14 Best Cocktail Bars in San Diego, CA [2022]


Best Cocktail Bars in San Diego

San Diego is one of the finest places on the West Coast (and maybe the world) to enjoy a cocktail in a hip new bar. The Gaslamp Quarter offers an incredible selection of bars and watering holes with expert mixologists. If you’re looking for a speakeasy old-fashioned or a new modern concoction, San Diego will always deliver.

As the city reopens fully and regulars and visitors head out for evening libations, there are several places you should investigate for the most spectacular new cocktails. This guide will show you the places to head for the ultimate night out, whether it’s a night with friends or a hot first date.

Related: Gaslamp Quarter San Diego Events Calendar [2021]

Fifth and Rose at The Pendry

Fifth & Rose at the Pendry Hotel

The Fifth and Rose is a classic cocktail bar located in the elegant Pendry Hotel. This bar is the perfect choice for a date with candlelit fare and fresh roses adorning each table. The bartenders are known for creating exquisite and unique cocktails, including their Northern Lights, Winter in Singapore, and Moulin Rose. The Fifth and Rose will offer a sophisticated night out for any occasion. The Fifth and Rose location on J Street in the Gaslamp Quarter makes it perfect for exploring the other offerings on our list as well. 

Looking to impress your date in the Gaslamp Quarter? Stop by Sparks Gallery to view our art exhibitions or rent our venue for a private party or event

Altitude Sky Lounge

Altitude Sky Lounge

The Altitude Sky Lounge is an incredibly fun bar with rooftop views of the San Diego skyline. The bar is on the roof of the Gaslamp Marriott Hotel, 22 stories above the beautiful city. The bar itself is expansive, with lounge couches, firepits, and nooks for intimate conversation. The panoramic views in the LGBTQ-friendly bar are matched only by the novel cocktail menu that will impress even the most discerning patrons. Their cocktails include the Solartini, Millionaire Mojito, and Electric Screwdriver.

The Noble Experiment Speakeasy

Noble Experiment

The Noble Experiment is a hidden speakeasy on the eastern edge of the Gaslamp Quarter. Those that can find their way in the secret door on G Street will be rewarded with an amazing time in an eclectically decorated cocktail bar. Although the bar is a little more hush-hush than others, patrons can still reserve a spot on a busy night for Noble Experiment and should be able to find it easily with a little detective work.  

Shout House Piano Bar

The Shout House

The Shout House piano bar is as fun as the name suggests. Shout House offers patrons much more than cocktails. They have a full menu of burgers, pizza, and appetizers as well. It’s perfect for a fun dinner on the town for those with an appetite. Their bar wizards can whip up their flagship cocktails like Blue Suede Shoes, Californication, and Raspberry Beret. This is perfect for not-so-quiet nights out and catching shows like dueling pianos, rock and roll singalongs, and more. 

Dobson’s Bar & Restaurant

Dobson’s Bar & Restaurant

Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant is located in Spreckels Theater in the Gaslamp Quarter. For 36 years, the establishment has been known for its fine dining and cocktails to die for. Perfect for a fancy night on the town, customers can expect Dobson’s to deliver on delectable cocktails, entrees, and apps like Linguini au Crevettes and Shrimp & Mushroom Ajillo. The cocktail menu includes drinks like their utterly classy Showtime and Intermission. Dobson’s is the perfect place to head before or after catching a show at the theater.

The Nolen Rooftop Bar

The Nolen

The Nolen is an incredibly beautiful establishment featuring a rooftop bar atop the Courtyard Marriott. The panoramic views span from Petco Park to Coronado bridge, making it an airy and exciting place to imbibe. The Nolen is an excellent place to grab a bite and a drink before heading further into the Gaslamp. Their modern cocktail selection includes unique drinks like Smoke and a Smile, Storyville, and You Had Me at Aloe. This bar is located across from the Pendry Hotel and Fifth and Rose, so you can check out both menus before choosing your favorite. 

Related: The 10 Best Corporate Event Spaces In San Diego

The Smoking Gun SD

The Smoking Gun San Diego
The Smoking Gun SD

This restaurant and cocktail bar combo provides some of the best eats and drinks in the Gaslamp. Known for traditional American fare like burgers, wings, and cheesesteaks, The Smoking Gun is the perfect stop after a Padres game. Located in the heart of the Gaslamp, the bar is also an amazing stop on a night out for lovingly made cocktails like their Revolver, One in a Melon, and A Salt With a Deadly Weapon. The restaurant is becoming a San Diego classic and provides great hospitality. 

Juan Tequila Bar & Restaurant

Juan Tequila Bar & Restaurant

The Juan Tequila Restaurant and Bar is perfect for those who love tequila and mezcal cocktails. The highly reviewed bar provides an elegant ambiance and even better drinks for patrons. They have a full list of tiki drinks and Mexican-inspired cocktails. Their classic Juan Solo marg will pair perfectly with their authentic tacos. This bar will be one of your new go-tos if you love quality Mexican food and drinks.

Rustic Root Restaurant & Rooftop Bar

Rustic Root SD

Last but certainly not least, Rustic Root provides comfort food and cocktails with a unique California twist. They offer a full dinner menu with seafood entrees, salads, and vegetarian pasta. Enjoy comfort food like southern corn fritters and fried chicken with one of their signature cocktails: The Matriarch, A Lover’s Flannel, or The Bold and Beautiful.

Metl

Metl

Metl is an upscale dive that even the locals will battle the tourists in the Gaslamp District to eat its delicious Tex-Mex food, Agave & Whisky crafted cocktails and out-of-this-world boozy ice creams. For more unique desserts, you can hit their creamery and bar in North Park. A rock-n-roll themed bar, Metl is a fun place to take the whole family, with a special menu for kids and dogs.

Metl offers a spirited cocktail list, boozy slushies, your favorite beers, and a complimentary wine list. For a taste of the wild side, order a Born to Be Wild cocktail that mixes Illegal Mezcal, cucumber, lime, and Serrano peppers or a Get Off My Cloud that features Smoked Old Fashioned with Makers Mark, brown sugar, bitters, and zest.

But what really draws a crowd is its cocktail creamery that boasts over 40 spirit-infused ice creams. Try their Batanga ice cream that mixes tequila, Mexican Coke, and lime or the decadent Chocolate Marshmallow that blends rum, milk chocolate, marshmallow, Illegal Mezcal Dulce de Leche, and toffee. Metl also offers gluten-free and vegan flavors for the most sensitive palettes.

Seating at Metl is first-come, first-serve, but they will accept reservations for large parties. The restaurant allows dine-in and takeout, and the kitchen stays open until 10 pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The bar is open until 2 am on weekends.

False Idol

False Idol

False Idol is a hidden speakeasy within the Craft & Commerce bar in Little Italy. You’ll have to enter a walk-in cooler stashed with citrus, pineapples, and jars of (fake) human heads to find the secret entrance to this over-the-top tiki bar.

A tiki-themed bar with Polynesian artifacts, tiki décor, and intricate wood carvings, you’ll feel transported into an immersive environment that invokes adventure. The entrance even dazzles with a rock, water, and fire feature that will capture your imagination.

False Idol has a tempting menu of tropical cocktails, exceptionally strong cocktails, and cocktails you can share with friends for a memorable night. You can also purchase some of their souvenir glassware and tiki mugs.

You’ll want a reservation to guarantee your spot but False Idol also allows walk-ins. You can grab some dinner at Craft & Commerce while you wait to get into the exclusive bar. False Idol is open from 6 pm – 2 am every night.

Understory

Understory

Located at the Sky Deck in the heart of the restaurant collection in the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, Understory is a modern bar that offers an inspired collection of cocktails and fine wine. Now offering a late-night cocktail program called Nocturnal that features shot-sized nightcaps for rousing late nights.

Designed as a modern tree canopy, or middle layer of a forest, the bar invokes a natural environment with a sophisticated flair that will impress your friends. Modern tree sculptures dazzle from above, and the dark wood furniture creates a posh atmosphere. While enjoying the forest-inspired decor, you can also listen to regular acoustic music performances.

Understory’s Nocturnal collection will feature three cocktails that will change seasonally. But each nightcap will always be vodka-based, whiskey-based, or tequila-based. These small nightcaps are only offered after 9 pm and are reasonably priced at $1 for the first and $5 for each additional.

With only 85 seats, Understory requires a reservation. If you secure a spot, you can also order food from any of Sky Deck’s nine restaurants using an app. Open until midnight every night; Understory is a bar you don’t want to miss.

The Realm of the 52 Remedies

The Realm

In the Convoy District, Realm of the 52 Remedies is a speakeasy hiding in plain sight. Designed by Michael Soriano, the elaborate hidden entrance is located at the back of Kearny Mesa’s Common Theory Public House, hidden within The Apothecary. Realm of the 52 Remedies is a fusion of Art Deco and ancient Chinese and Korean culture

Be transported back in time sitting at the opulent jade bar to enjoy the mixology or hiding away in a private booth resembling a giant lotus flower for intimate conversations. Rustic wood, opulent silk, and flickering lanterns create an experience your friends will talk about long after you’ve left.

Realm of the 52 Remedies offers a wide variety of unusual cocktails and a unique collection of trending cocktails called the Remedies for Your Ailments. If you prefer a more traditional drink, you can select a drink from the Prescriptions From the Old Days or try a modern classic from the Modern Remedies Around the World collection. 

Because Realm of the 52 Remedies is a popular spot, you should make reservations to guarantee seating. You can book reservations up to two weeks in advance, and walk-ins are welcome but difficult. A reservation guarantees you a two-hour time limit, and all guests must be present prior to seating.

Waverly

Waverly

If beachside is more your style, then you’ll need to hit Waverly. Located in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Waverly is a laid-back, breezy restaurant and lounge that serves progressive American cuisine with a hint of European influence. It’s a bit of a drive outside of San Diego, but the relaxed beach vibes more than justify the trip.

The ambiance of Waverly has an open-air, sophisticated beach vibe with warm woods, sea glass tones, and soft lighting. Sit on the patio or reserve a comfortable booth that can seat large parties. This is an eatery you don’t want to miss.

Waverly also boasts a notable cocktail menu that continues to wow guests. From their fruit-infused cocktails, extensive wine list, and non-alcoholic options, guests can find a refreshing drink no matter the time of day. Try a rum-infused brew, flavorful mescal, or the Kona Old Fashion that mixes bourbon, mole, and macadamia nut.
Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended to guarantee seating, especially for larger parties because space is limited. Waverly opens at 11 am on weekdays and 9 am on weekends. However, Waverly isn’t your late-night stop because it closes at 10 pm on weekdays and 11 on weekends.

Need the perfect venue rental in the Gaslamp Quater for your event? Sparks Gallery’s urban location is in the center of downtown, among many lovely cocktail bars and restaurants.

Downtown San Diego offers cocktail lovers some of the best options around. The Gaslamp Quarter is a famous location for hosting parties from around the world as well. We are pleased to welcome you to our neighborhood on your next outing. 

Related: The Best San Diego Museums [2021]