Dr. Ink | Come On Get Happy!
For every 10 craft cocktails I raise to my lips, only one or two typically pass muster. The problem I have with most of them is that their cloying syrups and flavored spirits oftentimes scream from the forefront. And where sugar rims come into play, count me out.
But there’s a new cocktail menu in town that keeps the sweet factor at bay, or at least quells it with a few extra doses of citrus, bitters and spices in ways I rarely encounter.
If saccharine drinks aren’t your thing either, say hello to Heat Bar & Kitchen.
The cocktail list was recently created by nationally acclaimed mixologist Tricia Alley, who came down from Los Angeles to share her tricks of the trade with the bar staff. She left in her wake nearly a dozen concoctions that combine sparkling sake with hibiscus flowers (Blooming Heat), American Harvest Vodka with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice (Harvest Greyhound) and Broker’s Gin with prosecco, peach puree, fresh lemon juice, bitters and a few other ingredients (Peaches and Bubbles).
The drinks range from $8 to $12, although during happy hour they’re $2 off. A cohort and I imbibed on four of them, including the lightly floral sake drink, with each seemingly topping the other in terms of flavor.
Nutmeg added a novel and bewitching twist to the icy Blacklist Punch, made with white and dark rums, pomegranate, ruby grapefruit juice and bitters. Like with the others we tried, it went down dangerously fast.
For those with an aversion to bourbon, the Sam’s Smash completely camouflages the peaty flavor of the whiskey with passion fruit puree, mint, lemon and a tincture of blackberry crème de mure. We found it remarkably bright and refreshing.
Non-cloying ginger syrup and perhaps a touch of shaved ginger gave rise to the American Mule, made with a feisty pour of American Harvest Vodka and served in a silver mug. The drink is laced also with passion fruit puree, lime juice and Angostura bitters – an idyllic cool-down for the muggy days of August.
The food menu was recently revised by Chef Pasqual Courtin, who runs Heat with his partner Sam Khorish — socially adept guys that mingle cheerfully with their customers within a stylish, orange-lit environment offering ample seating on banquettes, communal high tops, a bar and outdoor patio.
Items from the discounted snack menu average $6. The turmeric-marinated chicken skewers, served three to an order, were outstanding. Ditto for the stout-braised pork sliders topped with apple-horseradish coleslaw. We also nibbled on Heat’s signature potato chips, thin waffle cuts served with light aioli.
With some of San Diego’s best cocktails sloshing in our stomachs, the good food became necessary for walking out the door in a straight line.