“I’m looking for ways in which to translate information through a beverage."
A trip to modern speakeasy cache is a trip through time. From the moment you discover its entrance disguised as a walk-in freezer by the bathrooms of not-for-profit Tacos Libertad (the latest offering from Cohn Restaurant Group, adjacent to their fourth BO-beau kitchen), you feel as though you’ve uncovered an archaeological dig.
1027 University Avenue, San Diego
Like shovel-broken earth, cache tells its story in fractured layers: chandeliers and fleur-de-lis curtains suggestive of Marie Antionette’s Versailles, murals inspired by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge–era showbills, ancient cognac presses repurposed as liquor racks, expired marriage contracts and trade agreements, Japanese bone brushes and English typeset preserved under the glass of a wabi sabi credenza, a Grecian statue depicting a woman in grape-leaf crown cradling a sacrificial lamb, and three live olive trees sprouting smack in the middle of an early evening crowd.
It’s a proto-Parisian salon but flaunting another century-and-then-some of cocktail craft, gastronomy, context, and Caravan Palace on the stereo. The batched cocktail menu — featuring flips, egg sours, swizzles, juleps, bourbons, gins, and French-Caribbean tiki influences — reads like a forgotten pirate manuscript. Passages of esoteric bottle talk create a call-and-response chorus with jubilant outbursts of interpretation.
“Everything is ancient,” says Cervantes Magaña, whose visionary prowess with Medicine Show Restaurant and Bar Consultants is already well-evinced by locales such as Bar by Red Door, Double Standard, Roseville Cozinha, and Masters. He pours a Pistachio Milk Punch into a vintage milkman’s bottle and garnishes it with a sprig of fresh mint. It’s strong and sweet, the brandy mouth of Pisco punctuated by the distant anise of Arak. It hits like a Caribbean rum-and-coconut, somehow, and leaves the mouth feeling coated and lactic, yet it’s 100 percent vegan. The menu describes it as “highly quaffable” and, at an easy $9 per high-powered bottle, I’m not inclined to disagree.
“I’m not just building cocktails,” Magana later introspects. “I’m looking for ways in which to translate information through a beverage to you. I think about the feel of the neighborhood and what the community’s looking for. Drinks like the Party Boi, University Avenue Zombie, Love Thy Neighbor — it’s all the shit we’ve been through as a community looking for gay acceptance. Pride. All these words and cocktails speak a lot about the community.”
The community, a look in any direction confirms, is listening.
Prices: beer, $7–$8; cocktails, $9–$10; wine $10–$16.
Food: Bring in your order from BO-beau kitchen or Tacos Libertad.
Hours: 4 p.m.–1 a.m. daily.
Happy: 4–6:30 p.m. daily next door at BO-beau kitchen, $6 select appetizers and cocktails.
Parking: Metered on street.
Capacity: 200 or so.