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Where the Bartenders Drink With Cocktail Royalty Jen Queen

The mezcal master shares her go-to destinations for a satisfying beverage in San Diego.

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From a blue-collar baby to a Certified Master Mezcalier, Jen Queen has come a long way since her childhood upbringing in Columbus, Ohio where fine foods were not heard of and ‘craft’ anything wasn’t on any radar. A triumphant move to San Francisco when Queen was in her twenties set her on the fortuitous path that has brought her to where she is today. It was in San Francisco that she got her first official training in tequila, where she studied under the famous Julio Bermejo after getting a position on the opening team at Tres Agave Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Lounge. Countless treks down to Jalisco, Mexico to tour, harvest, and distill over the years have inspired her to learn and share everything she knows and spirits and crafts. The most important lesson she has learned is to not over complicate things. Her explanation: "An amazing margarita, for example, needs only three ingredients: Tequila, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice. My philosophy was born in that simplicity. Good things taste good... just leave it at that."

Queen’s drive to excel, educate and expand the philosophies of the booming craft cocktail industry led her to settle in San Diego, which she currently calls home, and what a mark she has made since landing here. Surrounded by a cast of colorful and like-minded characters that encompass this industry, Queen feels continuously inspired by her peers to raise the bar and push the limits of what defines the conventional cocktail. These peers, she says, are the ones who constantly remind her that there is always more to learn and the opportunities are limitless, so we probably have them to thank, at least in part, for some of the incredible creations, concepts, and projects that have come out with Jen’s name attached to them--an impressively long list of popular and noteworthy successes in San Diego. Among them are La Puerta, Confidential, Barra Barra Saloon, Casa de Reyes, Proper Gastropub, Syrah, Searsucker, Burlap, Herringbone, Gingham, Gabardine, URBN, and Monello. Her undeniable influence over the local craft cocktail scene has reached far and wide and it hasn't gone unnoticed by the media; The Huffington Post, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, Food and Wine Magazine, Star Chefs, 944 Magazine, and Riviera Magazine are just a few of the places she has been published.

Despite her status as cocktail royalty--did we mention that she is the San Diego Chapter President of the United States Bartenders Guild?--Queen maintains a very humble and appreciative demeanor towards all that she has accomplished and those who have helped her along the way. "I will never forget where I come from, and the lessons that brought me here. I am happy to share my findings, and I realize how lucky I am to love what I do." And share her findings she does, as she explains here in her own words her favorite places to grab a drink around town...

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Turf Supper Club

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1116 25th St
San Diego, CA 92102
(619) 234-6363
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If I were to click my heels and recite, "there's no place like home" I would surely return to the Turf. It is the industry living room, where we all meet up for a shift drink and a steak after work. They take care of the same faces every night, and I never feel like they are sick of seeing us. Each time I arrive, I am offered a high five, a warm smile, a stiff pour, and a fine cut of meat to cook just the way I like on a communal grill with my friends and others...always others.

2. The Lion's Share

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629 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 564-6924
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I can enjoy a beautiful meal as late as 1am, an unspeakable amount of fun, and a solid cocktail every time. Whether I order an old fashion, or a mind eraser (trust it has been done) it is properly executed and presented with care. This bar is the real deal.

3. NuNu's

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3537 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 295-2878
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NuNu's is an institution. The marks of the old timers that started it are still present in the big red booths, the 5 oz pours of whiskey, and the bar rail filled with regulars who are perfectly juxtaposed by hipster kids in skinny jeans bullying the internet jukebox and smoking cigs on the patio. No matter who you are, or how long you've been drinking here, the burgers are undeniably awesome. Coming to NuNu's always makes me wish I had three hands: One for my beer, one for my shot, and one for my cheese burger.

4. PrepKitchen

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1660 India St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 398-8383
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Every single person in the building cares about what they do! I have so much respect for the attention they give to the little things that make you feel at home and create a lasting impression. Most of the time I visit the bar alone, because I thoroughly enjoy the company of the entire staff. The drinks, the food, the music, the people, everything about PKLI is fantastic!

5. Prohibition Liquor Bar

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548 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 702-8068
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I love walking down those eerie dark stairs to a basement filled with live jazz, and bellying up to that bar. It has been home to an all star cast of bartenders who have changed the drinking culture in San Diego. I was lost when they closed for a facelift. Welcome back Pro B! I've missed you so.

6. Cantina Mayahuel

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2934 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 283-6292
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Hands down the best agave spirit selection in San Diego. Agave Church! If you haven't been there, you should fix that immediately and live your best life.

7. Star Bar

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423 E St
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 234-5575
As a stop to keep you sane on a pub crawl in the Gaslamp, when the club becomes "this is too much, let's get outta here", even at 6 am after closing the bar and counting inventory...Star Bar will love you, just the way you are.

8. Coin-Op Game Room

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3926 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 564-6924
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Great cocktails, awesome beer selection, one of the best bar staffs in the city, and arcade games!!?? Yes please!!

9. La Puerta

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560 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 696-3466
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This was the first place to give me a shot in San Diego. They have always believed in me, and I am ever thankful. Several years later, I still come here often. The tequila selection is among my favorites and who doesn't love the frozen mojito!? Real talk: that thing is delicious!

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1. Turf Supper Club

1116 25th St, San Diego, CA 92102
If I were to click my heels and recite, "there's no place like home" I would surely return to the Turf. It is the industry living room, where we all meet up for a shift drink and a steak after work. They take care of the same faces every night, and I never feel like they are sick of seeing us. Each time I arrive, I am offered a high five, a warm smile, a stiff pour, and a fine cut of meat to cook just the way I like on a communal grill with my friends and others...always others.
1116 25th St
San Diego, CA 92102

2. The Lion's Share

629 Kettner Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101
I can enjoy a beautiful meal as late as 1am, an unspeakable amount of fun, and a solid cocktail every time. Whether I order an old fashion, or a mind eraser (trust it has been done) it is properly executed and presented with care. This bar is the real deal.
629 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

3. NuNu's

3537 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
NuNu's is an institution. The marks of the old timers that started it are still present in the big red booths, the 5 oz pours of whiskey, and the bar rail filled with regulars who are perfectly juxtaposed by hipster kids in skinny jeans bullying the internet jukebox and smoking cigs on the patio. No matter who you are, or how long you've been drinking here, the burgers are undeniably awesome. Coming to NuNu's always makes me wish I had three hands: One for my beer, one for my shot, and one for my cheese burger.
3537 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103

4. PrepKitchen

1660 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Every single person in the building cares about what they do! I have so much respect for the attention they give to the little things that make you feel at home and create a lasting impression. Most of the time I visit the bar alone, because I thoroughly enjoy the company of the entire staff. The drinks, the food, the music, the people, everything about PKLI is fantastic!
1660 India St
San Diego, CA 92101

5. Prohibition Liquor Bar

548 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
I love walking down those eerie dark stairs to a basement filled with live jazz, and bellying up to that bar. It has been home to an all star cast of bartenders who have changed the drinking culture in San Diego. I was lost when they closed for a facelift. Welcome back Pro B! I've missed you so.
548 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

6. Cantina Mayahuel

2934 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Hands down the best agave spirit selection in San Diego. Agave Church! If you haven't been there, you should fix that immediately and live your best life.
2934 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116

7. Star Bar

423 E St, San Diego, CA 92101
As a stop to keep you sane on a pub crawl in the Gaslamp, when the club becomes "this is too much, let's get outta here", even at 6 am after closing the bar and counting inventory...Star Bar will love you, just the way you are.
423 E St
San Diego, CA 92101

8. Coin-Op Game Room

3926 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Great cocktails, awesome beer selection, one of the best bar staffs in the city, and arcade games!!?? Yes please!!
3926 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104

9. La Puerta

560 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
This was the first place to give me a shot in San Diego. They have always believed in me, and I am ever thankful. Several years later, I still come here often. The tequila selection is among my favorites and who doesn't love the frozen mojito!? Real talk: that thing is delicious!
560 4th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

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