You know how to EAT THIS CITY. With top chefs as tour guides, you’ve learned how to scout out hot spots for breakfast and brunch, where to go for a delicious date night, and how to feast like a local liege in the cities you love. But where do you wash it all down? Do you know how to find the best brewpub? Uncover who makes the meanest bloody marys and the most sparkling mimosas?
You’re about to find out. Welcome to DRINK THIS CITY!
This week, we’re checking out sunny San Diego, home to the 1200-acre Balboa Park (sometimes referred to as the Smithsonian of the West), nine different arts districts, scores of stoned surfers, and beloved anchorman Ron Burgundy. The city is also home to an incredible cocktail culture — so rich in curated menus and bespoke drinks that having an expert guide is imperative. Which is why we’re thrilled to have Brian Vong, manager at Polite Provisions, walk us through the best boozy beverages the city has to offer.
Under Vong’s guidance, Polite Provisions has carved out a reputation for being as well-versed in the classics as it at dreaming up daring originals. And when we say original, we mean it. Where else can you go to try six different cocktails on draft, pairing lavender soda with London dry gin, or Irish whiskey with cinnamon pop, or one of several housemade bottled cocktails with ingredients as unusual and intriguing as Japanese whisky, sesame, ginger, and barrel-aged soy sauce?
Into old-school tiki? Try the Don the Beachcomber’s Zombie, created in 1934. And if — on a menu that offers spirit-forward, house favorite, sparkling, beer-based, and communal beverages — you still can’t find the tipple that tickles your taste buds, the good people of Polite Provisions will make a special drink just for you. It’s no wonder this purveyor of “local tonics, elixirs, and cures” has been voted one of Thrillist’s Best Bars in California, and San Diego Magazine‘s Best Cocktails in the city.
Ready to check out Brian’ Vong’s favorite bars in San Diego? Let’s go drink this city!
BRUNCH COCKTAIL OR HAIR OF THE DOG
Werewolf in downtown San Diego. You can get that heavy greasy food you need to take the edge off and coat your stomach. My go to hangover cure is a shot of Buffalo Trace and a Coors banquet.
My favorite marg is a blended Mango Marg from Ponces; it’s located in a quiet little neighborhood called Kensington. You walk in and it’s brightly lit — with vibrant oranges and reds — the walls are covered in old oil paintings of women. It just has always had such a welcoming feel to it.
As of right now, I would have to say Jaynes Gastropub is the best place to score a classic. Adele Stratton has put together a killer, true-to-their-roots menu that is highly enjoyable. I can never say no to a Rome with a View.
I’m so partial to Polite it’s a little tough to name another spot. If I had to choose I would say grab an Eastern Prospector from Craft & Commerce. Its a subtle twist to a gold rush that really accentuates the spices in whiskey. While you’re there you can take in all the reclaimed wood and taxidermy on the walls.
The Smoking Gun in downtown San Diego; they have a Disco Elyx punchbowl and the atmosphere is kinda of 70’s nostalgic vibe.
Sneaky Tiki From Turf Supper club, I can’t stress enough how much I love Turf and how great a Sneaky Tiki is. I usually grab a fillet and sip my Tiki while my steak cooks. Add a float of Laphroaig to it and call it a Smokey Tiki to really beef up your experience.
PUB, TAVERN, OR BREWERY
If they would let me, I would build a cot inside of Fall Brewing to just drink their Sangria Jazz Hands 24/7. It’s crisp and approachable. Slightly tart but incredibly refreshing, especially on a hot San Diego day.
This might be cheating, but the Red Fox Room is connected to the Layfette Hotel in San Diego, a dirty Martini and you’ll feel right at home. Its dimly lit and there’s a live piano playing in the background. Not a window in sight and 9 times out of 10 an older couple most likely in the back booth on their date night.
Gotta get a Hot Buttered Rum from False Idol. I debated on listing this one under the Themed Cocktail experience and now I’m adding it here because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to stress how delicious this cocktail is. It coats your mouth in this silky mouthfeel that leaves you wanting one too many.
THEMED COCKTAIL at IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE BAR
Any cocktail from Noble Experiment. The whole experience — from walking through the hidden door to adding your name to the guest list — is amazing. Their menu is ever-changing but always filled with some of the best drinks available to the city. I want to tell you all more, but don’t want to give away too much, make a reservation and see for yourselves.
The Patio on Goldfinch is a go-to for my girlfriend and me. We find ourselves often going here and having a couple Aperol Spritzes. The set up brings the outdoors inside and you feel like you’resitting on a patio while in the dining room. Tons of plants and open-air vibe helps you from feeling guilty staying inside while tossing back a couple of bubbly treats.
Americanos from Campfire. Everything this bar is doing is amazing, from the food to the cocktails. Their bartenders are constantly creating new drinks and looking for sherry-based cocktails or low abv options. Make your way up north to see these gents and pay them a proper visit.
UNUSUAL COCKTAIL or COCKTAIL WITH SURPRISING INGREDIENTS
The La Jolla from Georges at the cove. They have an ice cube with suspended seaweed in it. It’s gorgeous to look at and makes the drink that much more enjoyable. You’re right on top of the water and can literally hear the waves crashing beneath you. You would be a fool to come to San Diego and not check them out — not just for the view but the drinks, too.
COCKTAIL MADE BY A FRIEND
I could sit in front of Randy Elskamp and drink palomas all night. Cantina Mayahuel is a little agave bar that does it right. They pay homage to Mexico and agave in the best way possible. No frills, no stress, just clean cocktails and great company.
Thank you, Brian, for taking us on a tour of San Diego’s best bars!
Like what you read? Check out Drink This City: Manhattan Drink This City: San Francisco, Drink This City: New Orleans Drink This City: Miami, Drink This City: Honolulu, Drink This City: Detroit, Drink This City: Chicago, Drink This City: New York, Drink This City: Nashville and more!
Join us next week for more DRINK THIS CITY! Meanwhile, hit us in the comments — where should we travel next?