Leroy's Kitchen & Lounge in Coronado was still a shell when Emily Tracy started dreaming up its cocktail menu last June. The makeshift bar area, where she'd offer the staff tastes of her creations, was a card table and egg crates full of liquor.
"It was a very interesting process," she laughs.
Tracy, who has a degree in marine and coastal management from the University of Rhode Island, moved to San Diego after college, intent on pursing something in that field, but a bartending job at the Hotel Del eventually landed her a job helping open Barra Barra Saloon in Old Town. There, she met renowned San Diego mixologist and tequila expert Jen Queen.
"I thought I loved tequila before I met Jen, and then I fell in love with it after she educated us," Tracy says. "There's a lot of history and tradition behind it, and a lot of people just drink, like, Patron," she says.
Tracy parlayed her experience at Barra Barra into a management position at Leroy's (1015 Orange Ave.). With it came the task of creating the cocktail menu—and a chance to highlight some interesting tequilas. The Burra Diabla, for instance, is made with Gran Centenario Rosangel, which is aged in port barrels and infused with hibiscus. To that, Tracy added ginger beer, muddled Serrano chili and lime for some bite and spice. The Maestro de Diamante is her take on a Cadillac margarita, made with the unusual Maestro Dobel, an aged tequila that's filtered until it's clear.
"It's really good; it's very balanced," she says. The cocktail menu is a mix of classics with a twist, like the Basil Gimlet, seasonal drinks—like fall's Corsage (Oronco Rum, St. Germain, lime, apple cider and mint)—and Tracy's creations, like the Cherry Vanilla Cream Soda, with house-made cherry-and-vanilla-infused bourbon and cream soda.
Tracy doesn't consider herself a mixologist—being the manager means she's more often looking at a stack of paperwork than bottles of interesting booze. "Cocktail creator" is a better term, she says.
"I've been in the business for a long time and enjoy it. It's still a fun thing for me—it's time to go behind the the bar and start making the list for next season."