San Diego: Eat, Pray, Drink

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the fair city of San Diego. At the time that I was planning this trip I was feeling down and needed something to cheer me up. The decision to go to San Diego was on an impulse and before I could fully think things thru I was on Expedia booking my flight and hotel.

I've heard of women having Eat Pray Love moments and flying overseas, alone, in an effort to find themselves. I had no clue that was what I was doing until my first full day there.

Originally this post was intended to be a journal of my drinks and my experience at the San Diego Spirits Festival. But I realize now that my trip was more than that, it was more personal.

I am by nature a nervous person. Anything and everything scares me, although I do my best not to show it. I'm constantly thinking of worse case scenarios and will eventually talk myself out of things in order to play it safe. As a consequence I have lead a life full of regret. I was determined not to let San Diego be another regret.

This was the first trip that I'd taken completely by myself. Every step there was an accomplishment. Getting to the airport. Loading my carry-on into the overhead bin. Finding my way from the airport to the hotel. Checking into said hotel. These were all things that made my nervous little heart beat with palpitations.

When I finally arrived at the W Hotel San Diego, I was so overcome with joy that I had made it without incident, a hotel room dance party of one soon followed.

On my first day in San Diego I headed to Craft & Commerce bar and restaurant. 80's music played joyfully in the background, there was a dog for every two patrons,  animal heads hung from the bookshelf adorned walls, and the bartenders were dressed in suspenders and beards. I arrived while it was still slow, but that didn't last long.

Peruvian Rose by Craft & Commerce. Photo by Cocktail Crafty.

Craft & Commerce has an impressive number of beers on tap. Listening to the bartenders talk about beer is like listening to a foreign language. But I didn't go there for beer. After perusing their cocktail menu online, I went in knowing exactly what I wanted.

Peruvian Rose

Pisco, Cocchi Americano Rosa, Apricot Liqeuer, Lemon

I knew I'd enjoy The Peruvian Rose because I love Pisco. This is a light cocktail with a touch of sweetness. And if I didn't have plans that afternoon I would have stayed and had another...and another. 

After my lunch at Craft & Commerce (which consisted of some awesome tacos, the first of several awesome taco meals in San Diego) I headed over to the San Diego Spirits Festival. In honesty, I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more spirits vendors. However, between the burlesque show, the aerial acts, bartending competition, great food, and the view alone, I managed to have a great time.

Of the vendors that I met at the festival two stood out to me:

Gompers Gin

Gomper's Gin. Photo by Cocktail Crafty

A combination of pear, lavender, juniper and other flavors. Gompers Gin stood out to me as being smooth and flavorful. I'm a gin girl. I love how all the flavors dance on your tongue. To few, and the gin is dull and lifeless. To many, and your mouth becomes overwhelmed. You also have to be mindful of the flavor combination. Do they play well together?

When I first tried Gompers Gin I definitely noticed the pear flavor. I thought, pear flavored gin? Cool. But then the rep cooled it down with ice and suddenly the lavender decided to show up to the party. I like the fact that this gin goes down just as easily straight as it does on the rocks. It's sure to elevate your next gimlet or martini.

AVIV 613

First, let's talk about the flavor. I often think of vodka as having little flavor. It rarely stands out in a cocktail, taking on the flavor of whatever you mix it with. It's like the chicken of spirits. You can't criticize AVIV for lacking in taste.

AVIV Vodka. Photo by Cocktail Crafty

AVIV Vodka. Photo by Cocktail Crafty

Distilled from wheat, barley, olives, figs, dates, grapes and pomegranates. AVIV excites your taste buds. My brain became flooded with a multitude of recipe ideas. It's the only spirit at the festival that I went back to for a third taste (okay, maybe it was four).

Flavor wise AVIV is great, but their marketing can be a bit much. All the ingredients that go into making this vodka are Kosher, meaning they've been blessed by a rabbi. Their water is sourced from the Sea of Galilee. The vodka is distilled a total of 6 times - the grains 3 times, the fruit 3 times and then once together. This is where the 613 comes from. Which is also, as the rep pointed out to me, the number of commandments in the bible. These were all interesting facts and I was intrigued, but then he lost me in the explanation of the bottle.

The phrase CELEBRATE LIFE is written in every major language all over the bottle. The bottle is triangular with one curved side to represent the challenges we face in life. (I think if someone made a bottle based on the challenges of my life it'd look like a spiral graph.) The list of symbols and meanings from goes on and on to the point that it started to make me uncomfortable. I came here for a drink not bible study. But on the flip side I'm still talking about it. In the past few weeks I've told numerous people about this religious, spiritual vodka I had. Out of all the vendors there I remember AVIV the most.

What I've Learned

San Diego Selfie

In the end, I'm extremely happy I made the trip to San Diego. I got to get out of my comfort zone, explored a new city and got to know myself a little better. I've learned that I'm a lot more confident and braver than I give myself credit for. That being alone is not the same as being lonely. And that there's a great big world out there and I can't wait to see it.

My hope is that this will be the first of many more trips to come. For no matter where I am I will always imbibe happily.

- Nikki