April 30 2012 06:48 PM

Underground bar offers refuge and tasty cocktails

thepropagandistsandiego
The Ruby Red Coat
Photo by Tyson Wirtzfeld

It's Saturday night in the Gaslamp. Bachelorette-party girls are teetering on high heels, out-of-towners are walking too slowly and there's a bunch of drunken people dressed in neon.

At 835 Fifth Ave., there's a stairway leading underground, its walls papered with posters of down-turned thumbs. At the bottom is The Propagandist. Husband-and-wife owners Brian and Jessica Divine soft-opened the bar last fall before opening officially on March 31.

The Divines have a love / hate relationship with the bar's location. Brian managed the space during two of its previous incarnations—Faces and Blonde Martini. When the owner of George's on Fifth (upstairs) offered him the chance to turn the space into a new bar, he and Jessica knew that while the location wasn't ideal, they could make it something cool. The interior lacks pretense, with its brick walls, lots of seating (some of it old church pews) and lighting that's dim, but not too dim.

"When you walk down those stairs, this is like another world offering refuge from what's up there," Brian says. To bring reluctant folks Downtown, the Divines have started hosting art shows and live music. On Wednesdays, they'll screen films. And, they just launched the "Grandfathered In" happy hour on Fridays. Show up at 5 p.m. and your drinks are $5 until 9 p.m.; show up at 6 and they're $6 and so on.

Brian insists that The Propagandist isn't a craft-cocktail bar. Feel free to argue; the cocktails are mighty fine. The Thomas Edison, made with Basil Hayden Bourbon, Cherry Heering, Velvet Falernum and blackberry brandy, tastes how good bourbon smells—smooth with just a hint of sweetness. The Mango En Fuego, made with Tito's Vodka (Propagandist's well vodka; Google it), has a nice amount of heat (muddled fresh habanero peppers) balanced by fresh-pressed mango juice. The El Viejo—described as a "Mexican Old Fashioned"—was made interesting with a hint of chocolate bitters. The Ruby Red Coat (Plymouth gin, St. Germaine, aperol and fresh-pressed grapefruit juice) includes a basil leaf held in place by perfect squares of ice so you get a whiff of basil with each sip.

"It's our job to get you into the drink; it's the drink's job to implant a memory," Brian says. "It has to have that ‘wow' factor."

Email kellyd@sdcitybeat.com or follow her on Twitter at @citybeatkelly.

Calendar

  • Visit one of the 70 participating restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs in town on this night and 25 to 50 percent of sales will go to local HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. 
  • Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, who are vying to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, will discuss urban issues, such as parking, homelessness and new developments
  • The new exhibition designed by Dave Ghilarducci is made from hundreds of rolls of packing tape and bound together by layers of plastic shrink-wrap. Visitors can navigate their way through cocoon-like passageways...
  • 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...
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition hosts this monthly bike-in happy hour event to get biking residents involved in their communities and discuss bike projects planned for that specific community
  • 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...
  • So Say We All's monthly storytelling night features stories about those jobs we took because we had to take a job. Featured readers include Allison Gauss, Annmarie Houghtailing, Cecile Estelle, and more
  • Artists from the all-abstracts group show will talk about their work and techniques. Artists include Edwin Nutting, Danielle Nelisse, Leah Pantea, Lenore Simon, and more
See all events on Thursday, Apr 28