In the summer months, we drink up to feel refreshed and inspire motivation to strut around the city’s hottest pool parties. But when the harsh winter chill sets in, we indulge to warm up and let loose within dim craft cocktail lounges.
San Diego’s best mixologists are embracing holiday scents and spices to craft warming spirits strong enough to get us through the season. Expand far beyond your regular bar routine with new holiday cocktails from El Dorado, Cusp, Harney Sushi, Mister A's, The Duck Dive and new hot spot Blind Burro.
Who's down for a round of Apple Hotties?
Warm up with holiday cocktails in San Diego.
Snow Globe & Craft Shots at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge
El Dorado’s new winter cocktail menu introduces five holiday-inspired concoctions, plus three debut craft shots. That’s right; it’s like a craft cocktail, but stronger and cheaper. The debut shots include Poison Apple with gin, lime, grenadine and baked apple bitters; Gold Nugget with bourbon, lemon and honey; and Bee Sting with gin, lemon, honey and peach bitters. Because it’s weird to take shots solo, order a trio to share for $12. A winter cocktail highlight is the Snow Globe, made with black rum, lemon, cinnamon, egg white and bitters. For your sweet fix, order the Sugar Cookie with rum, lemon, Orgeat, Faretti Biscotti and black walnut bitters. The winter menu launches with a big holiday party on Tuesday, Dec. 18.
El Dorado Cocktail Lounge, (619) 237-0550, eldoradobar.com
Buddy the Elf at The Duck Dive
If smiling is your favorite, drink in the Christmas spirit at The Duck Dive in Pacific Beach. This laidback beach bar is serving three seasonal spirits through the month. Our top pick is Buddy the Elf, a gingerbread martini made with cinnamon schnapps, hazelnut schnapps, Bailey’s Irish cream and real gingerbread, garnished with gingerbread cookie dust. And we just love the name, duh. More holiday booze on the menu includes the lemon-ginger Lloyd Christmas and The Jeffrey Lebowski, a spirited take on a White Russian.
The Duck Dive, (858) 273-3825, theduckdive.com
Sir Rudy at Cusp Dining & Drinks
This revamped destination at Hotel La Jolla introduced a sophisticated winter cocktail menu designed Nate Howell, the new head bartender in town. A fresh take on the deep-rooted Black Flip cocktail, the Sir Rudy is made with Cruzan Black Strap rum, Del Maguey Vida, demerara, a whole egg and nutmeg. The rich, creamy spirit is ideal for a cool winter night. (pictured)
Cusp, Hotel La Jolla, (858) 551-3620, cusprestaurant.com
Toasted Almond at Acqua Al 2
This downtown Italian restaurant is celebrating the holidays with a trio of festive spirits. Our favorite holiday cocktail is the decadent Toasted Almond, made with Kahlua, Amaretto, cream and whipped cream, garnished with fresh mint. For a lighter taste, order the Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail, made with prosecco, Triple sec and pomegranate syrup, topped with a lemon twist, served up in a flute. (pictured above)
Acqua Al 2, (619) 230-0647, acquaal2.com
Apple Hottie at Harney Sushi
We are so Harney for soju this holiday season. Harney Sushi is rolling out a new winter cocktail menu with six spirits made with the sweet Korean rice liquor and wine. Our favorite holiday addiction is the Apple Tottie, their spin on a Hot Toddy, made with hot apple cider, Han soju, nutmeg and cinnamon. More winter elixirs include Winter Sangria, made with chardonnay, apples, citrus, honey, cloves and nutmeg; and the rich White Mule, made with peppermint-infused Han soju, Irish crème, chai, marshmallow syrup and vanilla bean salt.
Harney Sushi, Old Town and Oceanside, harneysushi.com
Poinsettia at Mister A’s
Let the holiday lights lure you in to Mister A’s, an always-festive staple of Banker’s Hill. Mister A’s is now serving its signature winter cocktail, the Poinsettia, made with hibiscus liqueur, cranberry juice and a splash of prosecco. And you can sip this holiday spirit guilt-free, as the Poinsettia is a certified ‘skinny’ cocktail.
Bertrand at Mister A’s, (619) 239-1377, bertrandatmisteras.com
Santa Baby at La Puerta
This downtown tequila tavern is showing love for classic Christmas carols during the holiday season. The new Santa Baby cocktail, named after the addictive tune, is made with Muchote reposado tequila and eggnog, shaken and served in a martini glass garnished with nutmeg. It's a simple, serious winter spirit.
La Puerta, (619) 696-3466, lapuertasd.com
Snowy Egret at Mille Fleurs
Embark on a winter evening adventure to Mille Fleurs, a fine dining destination in Rancho Santa Fe. Soak in sweet tunes from the piano bar while enjoying a Snowy Egret. This new holiday cocktail is ultra decadent, made with Stoli Razberi, Godiva white chocolate liqueur and cream.
Mille Fleurs, (858) 756-3085, millefleurs.com
El Buey at The Blind Burro
Good Time Design’s newest East Village hot spot is opening doors this week. In the space formerly occupied by The Fleetwood, The Blind Burro is a Baja-inspired bar and restaurant with a stellar tequila and mezcal spirits program. Their pick for the holidays is El Buy, a spicy cocktail with house-made horchata, Skyy vodka and Patron, garnished with a cinnamon stick. Open: Friday, Dec. 14
The Blind Burro, (619) 795-7880, theblindburro.com
Discover more winter tips and trends in our San Diego holiday guide