The first-ever San Diego Cocktail Week is set to happen June 20 through 24. Will it be as big and boozy as San Diego Beer Week? Judging by the myriad flannel shirts stretched tightly over the bulging beer bellies of bearded dudes in our city, probably not. But San Diego is continuing its path toward classy craft-cocktail greatness; my drinking binge continues in an ongoing quest to prove it.
Explicit in its name, High Dive (1801 Morena Blvd. in Bay Park) is a dive bar that has some surprising high-end qualities. Just pick up a menu and check out the interesting list of craft cocktails. Try the Ballast Point Gimlet, made with a splash of St. Germain, lime juice, muddled cucumber and locally made Ballast Point Old Grove Gin. Keep an eye on Ballast Point, which will soon release its Devil’s Share Whiskey. You can go to the website (ballastpoint.com) and, literally, watch the whiskey age in barrels on a live webcam. Talk about fun, eh? Hopefully, San Diego’s mixologists are paying attention and already have a few Devil’s Share recipes in mind.
URBN Coal Fired Pizza (3085 University Ave. in North Park) recently kicked off its Classic Cocktail Hour, which runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For $6, you can wrap your lips around pre-Prohibition drinks like the Tom Collins, Pimm’s Cup and Old Fashioned. I dug the sweet and tart Blood and Sand (Famous Grouse Scotch, orange juice, Cherry Heering and sweet vermouth), and my drinking buddy put up a challenge and simply asked for something made with fernet. The bartender surprised us with a very good drink he called the Rabbit Hole (fernet, lime juice, bitters and ginger beer). I’m pretty sure it was URBN bartender Dustin Haarstad who came up with that drink. Haarstad recently placed third in the 4 Orange Premium Vodka Annual Classic Cocktail Competition at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival, so the man knows a thing or two about mixing.
The Waterfront (2044 Kettner Blvd. in Little Italy) isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking about good craft cocktails, but the oldest bar in San Diego is home to a list of six $10 contemporary concoctions worthy of wetting your whistle. I tried the Tequila Fresh (Cazadores Blanco, lime juice, agave nectar, muddled cucumber and a pinch of salt and pepper) and was blown away by its thirst-quenching freshness.