Drinking in San Diego: How It Compares to Phoenix's Cocktail Scene
Across town in North Park, you'll find a much more inviting and straightforward imbibing experience at Polite Provisions. Fresh off of a win for best volume bar at this year's Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, this spot and its neighboring restaurant for teetotalers called Soda & Swine are also Consotrium Holdings joints. With two punch bowls (about $40 each) and several craft drinks for one (closer to $8 each) on the menu, Polite Provisions is much more affordable and a great spot to bring friends who aren't entrenched in cocktail nerddom quite yet.
Heather Hoch Polite Provisions made a mezcal-based cocktail names Mance Rayder, so obviously I ordered it.
Most notably, the bar itself, with its vintage apothecary aesthetic, is probably one of the prettiest bars out there. Marbled bartop, bright tiles, aviary glass roof, and copper and wooden touches make this spot worth visiting just for the eye candy factor, but the cocktails are tasty too.
Other Consortium Holdings spots around the city that are worth testing out include Craft & Commerce (go for brunch), Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar (get $1 oysters and a cocktail in a delightfully irreverent orca mug--take that, Sea World!), Rare Form, and El Dorado.
Polite Provisions/Facebook Polite Provisions is probably one of the most beautiful bars I've seen.
The big take away from these CH spots, which are certainly not the only places for great cocktails in San Diego but do represent a large number of noteworthy places in the town, is that style matters. While all of these concepts are different, they all carry impeccable design that makes you want to brag that you were there while snapping a bunch of pictures. Even Juniper + Ivy, which isn't a Consortium restaurant, has a sunken dining room and an elevated, well-lit bar, making it the focal point and showpiece (as it should be) of the restaurant.
If Phoenix bars could learn anything from San Diego spots, it is to focus on making the bar as visually stunning as the cocktails are complex and flavorful. It really does make the difference in creating an overall package.
However, on that note and in terms of taste, I don't think any of those bars are leagues ahead of Phoenix in terms of cocktail flavor. While San Diego might have more spots dedicated to the craft cocktail movement there and even has a helping hand from prolific bar owners from other major cities, you can see the same trends in Phoenix, and, I would argue a stronger surge of independent, bartender-focused concepts.