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Where To Drink Craft Cocktails In North County

From swanky hotel bars to a hidden speakeasy.

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Metro San Diego may have a denser population of cocktail bars, but there's still plenty of good drink finds in our northern neighborhoods. While beers by the beach might spring to mind more readily than craft cocktails in North County, in honor of Eater’s Fourth Annual Cocktail Week 2015, here's a showcase of the best spots to imbibe something stirred, shaken or muddled between Camp Pendleton and Carmel Valley.

- Map points are not ranked.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Masters Kitchen And Cocktails

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Cervantes Magaña (San Diego Spirits Festival Top Mixologist, 2013) recently revamped Masters’ new drinks menu with four main cocktail themes: Caribbean Cocktail Refreshers, Refreshing Modern Classics, Stirred and Direct, and the low ABV Day Sippers. Priced between $10- $12 each cocktail is made from scratch using in-house ingredients and spirits from local distilleries. Stop by for a Trader Vic’s inspired Mai Tai, or the wholesome 'Sunday Church' with maletti, capaletti, lemon, soda, and a strawberry mint garnish.

Pour House

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While this awesome little South Oceanside bar might not win any awards for décor, it more than redeems itself with regular live music nights and an eclectic cocktail collection. For ‘Rediscovered Classics’ we have a trusty Sidecar, Pisco Sour, and the Don Draper-approved Old Fashioned. The 'Just For Fun' section includes Nathaniel’s Cucumber Collins (Beefeater gin, vodka, St. Germain, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, cucumbers). All cocktails are $10, but look out for their 'Cocktail Of The Day' specials when you can score libations like a Blood Orange Cosmo for $5 (until 6 p.m.).

The Charles Kenneth Speakeasy

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This Prohibition-era bar--and quite possibly one of San Diego’s only original speakeasies--was a regular stop for Hollywood stars on the way to Mexico during the 1920s. In true (modern day) speakeasy fashion names must be added to a guest list via text, with access granted via a secret doorway underneath The Land & Water Company – check Instagram as the password changes daily. First timers get a brief historic tour en route to the bar area, which although small is always comfortably capped. For drinks expect everything from Dealers Choice, Sours and Sazerac to a Whiskey Smash with prices around the $10 - $12 mark. Wednesday night is Tiki Night - house rules advise that guests dress accordingly.

Priority Public House

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Craft beers might have put this lively spot in Leucadia on the map, but its house cocktails also go down quite nicely too. Contributed by Coin-Op luminaries Eric Lockridge and Ryan Andrews, the 'Kentucky Tippler' is a skillful blend of grapefruit-infused Evan Williams bourbon with lemon juice, honey syrup and sarsaparilla bitters. For a fresh riff on tequila try a 'Salt of The Earth' - Cimarrón Blanco with cynar, lime juice, pineapple gum and saline. Cocktails cost $8 - $12, but expect to take $2 off during happy hour (4 – 7p.m. Tuesday, 3 - 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday).

Shelter

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This stylish open-air concept offers a relaxed spot for afternoon cocktails (there’s a DJ on weekends) and a pretty decent specialty drinks list. Alongside staples like mojitos and Moscow mules, you will find slightly more creative concoctions such as the 'Citrus Sour' made with Russian Standard vodka, lemon juice, St. Germain, grapefruit bitters and sparkling wine. At night the space draws a more ‘clubby’ crowd, with private tables and bottle service setting you back around $400 - $450, if that’s what floats your boat.

Solace and the Moonlight Lounge

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A popular spot in downtown Encinitas, Solace not only offers modern American-style eats and live music, but there's a recommendable cocktail list too with prices in the $9.50 - $11 range. The 'Tiki Tiki Tembo' (demerara dark rum, aperol, velvet falernum, fresh juices) should satiate those seeking something island-style, while Lebowski fans might appreciate the White Russian-esque 'Dude Abides' made with vodka, housemade coffee liqueur, half & half and chilled organic coffee. For the more health-conscious imbiber, three Skinny Libations (Gordon’s Cup, Mojito, Bison Peach Smash) come in at under 130 calories a piece.

While this hip sushi bar and cocktail go-to has been closed due to an extensive remodel, the Cardiff hotspot is slated to re-open in time for Thanksgiving. Alongside a brand new lunch and dinner menu we heard an extensive new cocktail menu is also in the works. While exact details are still forthcoming a new happy hour menu posted on the website lists a 'Clutch’s Mai Tai' ($5.50) as a specialty cocktail during happy hour. More details coming soon.

Sea & Smoke

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Matt Gordon’s sophisticated Bells & Whistles designed space in Flower Hill Promenade not only offers great brunch, lunch, dinnertime and menus it also boasts a classy cocktail lineup too. Sip on a 'Lucky Peach' (rye, peach purée, lemonade, crushed basil-mint-cucumber), or a French 75 (juniper-honey gin, fresh lemon, sparkling French wine) during Wednesday night happy hour (3 – 6 p.m.), and enjoy live music in the lounge. Or stop by for their Martini Mondays when any martini or manhattan costs just $8.

Market Restaurant & Bar

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This upscale eatery adjacent to the San Diego Polo Fields not only lays claim to James Beard nominated chef Carl Schroeder and his inventive California-cuisine, but an exquisite cocktail list to boot. Seasonal specialties include the ‘PoppyCot’ (Nolet’s Gin, organic apricot syrup, fresh lemon, aperol, egg white, cayenne), and a Basil Martini with Hangar One vodka, Velvet Falernum, housemade basil infused agave nectar, fresh squeezed orange and lime. For house cocktails think gimlets, cosmos and a margarita-esque ‘Spicy Don’ made with Don Julio reposed, jalapeño purée and cilantro.

The Pony Room

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Set in the lush grounds of the Rancho Valencia Resort this inviting equestrian themed bar makes an equally great day or nighttime drinking destination. The margarita menu alone features five incarnations of the tequila-based beverage including 'The Palomino' ($15), a delightfully complex blend of flavor profiles like spiced vanilla, citrus and ginger. Other tempting tipples come in the form of 'The Sassy Sangrita' (Tres Agaves Blanco tequila, Cointreau noir, sangrita), and the bourbon-based ‘In Record Thyme’ ($13) made with a heady mix of Buffalo Trace, maple syrup, thyme, lemon, and bacon.

Living Room Bar

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The place for the Del Mar set to ‘see and be seen’, this hotel bar at the L’Auberge resort makes for a luxe happy hour spot. Running every Monday through Thursday (4:30 – 6:30 p.m.), expect $8 craft cocktails and killer sunset views from the back terrace during L’Happy Hour – plus two hours complimentary valet parking. Stop by for a late-breakfast early-lunch and avoid the nighttime crowds, when a.m. approved cocktails include a fresh tomato Bloody Mary, hand squeezed mimosa, and white peach rose Bellini.

Iris Food & Spirits

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This relaxed neighborhood hangout boasts lagoon views, globally inspired fare and a pretty killer cocktail list. Made with Mellow Corn bourbon, ginger beer, seasonal pepper, honey syrup and lemon the ‘Barn Burner Mule’ offers a refreshing twist on the Kentucky version. While it not feel like fall, the autumnal-inspired ‘Chai Tai’ (Caña Brava, Malahat spiced rum, chai-infused orgeat, rhum clement creole shrub, lime) is filled with hints of orange zest, chai tea spices and roasted almonds. Enjoy on the enclosed patio while catching a sunset over Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Masters Kitchen And Cocktails

Cervantes Magaña (San Diego Spirits Festival Top Mixologist, 2013) recently revamped Masters’ new drinks menu with four main cocktail themes: Caribbean Cocktail Refreshers, Refreshing Modern Classics, Stirred and Direct, and the low ABV Day Sippers. Priced between $10- $12 each cocktail is made from scratch using in-house ingredients and spirits from local distilleries. Stop by for a Trader Vic’s inspired Mai Tai, or the wholesome 'Sunday Church' with maletti, capaletti, lemon, soda, and a strawberry mint garnish.

Pour House

While this awesome little South Oceanside bar might not win any awards for décor, it more than redeems itself with regular live music nights and an eclectic cocktail collection. For ‘Rediscovered Classics’ we have a trusty Sidecar, Pisco Sour, and the Don Draper-approved Old Fashioned. The 'Just For Fun' section includes Nathaniel’s Cucumber Collins (Beefeater gin, vodka, St. Germain, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, cucumbers). All cocktails are $10, but look out for their 'Cocktail Of The Day' specials when you can score libations like a Blood Orange Cosmo for $5 (until 6 p.m.).

The Charles Kenneth Speakeasy

This Prohibition-era bar--and quite possibly one of San Diego’s only original speakeasies--was a regular stop for Hollywood stars on the way to Mexico during the 1920s. In true (modern day) speakeasy fashion names must be added to a guest list via text, with access granted via a secret doorway underneath The Land & Water Company – check Instagram as the password changes daily. First timers get a brief historic tour en route to the bar area, which although small is always comfortably capped. For drinks expect everything from Dealers Choice, Sours and Sazerac to a Whiskey Smash with prices around the $10 - $12 mark. Wednesday night is Tiki Night - house rules advise that guests dress accordingly.

Priority Public House

Craft beers might have put this lively spot in Leucadia on the map, but its house cocktails also go down quite nicely too. Contributed by Coin-Op luminaries Eric Lockridge and Ryan Andrews, the 'Kentucky Tippler' is a skillful blend of grapefruit-infused Evan Williams bourbon with lemon juice, honey syrup and sarsaparilla bitters. For a fresh riff on tequila try a 'Salt of The Earth' - Cimarrón Blanco with cynar, lime juice, pineapple gum and saline. Cocktails cost $8 - $12, but expect to take $2 off during happy hour (4 – 7p.m. Tuesday, 3 - 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday).

Shelter

This stylish open-air concept offers a relaxed spot for afternoon cocktails (there’s a DJ on weekends) and a pretty decent specialty drinks list. Alongside staples like mojitos and Moscow mules, you will find slightly more creative concoctions such as the 'Citrus Sour' made with Russian Standard vodka, lemon juice, St. Germain, grapefruit bitters and sparkling wine. At night the space draws a more ‘clubby’ crowd, with private tables and bottle service setting you back around $400 - $450, if that’s what floats your boat.

Solace and the Moonlight Lounge

A popular spot in downtown Encinitas, Solace not only offers modern American-style eats and live music, but there's a recommendable cocktail list too with prices in the $9.50 - $11 range. The 'Tiki Tiki Tembo' (demerara dark rum, aperol, velvet falernum, fresh juices) should satiate those seeking something island-style, while Lebowski fans might appreciate the White Russian-esque 'Dude Abides' made with vodka, housemade coffee liqueur, half & half and chilled organic coffee. For the more health-conscious imbiber, three Skinny Libations (Gordon’s Cup, Mojito, Bison Peach Smash) come in at under 130 calories a piece.

Zenbu

While this hip sushi bar and cocktail go-to has been closed due to an extensive remodel, the Cardiff hotspot is slated to re-open in time for Thanksgiving. Alongside a brand new lunch and dinner menu we heard an extensive new cocktail menu is also in the works. While exact details are still forthcoming a new happy hour menu posted on the website lists a 'Clutch’s Mai Tai' ($5.50) as a specialty cocktail during happy hour. More details coming soon.

Sea & Smoke

Matt Gordon’s sophisticated Bells & Whistles designed space in Flower Hill Promenade not only offers great brunch, lunch, dinnertime and menus it also boasts a classy cocktail lineup too. Sip on a 'Lucky Peach' (rye, peach purée, lemonade, crushed basil-mint-cucumber), or a French 75 (juniper-honey gin, fresh lemon, sparkling French wine) during Wednesday night happy hour (3 – 6 p.m.), and enjoy live music in the lounge. Or stop by for their Martini Mondays when any martini or manhattan costs just $8.

Market Restaurant & Bar

This upscale eatery adjacent to the San Diego Polo Fields not only lays claim to James Beard nominated chef Carl Schroeder and his inventive California-cuisine, but an exquisite cocktail list to boot. Seasonal specialties include the ‘PoppyCot’ (Nolet’s Gin, organic apricot syrup, fresh lemon, aperol, egg white, cayenne), and a Basil Martini with Hangar One vodka, Velvet Falernum, housemade basil infused agave nectar, fresh squeezed orange and lime. For house cocktails think gimlets, cosmos and a margarita-esque ‘Spicy Don’ made with Don Julio reposed, jalapeño purée and cilantro.

The Pony Room

Set in the lush grounds of the Rancho Valencia Resort this inviting equestrian themed bar makes an equally great day or nighttime drinking destination. The margarita menu alone features five incarnations of the tequila-based beverage including 'The Palomino' ($15), a delightfully complex blend of flavor profiles like spiced vanilla, citrus and ginger. Other tempting tipples come in the form of 'The Sassy Sangrita' (Tres Agaves Blanco tequila, Cointreau noir, sangrita), and the bourbon-based ‘In Record Thyme’ ($13) made with a heady mix of Buffalo Trace, maple syrup, thyme, lemon, and bacon.

Living Room Bar

The place for the Del Mar set to ‘see and be seen’, this hotel bar at the L’Auberge resort makes for a luxe happy hour spot. Running every Monday through Thursday (4:30 – 6:30 p.m.), expect $8 craft cocktails and killer sunset views from the back terrace during L’Happy Hour – plus two hours complimentary valet parking. Stop by for a late-breakfast early-lunch and avoid the nighttime crowds, when a.m. approved cocktails include a fresh tomato Bloody Mary, hand squeezed mimosa, and white peach rose Bellini.

Iris Food & Spirits

This relaxed neighborhood hangout boasts lagoon views, globally inspired fare and a pretty killer cocktail list. Made with Mellow Corn bourbon, ginger beer, seasonal pepper, honey syrup and lemon the ‘Barn Burner Mule’ offers a refreshing twist on the Kentucky version. While it not feel like fall, the autumnal-inspired ‘Chai Tai’ (Caña Brava, Malahat spiced rum, chai-infused orgeat, rhum clement creole shrub, lime) is filled with hints of orange zest, chai tea spices and roasted almonds. Enjoy on the enclosed patio while catching a sunset over Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

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