Jan. 9 2012 07:10 PM

Longtime barkeep Rey Arcibal turned a simple request into a sweet concoction

whalingbarlajolla
Rey Arcibal
Photo by D.A. Kolodenko

When I agreed to temporarily cover Cocktail Tales for Kinsee Morlan, I was admonished by my editor to not "write about Noble Experiment every time." Admittedly, I could extol the virtues of San Diego's best cocktail bar to the exclusion of most others during my tenure here; however, I'm not quite the snob I'm made out to be.

Case in point: For my first installment, I direct your attention to a drink that you'd never find on the menu in a high-end cocktail-revival bar. The Whaler—a booze-spiked milkshake-like concoction that isn't really a cocktail at all—has been the signature drink of The Whaling Bar at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla since it was invented there in 1964. Ordering a Whaler affords you a rare opportunity to sit in a bar brimming with old-school style and history and have a famous mid-century drink served to you by its inventor.

Rey Arcibal, a former Marine steward, started as a bar back at the Whaling Bar in 1960. Once he learned the ropes, he was promoted to bartender. Then, one day, a customer made an uncommon request.

"He asked me to mix some Kahlua and ice cream. It wasn't very good," Arcibal tells me while standing behind the bar he's manned for 51 years. He's wiry, sharp and crisply dressed in a vest and tie. "I thought I could make it better. I must've created 10 different versions of drinks with ice cream and liquor in a blender. This is the one that stuck."

Over the years, he's tweaked the recipe, which remains a secret, though he will divulge that it contains a mountain of vanilla ice cream (five scoops!) along with Kahlua, brandy, Grand Marnier, Creme De Cacao and Bailey's. If that sounds like an explosive calorie bomb, you're right. But the proportions and preparation he's calibrated make this thing delicious, and it has remained popular.

Does he plan on retiring in 2014 when he turns 80?

"I don't really want to retire because I don't have hobbies," he says. "I like it here because I meet lots of people."

The best time to get yourself a Whaler and be one of those people: Saturdays by 4 p.m., before Arcibal leaves. 


Write to dak@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com.

Calendar

  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • The former local boy and creator of the highly influential blog, Advanced Style, will be signing and discussing his third book, Advanced Style: Older and Wiser, which features inspiring pictures and stories...
  • C.J. Chenier and Bonsoir Catin headline this annual Cajun inspired festival. Also enjoy 10,000 pounds of crawfish, dancing and cooking demonstrations. Held at Spanish Landing Park, across from the...
  • A Cinco de Mayo party featuring $2 tacos, cocktails and live music from Bostich+Fussible, Javiera Mena and Gepe
  • A spoken word showcase hosted by English instructor Karla Cordero and her City College students. There will also be a special reading from poet Mercedez Holtry, as well as an art and photography show....
  • Widely known as host of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live and for his role in the Showtime dramedy Weeds, Kevin Nealon brings his unique humor back to the stand-up stage
  • New works from over a dozen UCSD undergraduate students. Participating artists include Charity Algarme, Richard Lin, Joseph Maas, Ignatius Nguyen, and more
  • This video art exhibition from UCSD MFA candidate Stefani Byrd features two installations that explore the themes of breath, mediation, and the nature of time. Takes place in the VAF Performance Space,...
See all events on Thursday, May 5