32 Reasons to Visit The Lion’s Share
Bar manager Jason O’Bryan’s new menu is full of great cocktails
Lion Share's Mr. Peanut Butter cocktail. | Photo: Jason O’Bryan
When I ask Jason O’Bryan if we can meet up a little after 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, O’Bryan, the bar manager at The Lion’s Share, warns me he might be busy with patrons. That busy on a Tuesday at 4?, I wonder. So I show up a bit early and we chat for 20 minutes or so. Then, a few minutes to 4, O’Bryan makes sure all the candles in the dim bar area are lit and, at 4 p.m. exactly, folks start to wander in. Just after 4:30, nearly every seat at the bar is taken. And here’s the thing you don’t see often (ever?) at San Diego bars: No one orders a beer. Every single person is drinking a cocktail.
Open for five years, The Lion’s Share is a cozy, off-the-beaten-path bar and restaurant that’s consistently garnered praise — for it’s food, smart cocktails, and Edgar Allen Poe-esque décor. When I ask bartenders where they like to go for a cocktail, it’s one of the places that come up most often. “This isn’t a cocktail temple,” O’Bryan says. “It’s more of a bar that has great cocktails.”
The Lion’s Share’s new menu is O’Bryan’s first since becoming bar manager (he’s been working at TLS for a year and before that, Kettner Exchange and Urbn). He follows Robert Yumul (who was promoted to TLS’s general manager) and David Tye. (In October 2015, Tye released one of the most epic menus in San Diego craft-cocktail history.)
Of the 32 cocktails on the new menu, O’Bryan kept 12 Lion’s Share classics — including the Federal Buffalo Stamp, St Elizabeth’s Sexy Party, Monk’s Gone Wild, and Space Shuttle — and, like previous menus, organized cocktails by spirit (whiskey, gin, agave, rum, vodka). There’s a catch-all category (“Misc”) and a section called “The Spoils,” which features four cocktails, priced $18 to $20, made with with higher-end sprits or more complicated techniques. Consider it like a dessert menu for cocktail connoisseurs. For instance, the Tuxedo 47 is made with Monkey 47, a pricey-but-worth-it gin ($45 for a 375 ml bottle). The Hot Flash includes a mezcal made with rare Tepeztate agave. It’s prepared tableside with a bruléed egg-white top. Then there’s the Mr. Peanut Butter, made with peanut butter-infused Makers 46, Licor 43, chocolate mole bitters, and garnished with toasted marshmallows.
In each section, cocktails are organized top-to-bottom, easy to adventurous. One of O’Bryan’s favorites is Bitter Tears, a cocktail ranked “adventurous” in the whiskey section. Made with equal parts Japanese whiskey, pineapple rum, and Cynar, it’s potent, perfectly balanced (with just a touch of salt) and recommended for folks who love Cynar and similar bittersweet amari.
Another great cocktail is the Tom Yum Lins. O’Bryan traveled to Thailand recently for his honeymoon and wanted to make a cocktail featuring the flavors of Thai cuisine. The cocktail’s Kaffir lime and lemongrass syrup is perfect, and an ideal pairing for gin and St. George’s basil eau de vie.
The Mr. Manager is TLS Chef Johnny Dolan’s favorite. This take on a banana daiquiri, with maple filling in for simple syrup, is made with a blend of four rums that have been infused with banana, sous vide-style.
And for folks seeking out straight-up mezcal cocktails — a frequent request among TLS patrons, O’Bryan says — try the Bandolier. This take on a martini is made with mezcal, Ancho Reyes Verde, and Yzaguirre blanco vermouth. O’Bryan, who says he “obsesses over minutiae” decided on Yzaguirre after doing side-by-side tastings with a bar regular, trying out different brands of vermouth until the found the one that matched his vision for the cocktail.
“I don’t want somebody to have a better version of my drink,” he says. “I want it to be the best it’ll ever be.”
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