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What to Get at Liberty Public Market's New Booze Boutique

Grape Smuggler focuses on small-batch and craft distilleries


Grape Smuggler's well-curated liquor selection. | Photo: Kelly Davis

So, I’ll admit to recently hitting up CVS for a quick liquor cabinet restock. They’ve got the best prices on Dickel #12 whiskey and Espolon tequila, our house “well” brands. But, I’ve long wished for a local, well-curated liquor store. Not that San Diego doesn’t have some great independent spots to buy good booze—Mona Lisa for amaros, Old Town Liquor for tequila and mezcal, K ’n’ B in Del Cerro and downtown’s Krisp for everything else. But there’s something to be said for a thoughtful, can’t-find-anywhere-else selection.

Located in the northwest corner of Liberty Public Market, the wine-focused Grape Smuggler has recently added several shelves of small-batch and craft spirits. The selection is small but growing. Greg Majors, beverage director for Blue Bridge Hospitality, the co-developer of Liberty Public Market, carefully chose each item.

“Everything on the shelf, we’ve tasted and analyzed,” he said.

Cocktail recipe books | Photo: Kelly Davis

Looking to make a great Manhattan? Try Oola Waitsburg bourbon. Want a sipping gin? Try Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill. Love Aperol and Campari? Grab a bottle of Cappelletti. Throwing a cocktail party and want to nail a recipe? Majors and his staff are ready to offer suggestions. (And, in addition to the small-but-growing booze selection, they also sell cocktail books and bar tools.)

Majors also created the cocktail menu at Mess Hall, Liberty Public Market’s large restaurant that highlights daily offerings from market vendors. It’s an approachable, season-focused menu. Majors’s favorites include the holiday-appropriate Wry Apple, made with Rittenhouse rye, Pommeau (an apple brandy), and AZ Bitters Lab’s Figgy Pudding bitters, and the Kentucky Bee, a take on a classic gin-based Bee’s Knees, made with Buffalo Trace, ginger, lemon, and a honey-cardamom syrup.

Are the prices at Grape Smuggler a little higher than what you’d find at, say, BevMo? Yeah, but not by much. A 375 ml bottle of Carpano Antica sweet vermouth is $20 here and $15 to $17 at larger shops. Is it worth a few extra bucks to support a local business? Hopefully, yes.

Got suggestions for a future post? Write to 2kellydavis@gmail.com.

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