugar, lemon, egg white) has a soft touch, but a strong finish. When all is said and done, the $11 Kentucky Mint Julep is the king. Woodford reserve, crushed mint, and sugar served over a snowcone of crushed ice in a pewter cup is legit, strong, and refreshing.

Place

T’s Cafe

271 North Highway 101, Solana Beach

T’s Cafe

Why wait till the sun sets to indulge? T’s has been satisfying day-drinkers with fancy Bloody Marys since before craft cocktails were a thing. The restaurant closes before most bars even open, and the Bloody Mary here is so successful they sell bottles of mix to go for $15. Quiet, beachy, Solana surroundings make for a change of pace from the moody, serious style typical of contemporary cocktail bars.

Place

Social Experiment

530 University Avenue, San Diego

Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen

Swing through here on Mondays and Tuesdays, when the happy hour lasts all night and the craft cocktails are just $7 (otherwise $9.50). Blue Ribbon embraces fruit flavors with their drinks, without spilling over into actual fruitiness. The notable black Margarita boasts undeniable blackberry overtones, but is still very much a ’Rita. The Blood-Orange Moonshine Cocktail retains the deep color of the eponymous fruit, and a sweet, boozy taste with a hint of sharpness and neutral spirit flavor from the commercial hooch. The bar’s clever take on the Manhattan substitutes Nonino (an Italian amaro) for the vermouth.

Place

HOPE 46

2223 El Cajon Boulevard, Lafayette Hotel, San Diego

Hope 46

Hanging at North Park’s famous Lafayette Hotel, the in-house restaurant’s menu tempts with pool-time libations (sangrias, punches, and spritzers galore), but the bar’s love for mid-century glam and golden-age Hollywood demands a bit more substance from the craft-cocktail menu. The “smoker’s” Old Fashioned has the spirit of the classic cocktail, but earns its name from the tobacco haze of mezcal. The classic Vieux Carré, a New Orleans original, rocks your socks with whiskey and cognac, plus a splash of Benedictine. It’s a great drink for those who would channel the Big Easy but don’t want a Sazerac.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

What Beethoven's Fifth is not

An answer to vox.com
Next Article

Claudia Gomez‘s sound showers with Trio Gadjo and Besos de Coco

“Playing again has lifted everyone’s spirits.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close