ODYSEA @ Hilton San Diego Bayfront
1 Park Blvd.
I didn't want to tell Ora the name of the bar.
“Odysea, a Liquid Adventure” wouldn't sound cool to a chick who, last time I saw her, was cleaning up a spilled tube of cadmium red oil paint from the dirty floor of her City Heights shack by smearing it onto her hands and slapping bloody prints all over the walls.
She shows up at the new Bayfront Hilton wearing all black, tattoos exposed, with painted lips that stand out against her fluorescent ashen skin like crushed fruit on a moonlit city sidewalk.
I ask her what she thinks of the midcentury-inspired lobby decor. “I don't like that fabric,” she says, glancing up at the gray mesh cylindrical ceiling sculptures that evoke ghosts of chandeliers. “Looks cheap.”
In the spacious bar, mid-tempo space-age electronica bounces all over the empty lounge and giant-screen TVs beam the Weather Channel for nobody.
Beyond the glass walls sit comfortable-looking outdoor seating areas. If it wasn't a chilly, overcast evening, that's where we'd hang out.
“Time to get what we came for,” I say.
We find a corner and check out the menu of “handcrafted organic cocktails,” which bear names that reinforce the Greek mythology theme: Siren, Helios, Zephyrus, etc.
The three classics on the menu are the French 75, Side Car and Sazerac. I choose the Sazerac, the world's first cocktail, dating back to the 1830s, the pride of New Orleans, my favorite rye whiskey drink.
Ora, the artist, naturally gravitates toward the Muse, a girly concoction of Acai Blueberry Vodka, lemon juice, muddled blueberries and sugar.
In the $12 range, these cocktails cost as much as those served at San Diego's finest bar, Noble Experiment.
When they come, the Sazerac is served on the rocks. A travesty. It's like serving cold french fries. It just shouldn't be done. I down it quick, before the ice has time to water it down and ruin it, but it's already too late. Ora's Muse is a blue, sugary confection that I try but can barely swallow. Ora drops it like medicine.
“How is it?” I ask. “Good. I'll have another. By the way, I've been thinking about quitting drinking.”
Instead, she orders the Oceanus: Citroen, St. Germain, Lime Juice, Ginger and Thyme Bitters. It's stimulating and not too sweet, a success if you like vodka.
I can see myself sipping one of these concoctions out on the terrace on a late August evening. Ora will have a straight ginger ale. And there ought to be a beautiful sunset included for the price of the drinks: You should see Ora's face by twilight.