Au revoir, Se Hotel. The building at 1047 Fifth Ave. is now called Palomar, and while the gargantuan doors and offbeat interior are similar, the food and drinks inside the restaurant and bar, Saltbox Dining & Drinking, are different (and, in this case, different is good).
Erin Williams is the new savant behind the bar, and she's managed to initiate a cocktail program that's both accessible and inventive.
“It's simple, but still edgy,” Williams says, sliding me a bar menu. “Because as much as the cocktail culture in San Diego is growing, I feel like the consumers aren't super educated about it yet.”
For that reason, the former New Yorker is taking things slowly, giving patrons the classics but always adding her own twist. If you're a whiskey sour gal like me, Saltbox's version comes with all the regular ingredients (albeit top-shelf) and a cute little peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich garnish. It's part of a cocktail menu called “Drinking with the Stars,” and the inspiration for the PB&J addition comes from the flick The Seven Year Itch.
Williams has thrown in a few more complicated cocktails, including the excellent “Off the Beet'en Path” (saffron-infused gin, yuzu, ginger, beet brine, orange juice, elderflower syrup, bitters and hibiscus salt), but mostly the drinks are tame, yet entertaining.
“I wanted the menu to be fun,” she says. “You know, we're not curing cancer; we're making drinks.”
Mixologist Jeff Josenhans keeps giving me reasons to put his name in print. The man behind the bar at Grant Grill (326 Broadway, Downtown) might be the first ever to bottle a cocktail. Just as home and craft brewers let their concoctions ferment and get all flavorful and bubbly in the comfort of a tightly sealed bottle, Josenhans brings us what he's calling Cocktails Sur Lie, which includes a Mule in a Bottle and a Smokin' Pumpkin. Look for the bottled cocktails at Grant Grill come January.
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