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Where the Bartenders Drink with Sycamore Den's Eric Johnson

The Washington native dishes on his favorite places to drink as a San Diegan.

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Hailing from Spokane, Washington, Sycamore Den’s Eric Johnson is relatively new to San Diego, but he is no stranger to the cocktail scene, having spent more than 12 years bartending all across the country. In that time, he has built an impressive repertoire that includes some heavyweight names and venues, among them Sam Ross (of Milk & Honey NYC and Atta Boy) and Phil Ward (Mayahuel), both of whom Johnson trained under. Despite having been here for only five years (a little less if we’re getting specific), Johnson hit the ground running upon his relocation and has been a busy man who has managed to accomplish an incredible amount in so short a time. The industry veteran can be attributed with opening some of San Diego’s hippest cocktail havens, including Craft and Commerce, El Dorado Cocktail Lounge, West Coast Tavern and Noble Experiment--that’s almost a bar a year!

His latest undertaking is that of Sycamore Den, a retro, 70s-style spot in Normal Heights that specializes in craft beers, artisanal cocktails, and charcuterie and cheese boards. As far as their speciality cocktails go, Johnson has made sure the menu offers a little bit of everything to satisfy any boozey preference (and for $9 a pop, they’re pretty well-priced). The names are about as creative as the ingredients themselves, making it just as fun to pick a cocktail as it is to drink one; try the Pirate’s Roast (a jalapeno-infused spiced rum drink with coffee and cinnamon), the Hardly Wallbanger (a vodka soda of sorts, add lemon, vanilla and OJ), the White Rocket (cherry Sakura tea-infused gin drink), or the Wolf Ticket (a whiskey concoction enhanced with peach and lemon flavors) for starters. As partner of Sycamore Den and overseer of the cocktail program, Johnson’s focus is meant to be a contemporary preparation of the classics, and the outstanding feedback on the current drink menu is positive reinforcement that whatever he’s doing, it’s working.


Johnson shares with us, in his own words, the places that have earned "favorite" status on his list of top drinking spots since moving to town.

Sycamore Den [Official Site]

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Turf Supper Club

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This place I can count on running into at least a couple industry friends. There is no leaving this place sober after a sneaky tiki or the 4 shots somebody has bought me. I've heard there is food there but I wouldn't know.

Cherry Bomb

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This is my bad decisions bar. If you like pint glasses of fernet and old Budweisers to go, then don't go to this place. Foosball and pool keep my attention here because nothing else will after the first shot.

Noble Experiment

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I love to go back to my roots and see what's cooking over there. Drinks are always on point, and the crew always greets me with a smile. It's like going back to the parents house after college and eating all there great food but instead I'm drinking there liquor cabinet away.

El Dorado Cocktail Lounge

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I've seen this bar go through a lot. I actually enjoy it a little more with less people because I'm selfish and want to hang out with old Ryan Kuntz to reminisce. This is one of the main reasons I moved to San Diego and will always be one of my favorite watering holes.

Cantina Mayahuel

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Everything agave, this place knows what it's doing! I sometimes wish I had the ability to not get drunk so I could taste it all. Very knowledgeable staff and a great ambiance.

The Ould Sod

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Best Guinness in town. I've been coming to this bar well before we (Sycamore Den) moved into the neighborhood and will continue to have safety meetings here forever. I almost feel like I'm overseas when I'm there.

Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

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Honestly, Christian Siglin has a crazy menu over there. This place is one of the best restaurants in town. I rarely see both food and cocktails served at such a high level in SD.

The Lion's Share

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This place is crawling distance from my home. I always have a great time with the tenders over there. They make a mean cocktail and they are lots of fun, what more could you ask for?

Turf Supper Club

This place I can count on running into at least a couple industry friends. There is no leaving this place sober after a sneaky tiki or the 4 shots somebody has bought me. I've heard there is food there but I wouldn't know.

Cherry Bomb

This is my bad decisions bar. If you like pint glasses of fernet and old Budweisers to go, then don't go to this place. Foosball and pool keep my attention here because nothing else will after the first shot.

Noble Experiment

I love to go back to my roots and see what's cooking over there. Drinks are always on point, and the crew always greets me with a smile. It's like going back to the parents house after college and eating all there great food but instead I'm drinking there liquor cabinet away.

El Dorado Cocktail Lounge

I've seen this bar go through a lot. I actually enjoy it a little more with less people because I'm selfish and want to hang out with old Ryan Kuntz to reminisce. This is one of the main reasons I moved to San Diego and will always be one of my favorite watering holes.

Cantina Mayahuel

Everything agave, this place knows what it's doing! I sometimes wish I had the ability to not get drunk so I could taste it all. Very knowledgeable staff and a great ambiance.

The Ould Sod

Best Guinness in town. I've been coming to this bar well before we (Sycamore Den) moved into the neighborhood and will continue to have safety meetings here forever. I almost feel like I'm overseas when I'm there.

Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant

Honestly, Christian Siglin has a crazy menu over there. This place is one of the best restaurants in town. I rarely see both food and cocktails served at such a high level in SD.

The Lion's Share

This place is crawling distance from my home. I always have a great time with the tenders over there. They make a mean cocktail and they are lots of fun, what more could you ask for?

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