If you walk into a cocktail bar these days, your bartender will likely be a guy either dressed like Doc Holliday with a man bun or an Amish farmer sporting a beard that would make ZZ Top jealous. If the thought of a rogue face pube in your drink leaves you wondering “Where my ladies at?” then read on. These women are shaking it up in the local craft cocktail scene and also proving that ladies don’t have to wear lingerie behind the bar to make a stiff one.
Specialty: “I'm a beer girl at heart. I love to pour a nice refreshing Stiegl-Radler with a copita of mezcal by its side. As for cocktails, I like to keep it simple so an Eastside Rickey is always refreshing and a crowd pleaser.”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I love to travel. That's pretty much all I want to do, I must have some gypsy in my blood. I've become obsessed with Baja so I try and go a couple times a month.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “Obviously the weather is amazing, but the friends and family I have because of this amazing town is why I'm in love with San Diego.”
Specialty: “I really enjoy different things seasonally. This summer I loved my Silverback Fizz (SelvaRey white rum infused with strawberries, fresh lemon, Giffard Vanille de Madagascar, egg white, cream, and soda water) and as we transition into fall, I've been working on a new Manhattan variation with Ugly California Rise and Shine (a locally produced moonshine infused with coffee from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters), Ancho Reyes, Caffe Lolita, Carpano Antica and mole bitters.”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I love hanging out in Normal Heights and around Adams Avenue. A perfect day includes getting a burger at Jaynes Gastropub, grabbing a margarita at Cantina Mayahuel, and going vintage shopping at La Loupe Vintage. I also play guitar in the newly reformed band Lady Parts.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “The optimism. Whenever I have friends visit from out of town they always comment about how genuinely nice people are. I think we are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful city and it truly reflects in the quality of interactions that I have both inside and outside of the bar.”
Specialty: “I like to make Manhattans and variations of the classic cocktail; vermouth and whiskey are the perfect complements.”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “When I am not working, I am experiencing the burgeoning culinary and cocktail scene in San Diego, and imbibing at industry friends’ bars, spending time at the beach, and traveling to new cities.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “Being from the East Coast, my favorite thing about San Diego is the sunshine, weather, and laid-back vibe of SoCal.”
Specialty: “Anything with whiskey, amaro, and pastis -- stirred and direct.”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I split my time off between soaking up San Diego's beautiful weather, hiking, paddle boarding, or just relaxing on the beach and eating and drinking my way through San Diego's eclectic neighborhoods.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “I love two things about this city: the camaraderie in the bartending scene here is great and welcomed me with open arms... and the palm trees!”
Where to find her: Sandbar Sports Bar & Grill (address and info) and Thrusters Lounge (address and info)
Specialty: “A Tequila Mule with a twist made with reposado tequila, peach bitters, orange and lime juice, and ginger beer.”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I love to go to yoga, ride my bike, hang out at the beach with my pups, party with the industry crew, and seek out adventures.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “The permanent vacation mentality. There is never a dull moment and always something to be excited about.”
Where to find her: Craft & Commerce (address and info) but since it is being remodeled, you can currently find her at Ironside Fish & Oyster (address and info)
Specialty: “Beer cocktails, pre-Prohibition classics, and crafting cocktails that incorporate two spirits -- like the Bossa Nova (one Islay Scotch, one aged rum, cream, coffee-infused Demerara); just ask for it at the bar!”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “Going to dog beach with my husband and dogs, hiking, museum days at Balboa Park, and traveling every chance I can. I love adventure! I also have a natural healthcare business on the side. I make organic soaps, salves, body butters, scrubs, lip balms, etc. Aromatherapy has been a huge part of my creative aspect behind the bar. My company's name is called Apothecary Soap Bar.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “I love how dynamic this city is. When I first moved out here, the food and cocktail culture was nearly obsolete; it was called Bland Diego. Within the past 10 year there has been an amazing progressive transformation where the community is more invested and excited about beer, the craft cocktail movement, and elevation of the food scene.”
Specialty: “I’d say my specialty is making every guest that walks into my bar feel welcome and comfortable. I also really enjoy the experience of getting to know my patrons and making them unique cocktails based on their preferences.”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I’m usually spending time with my beautiful 8-year-old daughter and hanging out with my Noble Experiment family.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “I love the San Diego bar scene. San Diego is becoming such a huge market for cocktails. We have some really incredible bartenders here and I love sitting in front of them.”
Specialty: “I love working with most spirits, but at this time, I am obsessed with mezcal, sotol, and tequila cocktails (shaken and stirred).”
What she’s doing when she’s not working: “I am in love with Yoga Sculpt, so if I’m not behind a bar I am usually practicing Yoga Sculpt or at the beach surfing with my 7-year-old pit bull, Coco.”
Her favorite thing about San Diego: “I grew up in SD so I am very spoiled and in love with the weather. I also love the fact that I have been able to be a part of and watch the craft cocktail scene emerge in San Diego in the last five years. It is really amazing to see how thirsty we have been for it and how we have embraced it.”
Sign up here for our daily San Diego email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
San Diego writer and photographer Sara Norris enjoys consuming cocktails as much as these ladies enjoy making them. Follow her on Instagram @saraknorris.
Take everything awesome about being a kid in the '80s, add a killer craft cocktail list and 20 craft beers on draft and you’ve got Coin-Op, the arcade/bar combo that just opened up in North Park with pinball and more than a dozen vintage games on rotation like Donkey Kong, Street Fighter, and Frogger. Score!
If the San Diego backdrop of beaches and palm trees has somehow got you itching for a getaway, look no further than Sycamore Den. This masculine, woodsy bar feels like a hidden hunting lodge getaway right on Adams. The '70s vibe comes complete with mounted guns, stone and wood lining, and polished leather booths, and the drinks match with a menu that's got a heavy emphasis on whiskey, rye, and bourbon (in craft cocktails and on their own).
Seven Grand prides itself on its extensive whiskey selection and properly poured drinks, so come here if you're looking for a good, stiff drink.
Top Chef: All Stars winner Richard Blais is behind Juniper & Ivy, a Little Italy restaurant that's making moves to put the San Diego dining scene on the same level as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The refined menu is nothing if not creative, and dishes like lobster congee with beef sausage, wagyu short rib with Gruyere-rye bread pudding, and vindaloo-rubbed filet carpaccio prove that Blais' cooking inspiration isn't limited to one cuisine. That said, one of the best things on the menu is also the simplest: the buttermilk drop biscuit with smoked butter.
Noble Experiment calls itself a speakeasy, but it's not much of a secret. The popular drinking den inside Gaslamp Quarter's Neighborhood is so popular that you won't be able to get in without reserving a spot a few days in advance. Trust us though, it's worth it. What looks like a stack of kegs by the restaurant's bathroom is a door that'll lead you to a bar that's best described as vampire's lair meets French catacombs. Order from a simple menu of handcrafted cocktails or take a chance with the Dealer's Choice -- a bartender will concoct something for you based on your personal tastes, and they almost always nail it. Don't let the wall of gilded skulls freak you out, it's all part of the charm.
Despite its Little Italy locale, Bracero Cocina de Raiz specializes in modern Mexican cuisine. The two-story restaurant features an open kitchen, a crudo bar bursting with Baja seafood, and a menu composed of hot and cold small plates, tacos, and meaty entrees. The cocktail program pays homage to Mexican drink with a well-rounded selection of tequila and mezcal, plus a variety of bacanoras, raicillas, and sotols.