New Menu at Hundred Proof is ‘A Preview of What’s to Come’
Stephen Kurpinsky has big plans for the University Heights bar
Stephen Kurpinsky behind the bar at Hundred Proof | Photo by Kelly Davis
It’s a Tuesday afternoon in early September, and Stephen Kurpinsky’s deftly peeling large slices of lemon rind that’ll he’ll to use to make an oleo saccharum, the magical ingredient that is to cocktails what a good broth is to soups. It’s his second day on the job as beverage manager at University Heights bar and restaurant Hundred Proof.
A few weeks earlier, Kurpinsky had announced he was leaving George’s at the Cove to take the new gig. It was one of the more surprising moves in the San Diego bartending scene—in the five years he was there, Kurpinksy transformed the La Jolla restaurant’s cocktail program and made its Level 2 bar a craft cocktail destination. Each month, he brought in guest bartenders from San Diego, Tijuana, and beyond to create special menus for their monthly Craft at the Cove events. And, with the help of colleague Sam Peters, last December Kurpinksy introduced an ambitious 23-cocktail menu inspired by San Diego neighborhoods that was presented as a glossy, hardbound coffee table book.
Kurpinsky says that after five years at George’s, it was time for something new.
Hundred Proof’s sister restaurant, Trust, opened with an impressive cocktail menu, but HP never really gained solid footing.
Kurpinsky embraced the idea of overhauling Hundred Proof’s cocktail program. Right off the bat, he rolled out four cereal-inspired brunch cocktails: Cinnamon Toast Punch, Fruit Loop Fizz, Rice Tikis, and the Crunch Berry Clover Club, a twist on the classic made with Arizona Distilling Commerce Gin, lemon, Crunch Berry Cordial (raspberries and Crunch Berries cereal) and egg white. Last Thursday, he introduced a new menu. Kurpinsky says he was aiming for something approachable, yet “complex and interesting.” Highlights include the Sonora Smash, made with carrot and lemon juice, mint, ginger, honey, Sichuan pepper, and newcomer Ōme Spirits’ excellent Bacanora. The Seasonal Old Fashioned gets its fall flavors from smoked black pepper and baked apple bitters. And for something more adventurous, try the French Colada, made with Château Arton Unaged Armagnac (“I love using it in cocktails that usually call for a funky, or agricole rhum,” Kurpinsky says), lime, coconut cream, pineapple, absinthe, and bubbles.
“The menu is really a preview of what’s to come at Hundred Proof,” he says. “We’re already working on something much larger and unique, but the style and creative direction seen on this menu is absolutely where we’re headed.”
Kurpinsky’s also scheduled a lineup of events. Monday, October 15, he hosted Gaby Mlynarczyk for a signing of her new book, Clean + Dirty Drinking, and a guest shift. On October 22, he’ll be joined by Polite Provisions’ Erick Castro. And on October 29, he’s collaborating with Brooke Arthur and Erin Haynes of House Spirits for a Halloween-themed menu.
As for George’s, Kurpinsky says he’s confident they’ll continue what he started, with general manager/bar manager Sam Peters taking the helm.
“That’s my reputation, too, that’s my family,” he says. “It’s important to me that they do well. I wouldn’t have left if I didn’t feel they had it.”
Peters says he plans to continue Craft at the Cove. On Tuesday, October 23, he’s bringing in Campari America’s Joshua Carlos for a guest bartending shift featuring Espolòn tequila cocktails. And Peters says he’s working with his team on a new concept menu, due to launch in November, that will showcase regional botanicals. He said the book will include historical content and “the value and reasoning behind using culinary products and methods in our cocktail builds.”
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