Lift Your Spirits in SD
Written By: Francesca Ressa
Photography By: Alex Gomez
Few things compare to expertly crafted goods, be they furniture, jewelry, and, yes, even drinks. Thankfully, some of San Diego’s best themed bars also happen to be the city’s finest spots for craft cocktails. All four bars have unique atmospheres that manipulate your mood and taste buds for the better. Chances are, after having a drink at one or more of these establishments; you will leave feeling satisfied socially, artistically, and, of course, gastronomically. In other words, your palate will never be the same. Each bar invites people in through familiarity and care that is only rivaled by the undeniable skill put into its drinks. So sit back, relax, and sip your way to happiness (if only for an hour or two). SD best themed bars
750 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
619.546.9321 | www.zymology21.com
Name: “Alex” Emran Javadov
Credentials: Owner, manager, server, mixologist, etc.
Upon entering Zymology 21, young Elmar Javadov energetically greets you with charm and maturity beyond his years. As the son of owners and culinary idealists, Alex and Leyla Javadov, Elmar’s warm greeting makes you feel as though you are entering a friend’s kitchen rather than just another restaurant in the Gaslamp. Add to that the expertly juxtaposed food science behind their menu, and you get one of the coolest themed bar and restaurant experiences in San Diego. SD best themed bars
Zymology, or the science of fermentation, drives not only their unique craft cocktails, but every element of their menu. Most of their food is locally sourced, organic and fermented in-house. This includes the use and fermentation of seasonal seeds, fruits, and other ingredients for syrups, juices, garnishes and chips.
Alex and Leyla prioritize healthy and homemade food and beverage offerings while still experimenting with flavor and presentation. Orders are served in objects ranging from embellished metal goblets to beakers and graduated cylinders. Combining drinks like the Habanero chili pepper and stone fruit “Boosie” Popsicle cocktail and the enormous Cotton-Candy Cosmo with comfort food makes the rustic laboratory setting feel like your home away from home. SD best themed bars
Native Knowledge: Alex and Leyla also own and run Café 21 of North Park and the Gaslamp
Vin de Syrah
901 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
619.234.4166 | www.syrahwineparlor.com
Name: Zack Eklund
Credentials: Bar Manager and Bartender
Originally the vault for the Gaslamp Plaza Suite Hotel, Vin de Syrah exceeds all expectations of an established speakeasy through the beautiful atmosphere, incredible entertainment, and, of course, delicious drinks. To find this underground haven, you must descend a staircase painted by local mural artists and search for a hidden door that grants entry.
The award-winning Michael Soriano interior evokes a modern yet intimate feeling, as though you are wandering around a French mansion’s moonlit garden, complete with butterflies, woods, roses and plush furniture. SD best themed bars
Depending on the night, Vin de Syrah dazzles you with local entertainment from a Tarot Card Reader, Illusionist, Rouge Burlesque troupe, DJ or live musicians. They even offer painting instructions alongside Happy Hour pricing on Sundays. Despite the eclectic happenings at Vin de Syrah, the energy is uniquely balanced between a nightclub vibe and familiar comforts. Expect paninis, meat & cheese boards, craft cocktails, house-made sangrias, draft and locally bottled beers, and a global selection of wines.
For a change of taste, be sure to try one of their specials, which range from signature Egg White cocktails to their “A Clockwork Orange” Old Fashioned.
Native Knowledge: Every 3-4 months, a local artist paints new murals in the stairwell entryway
4696 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
619.677.3784 | www.politeprovisions.com
Name: Erick Castro
Credentials: Co-Owner and Beverage Director
In the words of Polite Provisions’ bartenders, they make “art that tastes good.” Their clientele wholeheartedly agrees. The craftsmanship of their cocktails nears perfection, and the atmosphere is one of community and comfort unlike most other bars in existence. The décor evokes nostalgia for the Main Street, USA of yore, with elements like open theater seats, intricate molding, ornate lamps, and an old-fashioned soda pop fountain that pours unique house-brewed flavors. SD best themed bars
Though the majority of Polite Provisions’ staff lives in the neighborhood, people visit from all over town to relax and unwind with the bar’s expertly made drinks. The bar also shares a wall with Soda & Swine, a beloved restaurant of the local community and foodies alike. Both businesses encourage customers to order from the other, which makes for excellent pairing of food and drink in one stop.
No detail is spared at Polite Provisions, as everything from glassware to garnishes is meticulously chosen and ever-changing. That being said, the diversity of their menu ensures there’s something for everyone. The depth of their bartenders’ knowledge and craftsmanship will blow your mind. Ask for a custom drink and they are more than happy to oblige. Moreover, the amount of love and care built into each cocktail is stunning, educational, and inspiring on both a practical and personal level. SD best themed bars
By day, the space floods you with refreshing sunlight and air, and by night the bartenders’ hands are illuminated by lamplight. This makes the mixology at the bar, and counter of their cocktail classes seem staged, as though you were observing the expertise of a surgeon in a turn of the century operating theater.
Much to their theme of tonics, elixirs, and cures, Polite Provisions delivers medicine for the mind and soul while staying true to the purity of drinking itself—that it be fun, fresh, and interesting.
Native Knowledge: The “Lana Kane” is a house cocktail named after Aisha Tyler’s character on Archer that includes bourbon, honey, allspice, dram, falernum, and lemon and orange juice.
548 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Name: Tyler J. French
Credentials: Bar Manager
What sets Prohibition apart from other bars is not only its air of confidence and exclusivity as San Diego’s original speakeasy, but the fact that it is a live music venue every night it is open. Their disguised door has “Law Office” painted in gold and a switch that illuminates a red light for entry. Such details, coupled with a dress code for men, tailor their guests to be more mature and open-minded. Over the course of the night, the atmosphere shifts from relaxed to energetic as the crowd grows, and music begins.
Prohibition strikes the perfect balance between bar and a place where people dance, making it, as Bar Manager Tyler J. French describes, “A music venue that makes cool drinks rather than the other way around.” In fact, many customers discover the bar through its music lineup and get turned on to craft cocktails as a result of their attendance.
The bar offers specific pre-Prohibition style drinks, in-house specialty cocktails, as well as some wines and locally bottled beers for more conventional drinkers. If you are the adventurous type, walk up and ask for “Dealer’s Choice” and you will receive a fresh cocktail made on the spot according to your drinking preferences. SD best themed bars
In keeping with historical Prohibition (and bathroom mascots Bonnie and Clyde), Prohibition Bar is an establishment that stands apart from others bars in San Diego by being unpretentious yet masterful.
Native Knowledge: Prohibition Bar used to be Old San Diego’s morgue. In fact, some customers think the bar is haunted.