The Hot List: Where To Find The Best Cocktail Bars in San Diego Right Now, September 2022
San Diego has always had a reputation as a ‘party’ town, but it now also has some of the best cocktail bars on Earth for those looking for quality over quantity. While we’re grateful for the abundance of five-star cocktail bars in San Diego, sometimes having so many choices can make it difficult to come to a decision.
To help you out, we’ve curated a list of our favorite cocktail bars in San Diego at the moment for those nights when you’re on a hot date and want to impress, celebrating something special, or just feel like cleaning up a bit.
Check back often…we’re committed to doing the hard work of keeping up with San Diego’s best cocktails on your behalf, and we’ll keep this list updated as new bars open and new menus are released.
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it 😉
You really can’t beat a simple martini or the B&R Old Fashioned (our favorite in San Diego!) at Born and Raised for a classy night out that feels more like a steakhouse experience you’d expect to find in New York rather than San Diego.
Most nights we prefer the open air and Little Italy views at their upstairs bar, but there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
A true speakeasy is one that is hard to find, and if you don’t have friends that will go on a hunt to find the best cocktails in town, you might not know that Youngblood even exists. Hidden in the back of East Village’s recently updated Neighborhood is Nobel Experiment, one of San Diego’s most famous speakeasies.
But having one legendary speakeasy within Neighborhood’s walls wasn’t enough…oh no…so they recently added a second! Youngblood’s 3-course cocktail experience and intimate 16-seat bar, floor-to-ceiling bar shelves, custom lighting, and Parisian carpet will seemingly transport you to a different time and place for the evening.
For $65 you will get a 90-minute slot to enjoy the cocktails of the night, chosen by the talented crew behind the bar. Reservations well in advance are highly recommended and can be made online.
We’re thrilled about this newcomer to the Little Italy scene! The revolving centerpiece after which the bar is named was originally built and immortalized in 1881 by German carousel master carver and builder, Charles I.D. Looff — nicknamed “Wolfie” by friends.
The cocktails are out of this world, the menu is straight from a Parisian bistro, and the revolving centerpiece creates onthe e of most interesting people-watching opportunities in San Diego!
When most people think of Convoy district, they think of an abundance of authentic Asian restaurants, but what most don’t know is hidden amongst all of these incredible eateries lies a chic 1920s speakeasy inside of the popular gastropub, Common Theory. What makes 52 Remedies unique is the elaborate hidden entrance designed by Michael Soriano.
The experience begins when you find the hidden entrance and as you make your way towards the bar, you will be transported out of Kearny Mesa and into a completely different realm. The space is elegant yet cozy making it the perfect spot to enjoy light bites and creative cocktails.
Located on the corner of 30th and Adams, Polite Provisions is one of San Diego’s most beloved cocktail bars, and a bar that helped put San Diego on the cocktail scene map. It has a great casual neighborhood feel to it, but don’t be fooled, the cocktails are far from ordinary. No matter what you choose, you will be blown away by the talent behind the bar.
Starlite has been a favorite of ours since we first stepped foot in it years ago – it never lets us down. This San Diego gem, nestled on an unassuming corner of India Street in Mission Hills, has some of the best food and cocktails in San Diego and a mid-century modern environment that is simultaneously sophisticated and feels like a very comfortable neighborhood bar at the same time. Being able to pull that off says a lot about the talent of Starlite’s founder Matt Hoyt, whose recent sudden passing makes us even more nostalgic about the great meals and drinks we’ve had here over the years.
Madison has received plenty of well-deserved praise for its beautiful cocktails and stunning architectural design over the years, and it’s a perennial favorite of ours. Whether you take a seat at their intimate bar or grab a table for dinner, you can’t go wrong.
Tahona is a modern Mexican bar known for its Mezcal offerings. This rustic little hacienda aims to honor Mexican culture and its iconic beverage. Here you will find Oaxacan-inspired food along with over 120 various mezcals, hand-selected by their team. Their cocktail menu ranges from refreshing and creative, to spicy and delicious, to stirred and boozy. We recommend taking part in the tasting experiences; not only is it fun but you also learn a lot and get to sip on rare and delicious mezcal.
Coco Maya is the slightly more sophisticated, Yucatan-inspired counterpart to Miss B’s Coconut Club in Mission Beach. We say ‘slightly’, because – even though it is more sophisticated and has a bigger food menu – this place is a party! The views of Little Italy are some of the best you’ll find, and the cocktails will remind of you your best rum-soaked vacation (you can even drink out of a coconut!).
You know you live in paradise when you one of the best cocktail bars in the United States is hidden in your mall! The opulence of the design and craftsmanship behind every detail in this bar makes the fact that it’s in a mall seem almost impossible – it’s absolutely stunning. The cocktails are even better.
Mothership Bar is an out-of-this-world addition to South Park’s nightlife scene that has all the buzz right now. It’s a ‘tropical space adventure’ serving exotic cocktails and ‘interplanetary fusion’ (the San Diego area now has three UFO-themed cocktail bars…what’s going on here?!). Once you’re on board, you’ll be treated to tropical cocktails that will make you feel like you’ve left Earth’s orbit!
We can’t say enough good things about Wormwood. Whether you sit at their intimate bar, or sit down for dinner (incredible!), you’ll be treated to some of the best cocktails in San Diego. For the more adventurous, enjoy absinthe served in slow-drip fountains with a cube of sugar, in the tradition of how it was served in the early 20th century streets of Paris, or take part in revisited absinthe classics including the Sazerac and the A La Louisiane, as well as a selection of non-absinthe choices highlighting other beautiful liquors.
Dolly’s is a relative newcomer that we heard some chatter about, so we decided to hunt it down. And ‘hunt’ is the right word…you will NEVER stumble upon this bar – you have to want it! 😉 And we arent’ going to make it easy on you by giving you clear directions either…that will just get this place overrun fast! And it’s worth the work.
The understated rooftop bar serves classic cocktails in the perfect setting to bring a handful of friends to gather for conversation over drinks. It’s not big enough for anything else…which is why we think it’s perfect!
Rest assured, however, that this is no dive bar. The bartenders, Matt Boone (Old Man Bar, Reading Club) and Will Pidd (Young Blood, J&Tony’s) are some of the best in the business and love making you feel right at home.
See you there!
Keep this list in mind for your next hot date or important celebration – or the next time you simply want to spend your evening exploring San Diego’s best cocktail bars. We’ll keep it updated for you!
If you see us at the bar, be sure to say hi, and when you visit one of these spots, be sure to tag us on Instagram so we can share with our followers.
Stay healthy, San Diego!
PS – To be safe, plan to use your favorite rideshare service to get home safely.