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.
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