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Cocktail Bars in SD

We often like to end our nights with some nice cocktails (classic ones or more "modern", creative ones) and so always look for new recommendations. Places should have high quality cocktails, if possible some food/snack options and open until at least midnight.

Some places we went so far:

Lion's Share - great cocktails good food, nice ambience
Grant Grill - perhaps so far the best cocktails in SD, OK food, OK ambience, good live music
Starlite - OK cocktail, good food, nice ambience
JSix - good cocktails, good food,

Some cocktail bars we haven't visited yet but would be interested to get some feedback from Chowhounders:

Sycamore Den
Polite Provision
Noble Experiment
Coin-Up Game Room
Craft & Commerce
Tractor Room
Gaslamp Speakeasy
Seven Grand

Any good places we are missing ?

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  1. I was rather dissapointed with Noble Experiment. Cool entrance, no doubt. Small cocktails and their signature
    cocktails not for my palate.

    I would Addison for excellent cocktails. Expensive, but rather large and good quality.

    4 Replies
    1. re: 4wino

      yes agree with the Addison cocktails..very very good. I had a beautiful Pisco sour there and a great Manhattan.
      Love Noble but no food and the res system is a PITA. My favorite is the Goldrush..bourbon, lemon and honey
      Polite Provision was good, snacks next door
      Prohibition was disappointing, only went once.
      We had a very nice evening of cocktails and apps at Prepkitchen in Little Italy

      1. re: Ela0427

        Addison sounds interesting. How does it work with Polite Provision - you order your drinks and walk over to the restaurant part or can you order the whole menu also on the bar side ?

        1. re: honkman

          Yes, you walk over. People around us had food. We actually had dinner and some drinks at Jayne's Gastropub across the street then went to PP. Yes, when we went to Addison on a Friday night it was just hubby and I at the bar and the bartender was very helpful and chatty. I told him to make me his favorite cocktails and I was open to try something new. He explained to me the different ingredients etc..quite an artist. I think you could get some snacks and sit outside as well, we saw people there. We had cocktail hour before dinner..

          1. re: honkman

            You have to walk over to Soda & Swine and order the food, but they have runners that will deliver to your table at the Provisions side.

            They initially didn't have alcohol in Soda & Swine but not they have a few beer taps. For the booze you have to stick to Polite Provisions.

      2. We like Polite Provisions (with or without eats from Soda & Swine), Tractor Room and especially Seven Grand which is very much whiskey centric. Prep Kitchen in Little Italy is excellent (particularly if you enjoy gin). We have not tried Sycamore, Coin-Op or Prohibition.

        1. I've been to Polite Provisions, Coin-Up Game Room and Seven Grand. For Polite Provisions, the snacks through Soda & Swine are not particularly fancy, but after a few cocktails the allure of the food becomes undeniable. In other words, the food is good, but becomes incredible after a few drinks. *ahem* And you will be drinking said cocktails because they are well balanced and delicious.

          The Coin-Up Game Room is less a cocktail bar and more of a bar with great cocktails (haven't tried the food yet). Or, probably better put - a Dave & Busters for a more discriminating (hipster) audience. So, you're going to get good cocktails and probably good food.

          As far as Seven Grand goes, I have no idea if the cocktails are good or not because the one time I was there I ordered a High West whiskey with a splash of water.

          I would also suggest that you check out Imig's (the hotel bar at the Lafayette Hotel), particularly now that Brandon, the bar manager, is back at work after suffering a broken leg. The food has generally been good, and if the bar isn't too full, you can talk to Brandon and let him make you something that may or may not be on the drink menu.

          1. I would have to place Noble Experiment (when Anthony is making the cocktails) far above any other place in SD - in fact, just slightly below my top two all-time favourites (PDT and Violet Hour). His sense of balance matches up very well with my personal taste. I don't bother making reservations. Just show up at 7pm and get a seat at the bar counter (best seats in the house, anyway).

            Saltbox is OK. Did not like Polite Provisions - drinks too sweet.

            The other place that I quite enjoyed was Cusp, although I believe the bartender there is now at JSix.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shouzen

              yes the drinks at Noble are fantastic...the Gin Ricky is one of my favorites.

            2. I really like Noble Experiment.

              I enjoy Polite Provision, but not enough to regularly go out of my way for it.

              1. i enjoy cocktails at whisknladle. their food is generally good too.

                1. I wrote up a few places in my "3 days" wrap up. Polite Prov at happy hour is a deal and a half. But kind of sick of that schtick half the bartenders do w/ the outfits and mustaches. Tractor Room was slightly disappointing after the write up I saw in some SD mag. Drink just didn't quite live up to the kudos. Coin Op was filled with kids when we walked by so we skipped it, def doesn't seem like a cocktail place but maybe I'm missing something.

                  28 Replies
                  1. re: Joanie

                    "But kind of sick of that schtick half the bartenders do w/ the outfits and mustaches."

                    I can remember saying a very similiar thing back in the early 90's when the Cosmo was the overly sweet trendy drink (ooops sorry, craft cocktail) and instead of mustaches and sleeve garters, most bartenders sported a mullet and wore denim shirts.

                    1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                      No...you had it right. The Cosmo *is* an overly sweet, trendy drink.

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        Ohhh but a good cosmo is so so good..hell it was THE sex in the city drink.

                        1. re: Ela0427

                          Sorry, yuck,

                          The Cosmo is an abominable sweet icky POS concocted for non-discerning milleniums

                          Just drink a Coke already and then you won't be arrested for DUI on the way home.

                          1. re: Ela0427

                            Sorry, Ela0427 but vodka and I are not the best of buds. And even though cranberries and I get along just fine, they can't save the drink :-(

                            I'm old enough, and have been drinking too long, to need a bunch extra ingredients to make a drink palatable :-D

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              oh it is OK..as we age gracefully it is our duty to become booze and food snobs. I can only handle 2 cocktails so I always go for my favorite tequila, booze etc...might as well make them really tasty and smooth.

                          2. re: DiningDiva

                            You might want to try the current Cosmo variation at the Grant Grill - Bottle Conditioned Vodka, Fresh Cranberries, Orange Flower Water, Triple Zest of Kaffir Lime/Tangerine/Meyer Lemon blended with fresh Pinot Noir Juice and fermented with Pinot Grigio yeast

                            They know us quite well but it was still the first time that they asked us if we had this cocktail before and want to us to taste a bit before we ordered - it's defintiely not sweet but very intense and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people send it back.

                              1. re: honkman

                                Sounds good, and I'd be willing to give it a go as long as it didn't taste like the inside of the sugar canister

                                1. re: honkman

                                  Since the Grant was on my list we walked to take a look for a later drink, but I just didn't think the vibe fit with the history of the hotel. Was expecting dark, clubby comfort and it was kind of too sterile or modern or something. That drink sounds good tho.

                                  1. re: Joanie

                                    The vibe is indeed not great at the lounge (and restaurant) but at least the drinks are excellent. (and if you go on a Friday or Saturday they have good live music - jazz or blues)

                                  2. re: honkman

                                    Bottle conditioned vodka? Is that a thing now? Does it actually make a difference?

                                    1. re: DougOLis

                                      It's vodka in this case because the original cocktail was a Cosmo but bottle conditioned cocktails seem to be unique to the Grant Grill and they give a very different flavor profile. They have different ones like the La Grenade with Cognac, Hibiscus Tea, Pomegranate Juice, Bay Leaves, And Black Pepper

                                      1. re: honkman

                                        Honkmeister - Are these bottle conditioned cocktails served by themselves in a glass (rocks, neat, etc.) or do they function as an ingredient to a cocktail? Or both? Sounds pretty interesting.

                                        1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                          They are served by themselves in a glass. They are actually bringing you the bottle used for the fermantation to the table to pour the drink

                                        2. re: honkman

                                          Ah ok. The cocktail was bottle aged. I thought you meant the vodka was bottle conditioned before being used in the drink and I was wondering if that was a new thing. Did they age it with the fruit? Normally you would only age pure spirits due to risk of spoilage.

                                          I've seen bottle aging of cocktails at a few different places as well (notably 69 Colebrooke Row in London - where I think the trend started).

                                          1. re: DougOLis

                                            when I was in Seattle a couple of years ago I was at a bar that had a few oak-barrel aged cocktails. I tried two and both were pretty good but I didn't have non-barrel aged versions to compare to.

                                            1. re: MrKrispy

                                              Yeah, there are quite a few places all over the place that are doing barrel aging these days but bottle conditioning is a little more rare; guess it doesn't have quite the same cache. Small Bar does a few barrel aged cocktails but I don't think too many places in SD have actually caught on to the trend yet.

                                              1. re: DougOLis

                                                I understand barrel aging, can someone explain bottle conditioning. That's new to me and I really don't know what it is.

                                                And 2nd stupid question of the morning...I understand what fermenting is, I also understand what infusing is. What I don't understand is the difference between fermented in the bottle vs. infused in the bottle?

                                                Anyone care to take a few minutes to enlighten me :-)


                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                  Bottle conditioning = fermenting in the bottle. Load the drink into the bottle, put in some yeast, voila. Think of it like the secondary fermentation when making champagne.

                                                  1. re: shouzen

                                                    Champagne I understand :-). Now this makes sense. Thank you.

                                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                                      What shouzen said. It's kind of the only way to avoid spoilage if you're doing a cocktail with fresh fruit. In a spirit infusion the fruit would only be a small portion of the volume so not much need to worry about that spoiling, but most cocktails would be more fruit forward.

                                              2. re: MrKrispy

                                                Probably Jamie Boudreau's place Canon (seattle)?

                                              3. re: DougOLis

                                                My understanding is that they ferment the "complete" cocktail.

                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                    Actually, that reminds me of one of the best cocktails I've had anywhere. The Worship Street Whistling Shop in London has a cocktail called "The Living Cocktail" that if I recall correctly is rum, tea, spices, and pineapple that have been fermented with penicillium roqueforti and aged in a barrel. Sounds disgusting but was so smooth and delicious.

                                            2. re: honkman

                                              I've had that rendition of the Cosmo at the bar and it was excellent.
                                              They really know how to make a great cocktail.

                                              Before the remodel, the Grant Grill bar was beautifully appointed and matched the classic architecture of the hotel.
                                              Now, the chrome bar stools with the high top tables, with the Jerome's looking furniture is horrid!

                                          2. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                            Wow, you can't really get any hipper than a mullet, except if you also had an "ironic" hat.