10 Bucket List Drinks Every San Diegan Must Try

With all of the breweries, wineries and distilleries cropping up all over San Diego on a seemingly constant basis, the bar for quality, craft cocktails is inevitably quite high.

Thankfully, there are a plethora of bars and eateries shaking up some seriously fresh, indulgent and undeniably unique libation situations. In light of these, we’ve rounded up 10 must-sip cocktails to add to your beverage bucket list.

1. ‘Alcala the Fierce’ at False Idol

False Idol is an unapologetically ostentatious tiki lounge with a hidden entrance and a penchant for cocktails that are both novelty and STRONG. “Alcala the Fierce” is one of their shareable options, featuring chai-infused Bourbon, aged and dark rum, vanilla, pimento dram and orgeat. This communal cocktail evokes all the guilty pleasure feelings of your favorite blended vacation cocktail, but with significantly more sophistication. Also, it’s on fire, so there’s that.

2. ‘Critical Mass’ at Bar Kindred

Not only is Kindred one of the most beautiful bars in SD, but they consistently curate some of the most intentional cocktails around.

Take their “Critical Mass,” for example. It consists of pineapple rum, 151 Demerara Rum, Lime, aquafaba and activated charcoal. Now, you may be wondering about a couple of ingredients in this cocktail. First off: why activated charcoal? While this has been widely trending in skincare, many people aren’t used to it making appearances in their food, let alone their cocktail, but it’s actually quite the hangover preventer. Additionally, aquafaba is a liquid typically dicarded from beans and legumes that is often used as a substitute for egg whites. Egg whites are often used as an emulsifier in cocktails, but since Kindred is vegan, they utilize the aquafaba in its place. Pretty clever, guys.

3. ‘Prominent Men’ at Noble Experiment

The trend of hidden bars and “speakeasies” popping up in SD is one I can support ardently. With a hidden entrance located right next to Neighborhood, Noble Experiment is marrying old world prohibition-esque ambiance, with new-world, modern mixology.

While you truly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu (even the dealer’s choice, wherein the bartender essentially makes whatever they want for you), one standout is their “Prominent Men” cocktail, with Amontillado, Cognac, fresh lemon, curacao, house almond cordial, seasonal fruit and powdered sugar. Essentially, the “Gisele” of the cocktail kingdom.

4. ‘Austrian Muscle Relaxer’ at Rare Form & Fairweather

Rare Form has made a name for itself as a prime spot to catch a game and grab a tiki drink that might look all cute and unassuming, but packs some serious punch. In a fun twist on the classic painkiller, the “Austrian Muscle Relaxer” evokes strong notes of butterscotch, cherry, pineapple and coconut, and the result is unexpectedly rich and complex.

5. ‘Adelita’s Nightcap’ at The Nolen Rooftop Bar

If you’re in the mood for something sweet and maybe a little sassy with which to round off your evening, this just might be what the doctor ordered. This beauty consists of tequila blanco, coffee liqueur, honey and cream, and is finished with a dusting of Mexican chocolate, and topped with mini marshmallows. I suppose I could have also prefaced this description by saying, if you want to feel like a 5 year old in a 21+ year old’s body, this might just be what the doctor ordered. Nevertheless, this is the perfect libation to sip at The Nolen after a fun night, while gazing at the city skyline.

6. ‘Havana Good Time’ at Miss B’s Coconut Club

As per previous mention, the tiki trend is alive, thriving, and I am not one bit mad at it. Miss B’s Coconut Club in Mission Beach couldn’t be better equipped for enjoying some luxurious, sunglass-wearing day drinking on their patio while watching the crowds go by. The perfect cocktail to sip while doing said people watching is their “Havana Good Time Punch,” with vodka, pamplemousse, house grapefruit/cucumber cordial and kombucha. Just cross your fingers they serve it to you in this golden swan, because frankly, it’s impossible to have a care in the world when that’s your drinking vessel.

7. ‘Bloody Mary & Yellow Mary’ at Cafe 21

Of the things in this world that are truly valuable, brunch and Bloody Marys are indubitably high on that list. Okay, not really, but I think we can all agree we need the comforting powers of brunch now more than ever, and what makes brunch more comforting than a cocktail that piles on the snacks?! The “Yellow Mary” from Cafe 21 definitely delivers. It starts off with their housemade yellow heirloom tomato mix, lots of fresh horseradish, an overwhelming amount of fresh veggies, and finally, a multigrain grilled cheese skewer. I’m in. Hands up emoji.

8. ‘Red Wedding’ at Harvest by the Patio

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Far too often, I feel like people come to San Diego and enthusiastically say “Let’s get margaritas!” Now, I don’t take issue with the margarita, it’s just that there are so many delicious tequila, and/or mezcal cocktails out there, it seems a shame to default to ‘ol reliable.

The “Red Wedding” from Harvest by the Patio is the perfect departure from your run-of-the-mill margarita or paloma, but still evokes all the same summery feelings. This coral-hued beauty features reposado tequila, Aperol, watermelon puree, citrus soda, and is garnished with a Tajin-dusted watermelon wedge. Just add floaties.

9. ‘Solar Flare’ at The Hake Kitchen & Bar

I’ll preface this recommendation by saying this is totally biased, as it’s my favorite drink I’ve had in San Diego. If you’re a fan of drinks that are highly spirit-driven, subtle and complex, you MUST get yourself to The Hake in La Jolla. Beyond their delicious food and incredible view, be prepared to be bowled over by thoughtful cocktails. The “Solar Flare” is a Montelobos Mezcal-based cocktail, featuring ancho reyes (ancho chile liqueur), cilantro grenadine and lime juice. The resulting flavor is smoky, slightly spicy, tart from the lime, and a pop of freshness from the cilantro. Nothing wrong with that.

10. ‘Nutty Old Fashioned’ at Polite Provisions

It wouldn’t be a list of drinks worth dying over if an Old Fashioned weren’t in the mix! While Polite Provisions offers truly zero shortage of beautiful, fruity, spicy, fresh, etc., cocktails, their Old Fashioned is one for the books, and their “Nutty Old Fashioned” is even better. This classic gent of a drink is made with Knob Creek Bourbon, macadamia nut gomme and bitters, and evokes notes of orange zest and caramel corn. Not exactly your grandpa’s Old Fashioned, but I’m sure he’d drink it happily nonetheless.

10 awesome drinks, 10 months left in the year. You know what to do.

Happy imbibing!