Photo courtesy of Metl Bar
Paloma gelato: boozy ice cream made with Don lorenzo tequila, charred grapefruit, lime zest, and tajin.
Rock music should have been what drew me to Metl Bar & Restaurant. That’s the new mantle of the Gaslamp space previously called The Hopping Pig. New ownership gave it a rock bar revamp late last year, while maintaining its rotational draft beer lineup and perking up its craft cocktail program.
748 5th Avenue, San Diego
Longtime Hopping Pig general manager Jenna Elskamp took over the venue, along with her husband Randy, and they sunk their lifestyle into the place, playing classic punk tunes on Tuesday nights, and hosting live music Thursdays through Saturdays.
Not that a great rock show wouldn’t be a thousand percent welcome catharsis right about now, but something else brought me around in the meantime: boozy ice cream.
Which is exactly like it sounds, only better. Metl’s creations sit at the intersection of small batch ice cream and craft cocktail culture. It might be as straightforward as turning a negroni into gelato. The paloma gelato gets a creative upgrade over its tequila cocktail inspiration: rather than lime juice and grape soda, the ice cream version gets charred grapefruit, lime zest, and tajin.
Adios Quarandream: inspired by the Adios Motherfucker cocktail, made with vodka, gin, rum, blue cucacao, lemon zest, and Lucky Charms cereal.
Photo courtesy of Metl Bar
Randy Elskamp is an industry veteran, having been a bartender at agave bar Cantina Mayahuel, and the couple started making ice cream with alcohol years ago to serve at parties. Friends have been coming back asking for more. One of them made the menu at Hopping pig a couple years back: a mezcal peanut butter ice cream made with Reese’s peanut butter cups.
The Elskamps carried the idea forward to Metl, but Randy says the concept has really taken off during the shutdown. Once take-out cocktails became legal, boozy ice cream turned out to be a kind of perfect stuck at home treat for those no longer allowed to sip drinks at the bar. They're now making up to 18 different flavors.
Metl is set up for pick-up, offers free delivery on orders over 20 bucks. I called in for a cheeseburger and poutine, though my real target was the ice cream: batanga, inspired by the simple drink of tequila, Coca Cola, and lime. I couldn’t resist the idea of Metl’s ice cream version, flavored with Mexican Coke. I don’t know whether the Corralejo Tequila contributed to the ice cream’s pleasantly soft texture, but it definitely brought the slight buzz. Each eight ounce tub of boozy ice cream contains two ounces of booze (priced $5-6 apiece).
A Metl cheeseburger and batanga ice cream, made with Corralejo Tequila and Mexican Coke
In addition to refining the pandemic’s ideal stuck-at-home dessert, the Metl team has been doing something greater good work as well. From the very first day California closed dining rooms, Metl has been serving free meals to out of work hospitality workers. “We’re such an industry bar, and industry people,” says Randy Elskamp, “You see some of your best friends and you know they’re hurting… We put it out there, if you’re hungry and need a meal, we’ll hook it up.”
Their actions inspired a few of their vendors to jump in and sponsor additional meals, including Corralejo Tequila, Makers Mark, Illegal Mezcal, Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, and mineral water brand Topo Chico.
The additional support has helped the Metl Meal Program give away about a thousand meals and counting, including burgers, soups, and sometimes including bottles of hand sanitizer. And as the shut-down has worn on, people who received free meals when they needed them most, are now coming back to pay it forward. “What’s been happening” Elskamp tells me, “is people got their stimulus check or unemployment check. I’ve been seeing them come back to buy food for people who haven’t gotten their checks yet… It’s awesome to see everybody pull together.”