In all seriousness, I'm not a big fan of pineapple or banana, and he made a drink with both. And it's my favorite. Go figure.
The Pineapple Expression is getting a lot of well-deserved attention, and I think it has something to do with that banana cinnamon syrup (oh yeah). It's a summery, tiki-style cocktail, delightful and refreshing, with the spice of the cinnamon adding something very nostalgic to the citrusy, mildly sweet drink. If my mother made cocktails after school instead of freshly baked cookies, they would have been something like this.
Johnson plays with switching up spirits on the new menu; a cocktail like the Pineapple Expression might normally be made with rum (the king spirit of tiki drinks), but this one? Tequila. Johnson says, "you're used to getting a rum pineapple drink, and you're used to getting a spicy margarita-style drink with tequila, so I wanted to mix it up a bit."
So where has the rum gone? Delightfully savory, with a bit of spice, the Rum Garden is made with white rum, lime, celery syrup, and a bit of that serrano spice from San Diego local Boy Drinks World bitters company. The celery and serrano pair well; it's refreshing to have some savory options for those of us that can't handle a lot of sugar.
Speaking of sugar, none of the drinks were too sweet for my low-tolerance taste. Those on the sweeter side were bright and balanced, and thoroughly enjoyed. Tall Tale might have been the sweetest, with rye, lemon and bitters keeping the apricot liqueur and orgeat at bay.
Other originals include top-of-the-menu First Class, with cognac, lime, pomegranate, and fernet-branca rinse, which was refreshingly different (not typically a pom fan either!), and White Summer, with bourbon, vanilla, ginger, lime and mole bitters, a simple and delicious play off a highball, that made me feel all bubbly and sunshiny.
The menu also covers scotch, rye, gin, and vodka, the latter in this stunning cocktail, Under the Rose, which is finished with a mist of rose water that's slightly intoxicating (in a twitterpated kind of way) just by drinking in the smell.
Overall, a bright little menu that's very approachable for those newer to cocktails, but that sneaks in little happy moments for the discerning tippler. And don't wait too long if you see something here you like! With the variety of seasonal ingredients increasing in the coming months, new seasonal cocktails will pop up on the menu weekly, and others may rotate off to make room.
For other hot cocktail spots in San Diego right now, Candice Woo over at the Eater has collected 10 greats for immediate exploration: Where to Drink Right Now
All photos copyright Shawn Michael Michael.