6 Highlights from Craft & Commerce's Updated Cocktail Menu
The recently reopened Little Italy restaurant has something for everyone
The back bar area in the redesigned Craft & Commerce. | Photo: Zack Benson
Craft & Commerce, which reopened a few weeks ago after a year-long makeover, still has the saloon / soda shop / grandpa’s library design aesthetic that won it a 2011 Grand Orchid from the San Diego Architectural Foundation. Some things have changed: There’s more space, a second bar area and hidden tiki spot False Idol (for more on that, see last week’s SD Sips column).
One thing hasn’t changed: They still don’t serve vodka. Not a drop.
Still—and despite Craft & Commerce’s tradition of top-notch cocktails—Red Bull and vodka dominates drink orders, says general manager Scott Wheeler. To win over folks stuck in that rut, Wheeler and his team aimed to create a menu with wide appeal.
“There is a drink on the menu for everybody,” he says. “They just have to be willing to take a leap of faith.”
Here are some highlights from the 20-cocktail menu:
The classic: Eastern Prospector
What’s in it: Orange chai-infused bourbon, honey, lemon
You can’t go wrong with bourbon and orange. This take on a Gold Rush, created by Christian Siglin years ago—he’s now across the street at Bracero—was one of C&C’s most popular cocktails. It’s one of four cocktails that remain from the original menu.
Classic, option #2: The C&C Old Fashioned
What’s in it: Bourbon, brown sugar, peach balsamic, spiced bitters
You can’t go wrong with an Old Fashioned, either. This one's made with C&C’s Woodford Reserve private barrel bourbon. The peach balsamic is from Baker & Olive in Encinitas. Since C&C reopened, this has been one of their most popular drinks, Wheeler says.
On the lighter side: Lip Reader
What’s in it: Gin, pamplemousse rose, lemon, absinthe, champagne
Giffard’s Creme de Pamplemousse rose makes any cocktail magical. This is one of Wheeler’s favorites and includes a “healthy dose” of St. George’s absinthe.
Mezcal fans: Man Hands
What’s in it: Mezcal, Amontillado sherry, Gran Classico, Peychaud’s bitters
This riff on a Negroni—with mezcal standing in for gin, Amontillado sherry replacing sweet vermouth, and Gran Classico filling the role of Campari—is another one of Wheeler’s favorites.
Gin and tonic fans: Gin & Chronic
What’s in it: Cucumber-infused gin, hemp and quinine tincture, lemon, soda
Wheeler was trying to come up with a creative way to construct a classic gin and tonic. He steeped cinchona bark—which contains the quinine that gives tonic its bite—in high-proof alcohol and then fat-washed it with hemp oil. The resulting tincture has a lovely nutty and mildly citrus flavor. Add some soda for bubbles and it’s “better than any tonic you could ever buy,” he says.
Moscow Mule fans: Chilcano
What’s in it: Yerba mate-infused pisco, ginger, lime, Angostura bitters, soda
The Chilcano is so popular in Peru, it’s got its own official week. For C&C’s take on this South American classic, Wheeler infused pisco with smokey, caffeinated yerba mate, making it a good option for folks needing a little kick from their cocktail.
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