In our paradise of libation innovation, it should come as no surprise that our clever mixologists are experimenting with out-of-the-box ingredients. With craft beer flavors of everything but the kitchen sink (has someone made that one?), our palates are used to being teased and tantalized. But even I, your seasoned craft beer and cocktail writer, did a double take when I read these concoctions on the menus of local bars and restaurants. After you too get the "wha?" look off your face, set your to-do list to try out these cocktails around town.
Undoubtedly the best-named cocktail on the list at downtown's The Lion's Share, this savory cocktail makes me smile in more ways than one. Combining guilty pleasure with sensory delight, the Shuffle is made with Jean Marc XO Vodka, celery, salt and truffle oil. For the benefit of patrons, keep those shirts down - there's no need to recreate the actual Truffle Shuffle from "The Goonies" while drinking this cocktail.
629 Kettner Blvd., downtown. (619) 564-6924 or lionssharesd.com
You give me a quizzical look, and blurt out, "A gray cocktail? Are you sure?" Bar manager Leigh Lacap from Campfire gives patrons this mindbender with tequila, charcoal, lime and salt. Thankfully, it doesn't taste like charcoal or ash, but it has the familiar comfort of a good ol' margarita.
2725 State St., Carlsbad. (760) 637-5121 or thisiscampfire.com
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Vegetarians (like me), keep walking. This meaty cocktail from Grant Grill ain't for us. Manly in its ingredients, but beautifully presented, the GBU is the two year trial-and-error brainchild of bartender Cory Alberto. It's made with dry-aged ribeye-washed rye, cynar, and sweet vermouth, and ... are you ready ... topped with cigar foam.
The US Grant Hotel, 326 Broadway, downtown. (619) 744-2077 or grantgrill.com
Cortez the Killer
You might ask yourself, what in the (expletive) is corn milk? I have no idea. To find out, head over to Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant and ask lead bartender, Zack Gray, then order this inventive libation made with Old Harbor Gin, Ancho Reyes and house-made corn milk, garnished with fresh lime. While on your cocktail adventure, go for Bees of Bennett Valley, made with fennel pollen-infused gin, honey, lemon and garnished with lavender bitters. Cue the allergy joke, if there is such a thing.
2202 Fourth Ave., Bankers Hill. (619) 231-0222 or bankershillsd.com
Think soy sauce is only for sushi and Chinese food? Polite Provisions, ever the groundbreaker in cocktails, cracks the mold again. Concocted with some of my favorite flavors on earth, Japanese whiskey, sesame, madeira, ginger liqueur and barrel-aged soy sauce, the Kojima gives customers that "umami" kick they love.
4696 30th St., North Park. (619) 677-3784 or politeprovisions.com
Smoked Bacon Old Fashioned
The least bizarre of this list, but definitely one of the coolest and most showy, is this smoke cocktail from BICE in the Gaslamp Quarter. Made with homemade bacon-infused Maker's Mark bourbon, Old Decanter bitters, orange peel and club soda, it is served "quick smoked," a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds.
425 Island Ave., downtown. (619) 239-2423 or bicesandiego.com
With 18 years in the restaurant and beverage industry and more than 850 reviews under her belt, Laurie Delk is a one-stop guide to all things craft beer, wine and spirits. You can follow Delk on Twitter @100beers30days or Instagram @sandiegobeer. Send ideas for featured drinks to email@example.com.