With National Bourbon Day just around the corner (Friday, June 14), whiskey-lovin’ San Diegans are gearing up to start their weekend early by counting their sick days and lining up their hookey stories.
Bourbon, a mainstay in the Southeastern United States for 200 years, has been embraced in SoCal with a feverish desire, from local distillery production, expansive bar lists, cocktails, and craft beers aged in their barrels. (Want to know the down low on bourbon? Check out our Bourbon 101 for a quick education.)
While having a neat pour of bourbon is classy and on point, here are a few unique ways to celebrate the magic of the all-American spirit this holiday:
Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.
Sycamore Den: “Take a sip and breathe in the trees” the menu proclaims with this unusual twist, with a bourbon-rum-spruce infusion, cumin-vanilla, and Angostura bitters. (Follow up with a selection of stocked bourbons for straight up enjoyment.)
3391 Adams Ave., Normal Heights, 619.563.9019, sycamoreden.com
Bleu Bohème: Go elegant for the occasion by dining on award-winning French cuisine while sipping on the specialty Démodé (translation: “old-fashioned”) cocktail, crafted with Blue Boheme’s very own blood orange and star anise house-infused bourbon.
4090 Adams Ave., Kensington, 619.255.4167, bleuboheme.com
Theater Box: Never has bourbon been so decadent and so star-studded. Who needs the outdoors when you can indulge in the Campfire Spiked S’mores Insane Milkshake, a blend of chocolate and coffee ice cream, espresso, toasted marshmallow and rapper Drake’s Virginia Black Whiskey, served in a dark chocolate-covered mug with Hershey bar chunks and graham crackers and gloriously crowned with a seven-layer s’more.
701 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp, 619.814.2225, theatrebox.com
Make mine a beer
Modern Times: Depending on the location, you can bask in the casks of up to four (!) bourbon barrel aged choices. The Chaos Grid is a Mocha Latte Edition with 75% barrel-aged Monster’s Park, and 25% barrel-aged Beastmaster, with El Savador Finca coffee, Peruvian cocoa nibs, and Ugandan vanilla beans. The Monster’s Park Mexican Hot Chocolate Edition has cinnamon, cocoa nibs, vanilla, and chilis. The Monster’s Park with coffee on nitro or the straight up 2019 vanilla version are all hovering at a staggering 14% ABV. Feeling extra decadent? Try the Amaretto Slushie with Barrel-Aged Monster’s Park Float, made with homemade amaretto syrup, Black House cold brew, and almond milk. Call your favorite location to see which ones they have on tap.
Encinitas: 470 S Coast Hwy 101, 760.452.4304; Midway District: 3725 Greenwood St., 619.546.9694 and 3612 Kurtz St.; North Park: 3000 Upas St., 619.269.5222, moderntimesbeer.com
The Lost Abbey: Responsible to introducing scores of San Diegans to bourbon-barrel aged beers over the years, this veteran rolls out a beer every bourbon lover has to try at least once (you’ll want more) in their beer drinking life: The Angel Share (bourbon-barrel aged version) is an English barleywine which spends a minimum of 12 months in barrel, and, at 12.5% ABV, will have you seeing heaven at the bottom of your glass.
155 Mata Way #104, San Marcos, 800.918.6816, lostabbey.com
Stone: You might not think of the classic Arrogant Bastard in a barrel, but Stone, always pushing our palates, encourages us to try something different. At 8.1% ABV, it’s just a notch up from the standard 7.2% ABV and one of the lowest alcohol versions on this list, making it worth a try for National Bourbon Day. Grab your friends, head up to Escondido, and make it a barrel-aged day. After an AB, hit the bottle list and try the 2017 Fyodor, an Imperial Russian Stout, the 2016 Xocoveza Charred, an Imperial Stout with cocoa, coffee, and spices, and the 2014 Southern Charred, the Double Bastard Ale, all aged in bourbon barrels.
1999 Citracado Pkwy., Escondido, 760.294.7899, stonebrewing.com/visit/bistros/escondido