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Great San Diego Restaurants With Equally Good Cocktails

Top notch mealtime tipples

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While restaurant reservations are made based on the promise of good food and wine, thanks to the talented bartenders that populate our local cocktail scene, a carefully made drink can ably complement or contrast almost any chefs' creation.

With rotating drink lists often designed to pair with seasonal menus — from tart, citrus-leaning tipples to oak forward whiskey-anchored classics — many new San Diego restaurants are stepping out of the gate with a strong cocktail program while established eateries are stepping up their cocktail game.

Why stop somewhere else for a pre- or post-prandial cocktail when you can dine and drink so well under one roof these days? Read on to discover 14 well-respected dining establishments that are as worthy of a visit for their cocktails as much their signature plates.

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Note: map points are not ranked.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Trust restaurant

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3752 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 795-6901
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Juan Sanchez’ nine-strong list of specialty cocktails includes classics like a Wild Turkey 101 Rye Old Fashioned, and Old Forester Whiskey Sour. If you’re looking for something a little different try one of his rotating TRUST sippers, where bitters and fresh, seasonal ingredients are highlighted. Top picks include the jalapeño tequila, grapefruit and agave-based #2, finished with firewater bitters; and #8 made with Old Harbor, aloe, lime, and egg white.

2. The Hake

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1250 Prospect St Ste B10
San Diego, CA 92037
(858) 454-1637
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Beverage curator Joan Villanueva’s newly revamped bar program at The Hake is categorized by a unique range of base spirits, including the agave-spotlighting Niama with Tequila Cabeza, Cynar, Dolin Rouge, Grand Marnier, Aperol and a Fernet wash. The Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka-based Emperor’s Tea (chrysanthemum tea syrup, lemon and apple juice) is also not to be missed. Enjoy any cocktail for only $8 during a daily happy hour, which runs from 5 – 7 p.m.

3. Madison

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4622 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 269-6566
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Design-delight Madison serves up a solid cocktail list and brunch-time tipples in addition to a new barrel-aged program. Released in honor of its first anniversary, look out for favorites including Mr. Screwtape, crafted with Angel's Envy Bourbon, Gran Classico Bitters, dry curaçao and orange bitters, and aged on-site for 6 weeks in American Oak. Each 1-liter barrel holds up to 13 cocktails and can be enjoyed tableside, complete with special glassware, garnishes, and large ice cubes.

4. Kettner Exchange

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2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 255-2001
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Famed for its forward-thinking drinks list and Asian-American accented eats from executive chef Brian Redzikowski, “see-and-be-seen” hotspot KEX has embraced the cooler temperatures with its seasonal cocktail menu. From the ‘Shaken & Refreshing’ stable there’s Penicillin #86, made with Demerara 86 Rum, pineapple, lemon, honey, ginger and a Navy Strength Rum float. While ‘Stirred & Direct’ standout Pink Lights & Champagne offers up a superb blend of gin, pisco, Lillet Blanc and Champagne.

5. California Modern

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1250 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-4244
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You’ll find a small but perfectly curated selection of seasonal cocktails at California Modern, all of which pair perfectly with owner/executive chef Trey Foshee’s locally driven cuisine. Current picks include Clermont Smash (Knob Creek, kumquat, lemon, ginger, honey, Angostura bitters, garnished with a sprig of fresh mint), an on-trend Modern Milk Punch crafted with light and dark rums, plus Asian-inspired concoction China Town made with Kikori rice whiskey and orange blossom oolong tea. Nearly all cocktails can also be served ‘virgin’ for a snip at $5 each.

6. Herb & Wood

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2210 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 955-8495
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Head bartender Willem Van Leuven crated a delightfully herb-forward drink menu that highlights house cordials and infused syrups at chef Brian Malarkey’s upscale dining mecca. Split into two groups – refreshing or direct – the smokiness of the Del Maguey Mezcal and sweet vermouth, Smoke & Amaro, goes well with hearty plates like grilled Iberico pork “secreto”, while the gin and lavender G&T is perfect alongside lighter snacks at the bar. Kick-start your meal with a Farmers Market Cocktail, made with Makers Mark 46 Bourbon and local seasonal ingredients from the Little Italy Mercato.

7. Campfire

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2725 State St
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 637-5121
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Highlights from bar manager Leigh Lecap’s seasonal and smoke-inspired cocktail list at Carlsbad stunner Campfire includes the gin, blanc vermouth and Indian tea tipple High ‘n Dry, plus apple brandy-based East End Ripper. You can now fill up a cocktail growler to go too, priced at $55 take your pick between the bourbon/mulled cider Grizzly Folk, or fragrant gin, plum, lavender and Earl Grey concoction, Everything Nice.

8. Ironside Fish & Oyster

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1654 India St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-3033
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As famed for executive chef Jason McLeod’s delightful raw bar and seafood menu as its killer nautical design details, Ironside also boasts an impeccable cocktail program. The 14-foot custom-fabricated bar, which displays liquor bottles to the ceiling, being a great case in point. From a collection of timeless "Captain’s Choice" classics and refreshing thirst quenchers, to sparkling libations that pair perfectly with freshly shucked oysters you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Costing $20 the Ironside Mai Tai - Jamaican rum, clement creole shrub, house-made almond syrup and lime – is served in an awesome keepsake killer whale tiki mug.

9. Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

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2202 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 231-0222
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Bankers Hill is as worthwhile visiting for the cocktails as for chef Tyler Nollenberge’s creative American comfort fare. Bar manager Zack Gray’s latest drinks list has everything from the clarified milk and rum Sucker Punch, to a Grapefruit Collins. For pre or post-dinner ‘Strong & Stirred’ selections think smoky tequila, barrel-aged gin and cognac and bourbon sippers. From his ‘Refreshing & Shaken’ creations we highly recommend What’s Up Doc – dill pollen infused gin crafted with honey, lemon and carrot and topped up with white ale.

10. Grant Grill

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326 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 744-2077
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Enjoy signature and seasonal cocktails from master mixologist Jeff Josenhans and chef de bar Cory Alberto in storied art deco surrounds at the US Grant. Unique creations currently gracing the menu include Bijou #2 - Gin, green chartreuse, oaked dry vermouth and sweet vermouth, garnished with a hibiscus leaf - and Lost in Europe crafted with Bols Genever, Galliano, crème de pèche and aperol with a mascarpone cheese, cedar and blossom foam. Stay tuned for details on the Grant’s soon to be released barrel-aged apple cider, made in collaboration with Julian Cider.

11. Juniper & Ivy

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2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(858) 481-3666
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In addition to Richard Blais stellar menu of “playful molecular cuisine” and a sparkling wine list, Little Italy powerhouse Juniper & Ivy also serves up some pretty superb cocktails. A sample of their good libations includes the Diplomatico Reserva and blanco rum based Jolly Roger, and the bourbon and spiced pear liqueur Blair's Pears, which is finished with an allspice dram. For something a little sweeter try the Pineapple Expression – a refreshing blend of tequila blanco, banana cinnamon syrup, lime and pineapple juice.

12. The Lion's Share

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629 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 564-6924
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This intimate drinking den and bijou bar serves up expertly crafted cocktails made with the freshest of ingredients, its drinks list (one of the largest offered around town) handily divided by spirit base: whiskey, gin, agave, rum, and vodka. Federal Buffalo Stamp (a Has Mahmood classic, created by one their best-loved bartenders) is a must-try: a generous pour of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, pepped up with lemon, ginger root and maple syrup. During the daily happy hour sip on one of a dozen signature cocktails (Old Fashioned, Pimm’s Cup, Cucumber Gimlet) for just $6 from 4 to 6 p.m.

13. Veladora

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5921 Valencia Cir
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
(858) 759-6216
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Executive chef Jarrod Moiles' coastal-ranch-meets-Mediterranean-cuisine is perfectly complimented by a 14-strong cocktail list at Rancho Valencia’s upscale eatery, Veladora. While half the menu covers tequila and mezcal - spanning the grand El Jefe ($45) made with Don Julio 1942 Añejo to The Palomino with Siete Leguas Reposado ($13) – there are also some solid bourbon, vodka and gin-based beverages too. Noteworthy mentions include The Giddy Up - featuring Hendrick’s and ruby red grapefruit - and Beast of Bourbon made with Buffalo Trace and tangerine shrub.

14. Jsix Restaurant

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616 J St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 531-8744
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This buzzy Gaslamp eatery adjacent to Hotel Solamar serves up a dozen drinks, all of which pay compliment to executive chef Anthony Sinsay’s menu of signature Filipino influenced dishes. Named after sports stars, movies and the like you’ll find creations such as Ewan Mcgregor – made with chamomile infused black grouse scotch, dolin dry vermouth, galliano, fresh lemon and grapefruit – and Hitchcock’s Ghost, which is crafted with Ministry‎ of Rum Jamaican Black, B&B, Licor 43, and Lustau sherry.

1. Trust restaurant

3752 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92103
Juan Sanchez’ nine-strong list of specialty cocktails includes classics like a Wild Turkey 101 Rye Old Fashioned, and Old Forester Whiskey Sour. If you’re looking for something a little different try one of his rotating TRUST sippers, where bitters and fresh, seasonal ingredients are highlighted. Top picks include the jalapeño tequila, grapefruit and agave-based #2, finished with firewater bitters; and #8 made with Old Harbor, aloe, lime, and egg white.
3752 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103

2. The Hake

1250 Prospect St Ste B10, San Diego, CA 92037
Beverage curator Joan Villanueva’s newly revamped bar program at The Hake is categorized by a unique range of base spirits, including the agave-spotlighting Niama with Tequila Cabeza, Cynar, Dolin Rouge, Grand Marnier, Aperol and a Fernet wash. The Zubrowka Bison Grass vodka-based Emperor’s Tea (chrysanthemum tea syrup, lemon and apple juice) is also not to be missed. Enjoy any cocktail for only $8 during a daily happy hour, which runs from 5 – 7 p.m.
1250 Prospect St Ste B10
San Diego, CA 92037

3. Madison

4622 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
Design-delight Madison serves up a solid cocktail list and brunch-time tipples in addition to a new barrel-aged program. Released in honor of its first anniversary, look out for favorites including Mr. Screwtape, crafted with Angel's Envy Bourbon, Gran Classico Bitters, dry curaçao and orange bitters, and aged on-site for 6 weeks in American Oak. Each 1-liter barrel holds up to 13 cocktails and can be enjoyed tableside, complete with special glassware, garnishes, and large ice cubes.
4622 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92116

4. Kettner Exchange

2001 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Famed for its forward-thinking drinks list and Asian-American accented eats from executive chef Brian Redzikowski, “see-and-be-seen” hotspot KEX has embraced the cooler temperatures with its seasonal cocktail menu. From the ‘Shaken & Refreshing’ stable there’s Penicillin #86, made with Demerara 86 Rum, pineapple, lemon, honey, ginger and a Navy Strength Rum float. While ‘Stirred & Direct’ standout Pink Lights & Champagne offers up a superb blend of gin, pisco, Lillet Blanc and Champagne.
2001 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

5. California Modern

1250 Prospect St, La Jolla, CA 92037
You’ll find a small but perfectly curated selection of seasonal cocktails at California Modern, all of which pair perfectly with owner/executive chef Trey Foshee’s locally driven cuisine. Current picks include Clermont Smash (Knob Creek, kumquat, lemon, ginger, honey, Angostura bitters, garnished with a sprig of fresh mint), an on-trend Modern Milk Punch crafted with light and dark rums, plus Asian-inspired concoction China Town made with Kikori rice whiskey and orange blossom oolong tea. Nearly all cocktails can also be served ‘virgin’ for a snip at $5 each.
1250 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037

6. Herb & Wood

2210 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
Head bartender Willem Van Leuven crated a delightfully herb-forward drink menu that highlights house cordials and infused syrups at chef Brian Malarkey’s upscale dining mecca. Split into two groups – refreshing or direct – the smokiness of the Del Maguey Mezcal and sweet vermouth, Smoke & Amaro, goes well with hearty plates like grilled Iberico pork “secreto”, while the gin and lavender G&T is perfect alongside lighter snacks at the bar. Kick-start your meal with a Farmers Market Cocktail, made with Makers Mark 46 Bourbon and local seasonal ingredients from the Little Italy Mercato.
2210 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

7. Campfire

2725 State St, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Highlights from bar manager Leigh Lecap’s seasonal and smoke-inspired cocktail list at Carlsbad stunner Campfire includes the gin, blanc vermouth and Indian tea tipple High ‘n Dry, plus apple brandy-based East End Ripper. You can now fill up a cocktail growler to go too, priced at $55 take your pick between the bourbon/mulled cider Grizzly Folk, or fragrant gin, plum, lavender and Earl Grey concoction, Everything Nice.
2725 State St
Carlsbad, CA 92008

8. Ironside Fish & Oyster

1654 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
As famed for executive chef Jason McLeod’s delightful raw bar and seafood menu as its killer nautical design details, Ironside also boasts an impeccable cocktail program. The 14-foot custom-fabricated bar, which displays liquor bottles to the ceiling, being a great case in point. From a collection of timeless "Captain’s Choice" classics and refreshing thirst quenchers, to sparkling libations that pair perfectly with freshly shucked oysters you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Costing $20 the Ironside Mai Tai - Jamaican rum, clement creole shrub, house-made almond syrup and lime – is served in an awesome keepsake killer whale tiki mug.
1654 India St
San Diego, CA 92101

9. Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

2202 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Bankers Hill is as worthwhile visiting for the cocktails as for chef Tyler Nollenberge’s creative American comfort fare. Bar manager Zack Gray’s latest drinks list has everything from the clarified milk and rum Sucker Punch, to a Grapefruit Collins. For pre or post-dinner ‘Strong & Stirred’ selections think smoky tequila, barrel-aged gin and cognac and bourbon sippers. From his ‘Refreshing & Shaken’ creations we highly recommend What’s Up Doc – dill pollen infused gin crafted with honey, lemon and carrot and topped up with white ale.
2202 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

10. Grant Grill

326 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
Enjoy signature and seasonal cocktails from master mixologist Jeff Josenhans and chef de bar Cory Alberto in storied art deco surrounds at the US Grant. Unique creations currently gracing the menu include Bijou #2 - Gin, green chartreuse, oaked dry vermouth and sweet vermouth, garnished with a hibiscus leaf - and Lost in Europe crafted with Bols Genever, Galliano, crème de pèche and aperol with a mascarpone cheese, cedar and blossom foam. Stay tuned for details on the Grant’s soon to be released barrel-aged apple cider, made in collaboration with Julian Cider.
326 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101

11. Juniper & Ivy

2228 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
In addition to Richard Blais stellar menu of “playful molecular cuisine” and a sparkling wine list, Little Italy powerhouse Juniper & Ivy also serves up some pretty superb cocktails. A sample of their good libations includes the Diplomatico Reserva and blanco rum based Jolly Roger, and the bourbon and spiced pear liqueur Blair's Pears, which is finished with an allspice dram. For something a little sweeter try the Pineapple Expression – a refreshing blend of tequila blanco, banana cinnamon syrup, lime and pineapple juice.
2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

12. The Lion's Share

629 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
This intimate drinking den and bijou bar serves up expertly crafted cocktails made with the freshest of ingredients, its drinks list (one of the largest offered around town) handily divided by spirit base: whiskey, gin, agave, rum, and vodka. Federal Buffalo Stamp (a Has Mahmood classic, created by one their best-loved bartenders) is a must-try: a generous pour of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, pepped up with lemon, ginger root and maple syrup. During the daily happy hour sip on one of a dozen signature cocktails (Old Fashioned, Pimm’s Cup, Cucumber Gimlet) for just $6 from 4 to 6 p.m.
629 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

13. Veladora

5921 Valencia Cir, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
Executive chef Jarrod Moiles' coastal-ranch-meets-Mediterranean-cuisine is perfectly complimented by a 14-strong cocktail list at Rancho Valencia’s upscale eatery, Veladora. While half the menu covers tequila and mezcal - spanning the grand El Jefe ($45) made with Don Julio 1942 Añejo to The Palomino with Siete Leguas Reposado ($13) – there are also some solid bourbon, vodka and gin-based beverages too. Noteworthy mentions include The Giddy Up - featuring Hendrick’s and ruby red grapefruit - and Beast of Bourbon made with Buffalo Trace and tangerine shrub.
5921 Valencia Cir
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067

14. Jsix Restaurant

616 J St, San Diego, CA 92101
This buzzy Gaslamp eatery adjacent to Hotel Solamar serves up a dozen drinks, all of which pay compliment to executive chef Anthony Sinsay’s menu of signature Filipino influenced dishes. Named after sports stars, movies and the like you’ll find creations such as Ewan Mcgregor – made with chamomile infused black grouse scotch, dolin dry vermouth, galliano, fresh lemon and grapefruit – and Hitchcock’s Ghost, which is crafted with Ministry‎ of Rum Jamaican Black, B&B, Licor 43, and Lustau sherry.
616 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

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