Our faithful city offers many things. Sun, sand and all that, but San Diego’s late night offerings have many shortcomings compared to other great cities. For late night culture (food, cocktails, clubs), we seem to just come up short, a subject recently tackled at a fine kettle of ish. When it comes to craft cocktails (a revolution that started in New York City, as far as I can tell), San Diego seems to have gotten on board…a little.
In recent nights I have visited a smattering of bars offering “craft cocktails.”
Last night I visited the Grant Grill, the self-proclaimed “original San Diego speakeasy,” with a hope of finding some rare cocktail coolness. No such luck. I had a Manhattan that they barrel aged for something like one hundred days and my co-drinker, Ish, had a blood orange and chamomile disaster. Both drinks somehow parlayed trendy revival liquors into bland banality. The Manhattan’s flavor had been leached away and was mellowed into nothingness. The only redeeming element was the damned authentic Luxardo Maraschino cherry.
Ish’s cocktail was just a bad idea. “It was an awkward stutter of flavors that managed to be oddly less than its individual parts – somehow they combined a discernable wang of tequila with a discernable wang of blood orange juice to create something bizarrely wang-y yet completely bland. And who would float giant inedible dried flower garnishes in a cocktail? Too big to swallow or drink around, but unpleasantly dusty and bitter if they get in your mouth. I suppose you could pick them out of the drink with your fingers (or spit them out onto the bar?), but that’s an awful lot of work for a $12 cocktail that doesn’t taste like anything.” Her words, not mine, but I tried it and it was a waste of twelve dollars.
The best by far was Craft and Commerce in Little Italy. The cocktails were excellent, the ingredients top-notch and the bartenders were genuinely nice. I was really impressed. They care about what they are doing and appear to be doing it right. Try the Cloak and Dagger or the Dutch Flower, both cocktails were perfect examples of how to riff on a classic cocktail. Now, I did not eat there and I know they got some tough dining reviews last year, but the drinks were VERY GOOD. The only problem I had was that last call was at 12:15 (1:00 close), too early by far.
Oh, and the search for a bar with a bottle of calvados still continues.