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Raising the Bar

NYC transplants look to bring a taste of Manhattan to SD—and we’re not talking Big Apple-tinis


Erin Williams and Bek Allen bore firsthand witness to the evolution of NYC’s thriving mixology scene, logging time at Soho’s famed Pegu Club. It’s there they slung drinks and honed their skills under the tutelage of P.C.’s renowned owner and mix-master, Audrey Saunders. That experience inspired them to venture to a city with an emerging cocktail scene—our own—to follow Saunders’ model, and do their part to boost San Diego to the next level.

Enter Hush Cocktails, San Diego’s first women-owned and operated cocktail development company. Just months after moving to SD, they’ve already been tapped to establish the mixology program at Saltbox (1047 5th Ave., inside Hotel Palomar). There’ll be a number of original drinks, but the main thrust at this new gastro-lounge will be modern takes on age-old recipes. That’s fitting considering it’s those time-tested classics that first piqued Williams’ interests in adult beverages and continue to inspire her.

“In the beginning, I used recipes from long-lost books to make my first Sidecar, Hot Toddy, and a Salty Dog with a very old bottle of Boodles gin, and I continue to use the books as my guide to make, and perfect, the classics,” says Williams. “I think it’s important for people to be able to familiarize themselves with the cocktails of old. Without the Sour, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Martini, we wouldn’t even have a cocktail resurgence.”

With their first big gig under their belts, the dynamic duo (who are also a couple) have been able to breathe a little easier and take in their new digs. Their impressions of San Diego so far? “We love it here,” says Allen. “Everyone is friendly, the weather is beautiful, and there is so much potential.” Much as the classics excite her partner, it’s the future of places that are perfectly suited for mixology greatness that excite Allen. “This town is full of Xanadus—the amazing mid-century dives that look as if they’ve been preserved by a curator on the inside. It’s like stepping back in time. All these places need are great cocktails and bartenders who care about the craft.”

She points to the Red Fox Room and Hillcrest’s long-forgotten sore thumb, Pernicano’s, which she dreams of reopening with an amazing cocktail program. Transplants are commonplace in San Diego, but newcomers like these have the vision to help us grow upward as well as outward.

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