Drinking a cold and delicious drink is fantastic any time of year but in no season is it more satisfying than summer, when sweltering temperatures and lame wall air-conditioners force us out to mingle with the sweaty masses and down copious quantities of cool, refreshing beverages. As a service to the community, I hit the streets to find the best places to chill on sunny summer days and sultry summer nights and chat with local experts who poured me some of their favorite thirst quenchers.
Some may say that Blair, owner and resident beer guru at Hamilton's Tavern (1521 30th St., South Park) is a little nuts about beer. Call me crazy, but after a few hours spent tasting his personal summer beer recommendations, I'm ready to worship the stuff, too. I have to admit that my go-to summer brews are usually a light beer or Hefeweizen, so I'm thankful for the introduction to some highly drinkable options that favor craft over mass-production.
New entries on my must-drink list are the Full Sail Session Lager, a brisk "lawn-mowing beer," Blair says, that seems tailor-made for blistering summer days. At only $3, you can afford to crack open a few frosty bottles. A lighter, less-filling alternative to Hefeweizen, the Avery White Rascal Witbier, has delicious flavors of orange peel and spices and was terrifically refreshing. My friend Doug and I went bonkers for the sour beers, including the fancy-sounding Duchesse de Bourgogne, an ale with a sweet tang reminiscent of balsamic vinegar. I think Blair may have explained how this beer is fermented, but I couldn't really hear him over my buzz. Blair does have some use for macrobeers like Corona Light, employing the watery brew in his rocking version of an icy Michelada, a Mexican beer cocktail flavored with a few drops each of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, plus a sprinkling of chili powder, sea salt and a few juicy lime wedges. An expertly pulled pint or two, sipped in the cool interior of Hamilton's might create the ideal lazy summer afternoon.
My wine buddy Chili and I had been eagerly awaiting the opening of Wine Steals' new golf course-adjacent location (2970 Truxtun Road, Point Loma), so we rushed over to check it out on our first free afternoon. The interior space is airy and bright, with high ceilings and lots of comfy cushioned barstools. Outside on the wide patio are umbrella-shaded tables and low lounge chairs where I envision many days turning into nights throughout the summer.
On Sundays, $10 can buy you six tastes of wine. Wine Steals' founder, Ken, kindly took us through a lineup of his favorites to quaff in the heat. Drinking crisp Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier is like putting a cool towel on the forehead, and I could drink a barely sweet Riesling all day long. Rose wines are no longer uncool now that they're not the syrupy version of yesteryear, and tart Spanish Albarinos are the new it summer wine. Even Pinot Noirs on the lighter side are great for drinking in hotter weather.
Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby fell on the same day this year so, naturally, that meant both margaritas and mint juleps were in order. Anyone can sling a drink, but when I'm in the mood for the perfect cocktail, I go see Mike at Nine-Ten (910 Prospect St., La Jolla).
The bar at Nine-Ten is, at least by La Jolla standards, a relatively mellow and down-to-earth place, and the faithful flock to this intimate spot for the fruity but not frou-frou drinks at which Mike excels. Regulars know Mike is brilliant with mojitos-from strawberry to my favorite, blood orange-and also makes a mean margarita. He'll custom-crush ice for proper mint juleps and hand-whip cream for Irish coffees-it's awesome. The guy even tastes (sanitarily) nearly every drink he puts out just to make sure they're as they should be. Mike will likely give up bartending once he finishes his degree at UCSD, and when that time comes, I will definitely be bummed. And thirsty.