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Clockwise from left, Encinitas bartenders Scarlett Hannon, Luke Barger, Rosie Harrison, Liz Trujillo, Ryan House and Amber Munnelly. Photos by David Boylan
ColumnsLick the Plate

Lick the Plate’s go-to cocktails in Encinitas

I’ve always been a fan of a well-made cocktail. Be it an old-school classic with no frills or maybe an updated twist on a classic or something craftier with a name and ingredient combination that is straight out of the hipster bar playbook. If it tastes good, fits nicely with the season, and goes down easy I’m a happy guy. I always enjoy asking, during the appropriate time of year of course, to have my barkeep mix me something “Autumnal.”  It just sounds so elegant.

As with restaurants, I like to keep a nice lowbrow/highbrow mix going when I go out for drinks. I kept that in mind when I came up with the idea for this column along with where I would feed the cocktail-fueled appetite brought on by imbibing in a few of these at each location. I’ll put out one big disclaimer here before we get into the goods of this column. There is absolutely no excuse in this day and age with  the convenience of Uber and Lyftt or a good old-fashioned cab for that matter that anyone should be driving with any amount of alcohol in his or her systems. Play it safe folks, it’s so easy and so worth the money to let someone else drive.

That said and speaking of hipsters, the concept for this cocktail piece came to me at The Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas where they have a drink called the Hipster Cowboy. While I’m not sure that such a cowboy actually exists, it was a clever play on words and it sucked me right in. Well it worked as this delicious concoction had me coming back on a regular basis. Even when the drink was not on the menu, bartender Luke Barger whipped one up for me. I finally found out what goes into this oh-so-trendily named drink and it’s quite the combination. He pours equal parts bourbon and Cocchi Americano with Crème de Peche liqueur, bitters, lemon juice and a spritz of  Herbsaint Absinthe. Easy on this one folks as it is delicious but packs a punch. If I were to plan what to eat after a few of these I’d consume them on a Sunday afternoon at the Moonlight Lounge and be very hungry when they started serving their amazing Sunday-only fried chicken. I’m sure they will make one for you if you ask.

I’ve written about the American Legion Post 416 several times and had always thought of it as a beer and a shot kind of joint. That was until recently when I mentioned the column to bartender Rosie Harrison and she told me about the Legion Toast. She grabbed fellow bartender Liz Trujillo who promptly mixed vodka, honey, a splash of cranberry and champagne. I’m a big fan of bubbly and these are a good way to get those bubbles with a kick. Ideally there would be some kind of dinner happening at the Legion to indulge in after a few of these but that would probably entail starting early. I’m not opposed to that as they have some solid meal nights at the Legion.

Over the course of several research dinners for my Open House column a while back I met bartender Scarlett Hannon, who served me up their fabulous food at the bar. She also introduced me to the Lemongrass and Ginger Julep and it’s a most excellent cocktail. Makers Mark, fresh lime juice, house made lemongrass and ginger simple syrup and fresh mint makes up this beauty and it is oh so tasty. No need to leave the restaurant after drinking up a hunger as the menu at Open House is so good. Their Lumpia would be a great way to start.

We continue the cocktail crawl up Coast Highway 101 to Bread & Barley, which has a solid cocktail program from bar manager Amber Munnelly. Her Winter Fashioned is a very seasonal take on the Old Fashioned. Rye whiskey, cinnamon simple syrup and Angostura bitters with the dramatic edge of the orange peel lit on fire to caramelize the drink. It’s then garnished with the burnt orange peel and a Luxardo cherry and a cinnamon stick.

I’ll wrap this one up with the true old school classic Old Fashioned at O’Hurley’s from bartender Ryan House. It’s the perfect drink to fuel my Touch Tunes app-driven dance party then wake up to a juke box bill that could be classified as a symptom of a music disorder. I’m in denial of that being a thing so it’s all-good. But since we are on the topic my preferred three-song set list with my Old Fashioned would include Ray Charles circa 1965 with a big band, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons “Who Loves You” and for good measure some Dave Brubeck “Take Five.” Food after O’Hurley’s could go many directions but the magnet on Juanita’s pulls me the hardest. It’s a good thing.

As always, enjoy responsibly and keep it under control … the drinking and eating!

Lick the Plate has interviewed over 700 chefs, restaurateurs, growers, brewers and culinary personalities over the past 10 years as a column in The Coast News and in Edible San Diego. He can be heard on KSON, FM94/9 and Sunny98.1. More at