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First Look: Rendezvous

Downtown gets a 1930s French bar from two of the city’s top cocktail minds


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When people think of the craft cocktail scene in San Diego, they think of the hip, trendy places like Craft & Commerce, Lion’s Share, Whisknladle, etc. Rightly so. But two of the top cocktail minds—Jeff Josenhans and Cory Alberto—have, for years, been doing the most elaborate, innovative things in the stately Old World confines of The US Grant hotel downtown. It’s a comely grand dame of a property, where wealthy people’s wealthy grandparents met for lunch over mock turtle soup and made deals that made the city. But it’s never been the realm of the everyman.

Now the Grant has built a come-one-come-all concept at street level to showcase the work of those two cocktail scientists. (It’s a grand assignation, I realize, but they really are doing science experiments, like barrel-aging cocktails, bottle-fermenting cocktails, making their own Chartreuse, etc.) Called Rendezvous, it’s a more casual (yet still well-designed) bar for people who love the style of the 1930s and everything French.

Located inside The US Grant facing Broadway and Horton Plaza Park, Rendezvous has a replica of a 1930s neon sign above their entrance, an homage to the bar that existed here 90 years ago during Prohibition—then called Rendezvous, The Wonder Bar.

The decor will be gold and brass and leather, with sofas ripe for living rooms, a custom modern gramophone “jukebox,” communal tables, local art, and live music. A cart will roam the room mixing tableside cocktails, including the signature US Grant Manhattan (aged in barrels for 100 days), Fantome de Veracruz (reposado tequila, Lillet Blanc, ancho reyes, dry curaçao, Amère Sauvage), The Golden Rooster (Bastille single-malt whiskey, Green Chartreuse, Le Coq d’Or Pineau des Charentes, and Transatlantic Bitters), and the New Orleans classic, Vieux Carre.

Their menu is divided into:

Cocktails featuring absinthe, gins, bourbons, armagnac, brandy, and sprinkled with Lillet Blanc, ranging from $10 to $12.

Punch Bowls, including the Monkey Party (rhum agricole, dry curaçao, Yellow Chartreuse, crème de banane, Sauternes, lemon, and soda) and Epée d’Excalibur (cognac, claret wine, Bénédictine, Pimm’s No. 1, Domaine Sainté Rouge, cabernet nectar, and soda).

Wines, a focused selection of French standouts in sparkling (Bouvet Crémant de Loire), white (Pascal Jolivet “Attitude” Sauvignon Blanc), rosé (Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc), a red (Jeff Carrel Les Darons Grenache Blend) and Champagne by the bottle (four of varying affordability, starting at Bernard Tornay Blanc de Noirs for $140, and topping out at Krug Grande Cuvée for $370).

Beer & Cider, with cask ales and The US Grant’s own cider, a collaboration with Julian Hard Cider aged in French oak barrels.

Off the Record. Now this is interesting. Starting in November, it’ll be a “Bartender’s Fromage.” Basically a cheese plate with bar ingredients: Chartreuse jam, riesling-absinthe nectar, calvados-infused apples to go with gourmet cheese (first one will be seven ounces of Saint Andre). Feeds three to four people for $40.

Rendezvous will open with a Halloween party on October 31 at 7 p.m. Tickets available here. 326 Broadway, Downtown.

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