San Diego’s first absinthe bar and restaurant, Wormwood, brings a brand new drinking and dining adventure to University Heights. The brainchild of Tahona Bar founder Amar Harrag, Wormwood showcases more than 30 absinthes sourced from Europe, New York, Louisiana, and other distilleries, and like Tahona, Wormwood will also be a place of education about this mysterious, often misunderstood spirit. Enjoy absinthe in the traditional fashion of early 20th century Paris, served from slow-drip fountains with a cube of sugar, or choose from a cocktail menu showcasing revisited absinthe classics as well as a selection of non-absinthe drinks. Shareable entrees and small plates feature French influences, updated for modern tastes and including luxurious dishes like caviar served with a sea urchin flan and eggplant creme fraiche, or confit de canard over Parisian gnocchi, banana vinegar beurre blanc, parsnips, and peanuts.
How to order: Reservations are recommended and can be made online.
Words like “stunning” and “jaw-dropping” get tossed around a lot, but that’s exactly how to describe Wolfie’s Carousel Bar, Little Italy’s newest drinking den. The centerpiece is a dazzling 24-seat, carousel-shaped bar that rotates slowly, giving you a 360 degree view of the room every 14 minutes. Inspired by The Carousel Bar & Lounge in New Orleans, the beverage program serves NOLA signature cocktails like the French 75, Sazerac, and Vieux Carré, while the food menu, curated by executive chef Peter Ziegler, formerly of Charles + Dinorah at the Pearl Hotel, features stylish interpretations of the classics; think oysters Rockefeller, sourced from Baja and prepared with housemade butter, heavy cream, spinach, parmesan, and breadcrumbs; Wagyu tartare with gremolata, quail yolk, and brioche toast points; or steak frites with a 16-ounce ribeye, maison béarnaise, and pommes frites, with optional shaved black truffles.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made online.
Chula Vista’s burgeoning cocktail scene got a massive upgrade with the opening of Shake & Muddle. Billing itself as “a next generation/fusion cocktail mixology bar,” Shake & Muddle pushes the boundaries of your senses by exploring the savory, sweet, tart, and fruity flavors of cocktails, sorted into categories like Citrus, Spice, and Everything Nice; Bubbles and Herbs; and Worldly Old Fashions, which reinterprets the classic cocktail with liquors from different countries. Day drinkers can pair their boozy creations with breakfast items like bennies, burritos, croissants, and croques, or shareable apps, soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch. The extensive dinner menu features nearly twenty hot and cold starters, plus large plates, signature steaks, pasta, and risotto. Join them for happy hour Monday through Thursday from 3–6 pm for deals on drinks, wine, beer, and select food options.
How to book: Reservations can be made online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.
We love the idea of shared spaces—and one of the best in San Diego is in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Barrio Logan. The Acre of Awesome houses three different drinking establishments, starting with Thorn Brewing and their 30-barrel brewhouse and tasting room, where you can sip signature brews as well as unique varieties that aren’t available at their other venues. ReBru Spirits rescues beer that’s either overstocked or nearing its expiration date from being dumped down the drain and upcycles it into small batch craft vodka, gin, and whiskey, which can be purchased by the bottle or in a rotating selection of craft cocktails. Kové Hard Yerba Mate brews and serves up the world’s first alcoholic yerba mate—a native South American plant that’s brewed into a wildly popular, often communally shared beverage. Kové’s version is organic, vegan, gluten-free, and comes in four flavors (so far); mojito, lemonade iced tea, mango colada, and passion berry. When your hunger strikes, the adjacent HottMess pizza joint makes wood-fired pies using the spent grains from local breweries in the crust, and SideYard BBQ serves up pulled pork, brisket, smoked turkey, ribs, and more. Check the individual websites for hours of operation.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis.
Located next to one of San Diego’s most iconic landmarks, the Campo Santo Cemetery, Tahona features Oaxacan-influenced cuisine and agave-based libations. Executive Chef Adrian Villarreal’s extraordinary craft cocktails and contemporary Mexican flavors are sourced from local, sustainable vendors. Fresh and fruity Whaley House Punch, a combo of mezcal verde, pineapple juice, salted watermelon syrup, Campari, fresh lime, and an absinthe rinse, and The Ancelote, a spirit-forward blend of Abasolo Mexican whiskey, Ancho Reyes
Verde, chipotle habanero honey, and lemon show off the mixologist’s skills, or dive into the smokey world of mezcal with a flight from their collection of nearly 100 bottles.
“Hidden” speakeasies are a bit of a tired concept, but Realm has breathed new life into the idea, starting with the door situated in plain sight at the back of Kearny Mesa’s Common Theory Public House. Behind it lies The Apothecary, a futuristic white space with gleaming jars of exotic herbs and tonics that you can explore and merchandise for purchase. Then, you’ll maneuver through the final passageway, courtesy of master “hidden entrance” designer Michael Soriano, into an opulent Art Deco masterpiece fused seamlessly with Korean and Chinese elements. A long, jade bar gives you a front row view of the mixology magic, while private booths are cast in flattering, flickering light. Remedies For Your Ailments is a rotating collection of of-the-moment cocktails that range from spirit-forward and tropical to spiced and smoky; Modern Remedies Around the World pay homage to inspiring new classics from the 2000s, and Prescriptions From the Old Days covers time-honored creations of the 1800-1900s. If all of that seems overwhelming, just let your mixologist craft you something wonderful, or choose from their impressive list of rare and unusual spirits, neat or on a big, crystal clear ice rock.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made up to two weeks in advance via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.