The "Young Guns" of the San Diego Cocktail Scene

The "Young Guns" of the San Diego Cocktail Scene

October 3, 2014 / Rachel Eva

For the first time in San Diego's cocktail competition history, the seasoned professionals were banned. Leigh wasn't allowed to sass his way through to victory - he was the bar back.

Last month Rumbling Tins Co. hosted the "Young Guns" cocktail competition at Sycamore Den, where eleven establishments gave up one of their protegés to duke it out by slinging spirits. The greenest among them, Thomas Donahue (he'd only been bartending for two weeks) 'somehow' pulled the short straw, and the game was on!


David Kinsey and Leigh Lacap of Rumbling Tins Co.


Sycamore Den was packed. It was sweaty, but we had cold beer, cocktails, and who can resist the smell of popcorn at a good show? The guys from Rumbling Tins Co. ran a great event, complete with a verbally profuse MC and theme songs for each competitor (Jackson makes drinks to Enya... ). George Dickel, Bulleit, and Talisker spirits were the sponsors. I'm pretty sure I heard Elliot Mizuki mention Dickel-backs before the event (is that why his shirt is wet? Oh, wait, that was the bottle pour.)


Jackson Milgaten of Turf Club - the Enya requester


Elliot Mizuki of Polite Provisions



Adele Stratton of Rare Form


The judges (Elise Bradley, Candice Woo, Ed "Dirt" Adams, and Alex Maynard) rated each of the contestants on three separate drinks, so after 33 sips of anything and everything, they were slightly besotted, blind, blotto, bombed, boozy, canned, cockeyed, crocked, fried, gassed, hammered,  juiced, lit up, loaded, looped, oiled, pickled, pie-eyed, potted, ripped, sottish, soused, sozzled, squiffed (or squiffy), stewed, stiff, stinking, tiddly, tight, wet, wiped out.  

So were everyone else - free pizza, snarky comments, passing cocktail samples; the bar was packed and sweating at the gills. Eric Johnson also made his debut as "DJ Shit."

The gentlemen and lady to be on the lookout for around San Diego are (in no particular order):

  • Elliot Mizuki (Polite Provisions)
  • Nick Fernandes (Coin-Op Game Room)
  • Nate Martins (Sycamore Den)
  • Keaton Matz (Bankers Hill)
  • John Dillon (Craft & Commerce)
  • Jackson Milgaten (Turf Supper Club)
  • Adele Stratton (Rare Form)
  • Thomas Donahue (Fairweather)
  • Joey Hoisescu (Ironside Fish & Oyster)
  • Kevin Nguyen (Prepkitchen)
  • Eric Giger  (Noble Experiment)

Keep your eyes on these ones, cocktail drinkers of San Diego. And three cheers to the winner of the competition, John Dillon of Craft & Commerce!


John Dillon of Craft & Commerce - 2014 Champion!


You can find one of John's drinks at a few bars throughout the month of October.  His cocktail, "Need a Hand," features Rye, Jäger Spice, Fresh Lemon, House Made Orgeat, and Angostura Bitters. Perhaps you'll need a hand with drinking it. These young bartenders do deserve a hand, so get out there and order some cocktails. May you all enjoy a long and prosperous career. Cheers!

Find John's cocktail "Need a Hand" here:

Oct 1 - 12: Sycamore Den (Normal Heights)

Oct 12 - 19: Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant (Bankers Hill)

Oct 19 - 26ish: Jaynes Gastropub (University Heights)


Nick Fernandes of Coin-Op Game Room - this guys makes some great drinks!


Thanks Shawn Michael for the photos of the event. 

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