Whether you call them bartenders or mixologists, San Diego has an exciting group of drink wizards bringing fresh new ideas to the cocktail scene. While they may not be new to the beverage industry, their talents are coming to light with an impressive lineup of mouth-watering, imaginative cocktails that please the palate and perk the senses.
Here are six bartender-mixologists you may not know that should go on your list to visit around San Diego.
Joe Fisketti, Juniper and Ivy
Honing his skills under the tutelage of Eric Johnson, Minnesota native Joe Fisketti took over the bar program after Johnson’s departure. Fisketti, a Certified Sommelier, has brought a lineup of inventive, palate-driven concoctions to the menu.
Fisketti’s must-try cocktails include:
50 Shades of Earl Grey: Sipsmith gin, Earl Grey tea, lemon verbena, orange blossom, egg white and lemon
Thai and Stop Me: Makrut lime mezcal, Genepy Des Alpes, coconut, ginger, pineapple and lime
Filthy Rich: Toki Japanese whisky, foie gras, Sauternes, sea salt and Angostura bitters
2228 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy 619.269.9036, juniperandivy.com
Shelby Atkinson, Sycamore Den
Bringing Southern style and taste to San Diego, this Texas native melds beloved SoCal ingredients with unique twists.
Atkinson’s must-try cocktails include:
Femme Sauvage: Reposado tequila, cognac, green chartreuse, Chareau (aloe vera liqueur), lime, cinnamon and house verdita (a mix of fresh pineapple, upcycled mint, fresh cilantro and serrano peppers)
Lonely Hearts Club: Rye, Campari, Lillet Blanc, sage, black pepper and lemon
3391 Adams Ave., Normal Heights, 619.563.9019, sycamoreden.com
Faisal Asseri, Cloak & Petal
Newly promoted to bar manager, 26-year-old Asseri is bringing imaginative flavors to the local drink scene. Creating tropical and Asian-inspired cocktails, the rising star takes patrons on a vacation of the mind.
Asseri’s must-try cocktails include:
Japananah: Sansho Japanese spice-infused gin, violets, clove, Caribbean spice, citrus, coconut, banana and cardamom
Devil’s Advocate: Caribbean rum, cashew milk, lime, Higher Ester Jamaican rum and Peychaud’s bitters.
1953 India St., Little Italy, 619.501.5505, cloakandpetal.com
Heather Lugo, Curadero
In the industry primarily as a bar manager, Lugo transitioned to cocktail inventor in her role at Curadero. Known around San Diego for her scorpion lollipop, she focuses on every element of the cocktail, placing emphasis on the garnish for a complete eye-popping presentation.
Lugo’s must-try cocktails include:
Let’s hear it for Chamoy: El Jimador reposado, mango, serrano, lemon, chamoy (a Mexican sauce made from pickled fruit), topped with a tamarind candy straw.
Butterfly Margarita: Blood orange-infused Milagro silver tequila, butterfly pea flower-infused Solerno, agave and lime
1047 Fifth Ave., downtown, 619.515.3003, curadero.com
TJ Majeske, Charles and Dinorah at The Pearl Hotel
This Michigan native came to San Diego in 2004 and worked his way through the bar industry from bar backing at Ocean Beach’s Gallagher’s to bartender at Raglan Public House. He now heads the program at The Pearl, following in the footsteps of notable bartenders Christian Siglin (Cutwater Spirits, The Grass Skirt) and John Holt.
Majeske’s must-try cocktails include:
Beach Break: Coconut fat washed tequila, Ancho Reyes Chili, lime, agave, Firewater bitters and toasted coconut rim
Last Word, AKA The Green Screen: Xicaru 102 proof mezcal, Luxardo cherry liqueur, green Chartreuse and fresh lime
So Pitted: Pearl vodka, avocado, Ancho Reyes Verde, agave, cilantro and a Tajin rim
1410 Rosecrans St., Point Loma, 619.226.6100, thepearlsd.com/dining
Steve George, 20|Twenty Grill and 7 Mile Kitchen (coming soon)
A Certified Sommelier, George brings his refined palate to multiple bar programs in North County’s Carlsbad. Between hand-selecting bourbon and inventing cocktails, he juggles the restaurants, bars, weddings and special events for cocktail loving patrons.
George’s must-try cocktails include:
Spanish Margarita: Azunia Blanco, brandy-blackberry muddle, Torres orange liqueur, jalapeno infused agave nectar, and fresh lime juice
Maple Bacon Bourbon: Twenty/20 Selected Knob Creek single barrel #3084 bourbon, bacon-infused maple syrup, candied bacon garnish
Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, 5480 Grand Pacific Dr., Carlsbad, 760.827.2500, twenty20grill.com