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Sycamore Den | Where the Cocktail Comes to be Crafted

Written by: Audra Leigh

Normal Heights is home to one of San Diego’s true hidden gems, Sycamore Den. For those of us who grew up in the 70s, we somehow feel incredibly comfortable in this “grandpa’s basement” esque watering hole. The owners have gone all out to give it that feel, and they have done it well, not missing a thing. An assortment of shotguns line the walls and leather booths invite you to take a seat. Picture vintage tiffany lamps throughout, amber windows, a player piano that is modernized to play anything on an iPod and even a few games for guests to play while enjoying their incredible cocktails.

I had the most enjoyment with a silly game that my own grandfather had in his basement while I was at Sycamore Den. To recreate this fun, all you need is a string, a ring and a hook. The ring is tied to the string and hung up on the ceiling. The goal is to stand back and drop the ring so that it flies over to the hook and grabs on. Remember that one?! I used to play this for hours. I don’t know if it’s because of my added years, mathematical skills, luck, or the fact that Eric Johnson, one of the owners, showed me his perfected stance, but I nailed it on the 5th try. It’s a good thing too because I would have stayed there all night trying until I got it.

Opening just one and a half years ago, Eric told me that it took awhile to get people to understand that Sycamore Den is the place to get real cocktails. The word is out, and it has been catching on with the neighborhood. After spending some time with him and Nate, bartender extraordinaire, I truly believe that they’ve hit the mark perfectly with this hidden gem.

There is just something about a sophisticated, well-crafted cocktail that makes you feel more mature, wiser, perhaps a little more settled in this hectic life that we lead. Get yourself over to Sycamore Den for a unique experience with knowledge that these master mixologists will take great care of you.


With each turn of the season, the crew at Sycamore Den recreates an already stellar cocktail menu to fit with the weather and mood of the people. Yes, that means that they just recently launched their winter cocktail menu that is sure to please everyone.

Each cocktail is crafted with freshly squeezed juices, homemade syrups, and quite a few liquors from local distilleries. Once the potion is ready, it’s poured over individually cut square ice cubes that are cut daily for your enjoyment. They don’t skimp on a single step so that you as the guest feel truly taken care of and are in the presence of true and genuine hosts. All of their cocktails run $9 a piece, which is a steal for what you’re getting.

The Prince Charles Don’t Surf
Ingredients: Gin, Lemon, Orgeat syrup, St. Archer Bonde, Angostura-Allspice Bitters

A beer drinker myself, this was an easy drink to fall in love with. It’s incredibly refreshing and goes down easily.

The Eastern Outlaw
Ingredients: Bourbon, Amaretto, House Vermouth, Angostura Bitters, Maraschino Cherry

This is Sycamore Den’s version of the old-fashioned. Like an old-fashioned it’s strong, but it’s much smoother.

Doctor’s Flip
Ingredients: Gin, House made butterscotch (YES!), Cream, Simple Syrup, Egg, Nutmeg

This cocktail is similar to eggnog, but actually drinkable (no, I do not like eggnog). Served in a small wine glass, this drink was the one I kept grabbing for.

Young Grasshopper
Ingredients: Scotch, Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe, Cream, Mint, Mole bitters

Where are you going to find a person that still orders a grasshopper? Right here! After you try this Andes mint replica, you will too.

Coco Monster (Slushy)
Ingredients: Rum, Galliano, Lime, Fresh OJ, Coconut Syrup, Cream

Get this while you can on a hot day. It’s a delicious slushy for adults!


Autumn Java
Ingredients: Scotch, Aged Rum, Curacao, Dark Horse Coffee, Mole Bitters

Wolf Ticket
Dickel Whiskey, Orchard Peach, Lemon, Simple Syrup, Angostura Bitters

How fun are these cocktail names? Cock of the Rock made me chuckle. How about ordering a Sext on the Beach? I want to be a part of the next drink naming pow-wow. I can just tell they must laugh all night.

Last tip: Try the Don’t Eat The Snow in Hawaii and say hi to Tom Selleck for me.

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