San Diego is a pretty family-friendly place to spend a vacation. From the San Diego Zoo to LEGOLAND California, there’s plenty to do with kids in this beachy city. But San Diego is also filled with tons of attractions for an adults-only vacation, including its nightlife.
After spending a day on the city’s white-sand beaches, it’s not very hard to find a spot to grab a drink. The hardest part is picking the best place for you and your fellow travelers!
Looking for the perfect place to grab a drink in San Diego? We’ve compiled a list of the best bars in San Diego, from rooftop watering holes with views of those blue-green waters to apothecaries aiming to cure all your worries and woes. Stick to this list, and you’ll love reveling in all the nightlife San Diego has to offer!
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The 18 Coolest Bars in San Diego
1. Drink Oceanside at Cannonball
Like your drinks with an ocean view? Then, you’ll love Cannonball, one of San Diego’s best rooftop bars. Located on the Mission Beach Boardwalk in Belmont Park, this bar and sushi restaurant is serving up a panorama you won’t get anywhere else, alongside sushi favorites and inventive cocktails.
The cocktail menu is filled with classics with a San Diego twist, like the Mission Beach Mai Tai, made with white and dark rum, pineapple, and orange juice. Another Cannonball favorite is named for the San Diego weather, Sunny & 75, made with gin, guava, elderflower, and sparkling wine.
Such refreshing sips perfectly pair with the ocean breeze and sunshine in San Diego. If you’re not into the cocktails, you’ll also discover an impressive beer, seltzer, and wine list, as well as a Japanese whiskey and sake menu.
2. Discover Mexico in Downtown San Diego at The Blind Burro
The colorful and vibrant bar and restaurant The Blind Burro is one of the coolest bars in San Diego, thanks to its unique twists on Mexican fare. This Baja-inspired eatery is serving up coastal cuisine and cocktails that’ll make you feel like you’ve gone on an oceanside vacation down south.
In addition to tortas, tacos, and tons of other Mexican delights, this bar also has an impressive cocktail menu, with a section dedicated just to its unique takes on a margarita. Try a Bondi Baja Refresher with blanco tequila, kiwi, lime, agave, and mint, or a more traditional House Margarita, with blanco tequila, triple sec, lime, agave, and a salted rim.
Margaritas not your thing? Try another specialty cocktail, like the Casa-Machado, named for the star third baseman of the San Diego Padres and made with Casamigos blanco tequila, Grand Marnier, passion fruit puree, orange juice, lime juice, and a tajin rim.
3. Heal Yourself at the Realm of the 52 Remedies
Inspired by Chinese medicine, the Realm of the 52 Remedies is a vibrant speakeasy and one of the best cocktail bars in San Diego. Though it can be found in the Convoy District, you’ll feel like you’ve journeyed across time to 1920s Shanghai when you step foot in this unique bar.
Leaning into the speakeasy aspect of the bar, you can find this watering hole somewhat hidden in the Common Theory Public House. Step past a white doorway, behind an herbal apothecary, and through a tunnel to discover lotus-shaped booths, jade-gold bar tops, and a menu of tea-infused cocktails.
The drinks menu contains a seasonal list of rotating cocktails, as well as a few forever favorites, like the Saigon Dreamer, made with cold brew coffee liqueur, rye whiskey, crème de cacao, lemon, pineapple, sugar, and clarified with whole milk.
4. Celebrate San Diego’s Iconic Park at Trust
Trust is one of the top bars in San Diego, thanks to its decision to put the city first. This restaurant and bar, serving up wood-fired American fare, strives to be a gathering place for its neighbors. So, it makes perfect sense that the cocktail menu here is built around a San Diego icon: Balboa Park.
Located just blocks from the park, Trust has built a cocktail program with drinks named for and inspired by the many parts of Balboa Park. Gin, roasted beets, lemon, tarragon, and soda water make up the California Tower, named for one of the most famous landmarks in Balboa Park and all of San Diego. Or drink up the Friendship Garden, named for the Japanese work of art of the same name, made with Maker’s Mark, lemon, strawberry, Aperol, and toasted sesame.
5. Cure All Your Worries at Polite Provisions
Polite Provisions, over in the North Park neighborhood, is one of the coolest bars in San Diego because it doesn’t feel much like a bar at all. Instead, it’s more of an apothecary and an upscale one at that. With its gilded bar, intricately carved lampposts, and black velvet seating, it’s the most elegant neighborhood drugstore you’ve ever seen!
As an apothecary-inspired bar, the drinks here are made with housemade ingredients, including bitters, tinctures, and syrups, as a nod to their medicinal use. The extensive cocktail menu is filled with inventive mixes, from champagne-focused drinks to sips with every spirit you could imagine.
You won’t find many traditional cocktails here. Instead, you’ll discover inspired new favorites. And if you want to learn to make them yourself, you can also sign up for a cocktail class.
6. Experience the Old West in the East Village at El Dorado
One of the top cocktail bars in San Diego can be found in the East Village at El Dorado Cocktail Lounge. This Western-themed bar has been a part of San Diego’s cocktail scene for many years, but it’s switching things up with new owners, the Pouring With Heart hospitality group, which is dedicated to preserving bars.
Using housemade juices and fresh ingredients, El Dorado creates cocktails that are unique takes on old favorites, like the East Village Rickey, named for the neighborhood the bar calls home. This twist on an Eastside Rickey is made with mezcal, lime, cucumber, rose, and a tajin rim. Need something a bit more refreshing on a hot San Diego day? Ask about the seasonal house slushy!
7. Revel in Prosciutto and Pop Culture at J & Tony’s
An East Village find, J & Tony’s Discount Cured Meats and Negroni Warehouse is one of the most fun bars in San Diego. At its core, this watering hole is an aperitivo bar inspired by the Italian tradition of grabbing a drink and light snacks before dinner to stimulate your appetite. But J & Tony’s is something in a category all its own.
For a bar inspired by Italian culture, the decor is pure American pop culture, with Jurassic Park vibes galore, a disco ball centerpiece, and occasionally a giant Ronald McDonald statue taking over a booth by the coffee bar.
On the menu, you’ll find unique concoctions that are always changing, from the seasonal slushies to the bartender-created cocktail programs. And, of course, you can always pick up a Negroni here.
8. Take in the Sunset in Two Ways at Garibaldi
On the third floor of the InterContinental San Diego, you’ll find Garibaldi, an Italian restaurant that happens to be one of the best rooftop bars in downtown San Diego. Here you’ll find dishes inspired by the Italian coast, with fresh seafood and light and refreshing flavors. You’ll also discover oceanfront views perfect for watching the sun descend below the horizon.
Also on the menu is an extensive wine list, including orange wine, and a section dedicated to amari, a bittersweet, brandy-based liqueur from Italy. You’ll also have your choice of seasonal and signature cocktails, like the Green Flash Tonic, named for the phenomenon when the sun appears green with a flash just before the sun sets. Made with Sardinian vodka, Mirto Verde, fig, peppercorn, cinnamon, cardamom, and Cinchona bark, it’s a fan-favorite cocktail that you can’t get anywhere else.
9. Go on a Baja Vacation at Vistal
Also at the InterContinental San Diego, you’ll experience the flavors of Baja California at Vistal Bar + Restaurant. This bayfront restaurant is serving up breathtaking views and sustainably-sourced seafood. The menu is inspired by coastal California and Mexican cuisine, celebrating the marriage of these seaside destinations.
At the bar, you’ll find an extensive list of wines from all over California and major wine regions throughout the world. And if you’d prefer to sip on a spirit, this bar has everything from rum to mezcal to bourbon. If beer is more your drink of choice, you’ll be able to choose between local favorites and imported delights.
Vistal also has a cocktail selection. Choose between classics with a twist, like the American Dutchman Negroni, made with gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Or try a one-of-a-kind creation, like the Bird Across the Bay, a rum-based drink named for San Diego’s native parrots served in Vistal’s signature green parrot mug.
Not sure what to get? You can always just order the Bartender’s Drink of the Day.
10. Travel to the Mediterranean at Madison on Park
With cedar-lined arched and vaulted ceilings giving way to massive windows illuminating your meal and geometric light fixtures overhead, University Heights’ Madison on Park feels a bit like an art deco restaurant on the Mediterranean coast. The natural touches of the indoor space make you feel like you’re dining outdoors, but there’s also more space to be found on the upscale outdoor patio.
On the menu is a mix of Mediterranean and Southern California cuisine, with craft cocktails galore inspired by flavors found all over the world. Taste the tropics with the rum-based Any Port in a Storm, journey to Peru for a Peruvian pisco-filled Stellar Ember, or stay right here in California for a Humboldt hemp-infused vodka drink, the Mr. Nice Guy.
11. Dine and Drink at The Fishery
Located in Pacific Beach, The Fishery is part sushi restaurant and part seafood market. Found inside a restored warehouse, it’s also one of the top bars in San Diego. Dine on seasonal, freshly-caught seafood alongside wine from an award-winning list, artisanal cocktails, and an extensive spirits menu.
Their Negroni changes with the seasons, with the spring option being made with gin, vermouth, Bitter Rosso, strawberry, and cherry tomato. But the real highlight of the menu is The Fishery Milk Punch, in which milk is used to clarify the cocktail, resulting in a silky, creamy drink. If you’re alcohol-free, you can get the Minnie Picks Punch, a version of the milk punch that’s heavy on flavor but sans any spirits.
12. Savor Absinthe at Wormwood
Taking its name from a medicinal ingredient found in Absinthe, Wormwood is one of the best bars in San Diego, as it offers something unique to the city’s cocktail scene. This restaurant and bar provides upscale dining alongside the Green Fairy, aka Absinthe.
This bar strives to challenge our preconceived notions of Absinthe, which was banned in the US for nearly 100 years and remains a highly misunderstood spirit. Wormwood hopes every sip will expand your palate and allow you to see Absinthe in a new light.
You can get Absinthe-based cocktails here, like the Ab-Solo Normal, made with Absinthe, whiskey, pineapple, lime, house orgeat, and house ginger cordial. But you can also order Absinthe straight-up from varieties made all across the world.
13. Sip in the Sky at Mister A’s
Offering one of the most amazing views of downtown, Mister A’s is one of the best rooftop bars in San Diego. Mister A’s has been a staple of San Diego for over 50 years, but it recently got a new look and a new menu to match. This fine dining restaurant and bar takes classic American cuisine and gives it French and Mediterranean twists, taking your taste buds to new levels.
With a 15-page wine list and an equally extensive spirits list, you might not know where to start when you order here. And the cocktail menu, which is made up of old favorites done in new ways, like the Burnt-Orange Old Fashioned, made with whiskies, a burnt-orange reduction, and orange angostura, will only make choosing even more difficult!
14. Go Vegan at Kindred
What do you get when you marry heavy metal with vegan dining? You get Kindred, one of the coolest bars in San Diego. Found in South Park, this restaurant and bar is for the rocker who loves rocking out with plant-based delights. This chic dining spot and watering hole looks upscale, with metal decor interspersed throughout.
The cocktail menu features both seasonal favorites and “Kult Classics,” like one named for one of the best fake metal bands of all time, Spinal Tap, made with gin, strawberry liqueur, rhubarb, pear, Key lime, and tiki bitters.
Sip on a Spinal Tap while munching on the bar’s all-vegan menu, featuring inventive bites like everything spice puff pastries and shumai burgers cooked as egg rolls. If you’re alcohol-free, you’ll love that this location also has an impressive zero-proof menu.
15. Get Ready for Blastoff at Mothership
Houston, there’s no problem here because Mothership is the strangest, most wonderful tropical escape you could imagine. What started as a pop-up at Kindred every Thursday night called Permanent Vacation is now one of the coolest bars around. Located in South Park, this one-of-a-kind tiki bar looks like a spaceship crashed into a tropical location and found a new home, making it one of the most fun bars in San Diego!
Drink and dine under the stars as you rock out to Mothership’s eight-hour-long original soundtrack and sip on cocktails that are out of this world. Check out your flight manual, which is actually your menu, and pick from drinks like the aptly-named Mindkiller, which is so strong that the bar limits you to two drinks. Made with rum, amaro, coconut cream, pineapple, tangerine, orange, lime, and TANG cordial, it’s a concoction that can truly only work in a setting like Mothership.
16. Listen to Tunes at Part Time Lover
Located in North Park, Part Time Lover is one of the coolest bars in San Diego as it’s part listening bar and part record shop. The main bar is designed with music in mind, with the open-space layout made for optimal sound. Part Time Lover features a custom sound system and plays tunes carefully curated by San Diego’s Folk Art Rare Records.
On the menu is an inventive cocktail program focused on Japanese highballs, like the In Kaiju, a bright green drink made with Japanese vermouth, aquavit, lemon, and sparkling water and served in a highball glass. And when you’re done drinking, head into the back to purchase records courtesy of Folk Art Rare Records.
17. Go for a Spin at Wolfie’s Carousel Bar
Over in Little Italy, you’ll find a bar that will bring out your inner child. Wolfie’s Carousel Bar is one of the top bars in San Diego, thanks to its inspired concoctions and the inventive way you’ll drink them.
At the center of Wolfie’s is a 24-seat carousel-shaped bar with dazzling, dancing lights and vibrant murals that actually rotates, very slowly, of course. You’ll also find more carousel horses decorating the watering hole.
The central bar dates all the way back to 1881 and was built by a master carousel carver and builder, Charles I.D. Looff, known as “Wolfie.” Today, that carousel is where you can get delightful drinks like Wolfie’s Fantasy, made with cognac, rose, basil, and lime cordial. You’ll be able to pair your libation with French-inspired cuisine.
18. Delight in the Colorful Go Go Amigo
Go Go Amigo, located in Liberty Station, is a south-of-the-border-inspired restaurant and bar that’s also a feast for the eyes. With multicolored seating, a vibrant blue bar, and greenery galore, this tequila-based bar feels like a vacation down south.
Sip on the extensive tequila and mezcal list, or order up an inventive cocktail, like the Frozen Paloma, made with blended ice, blanco tequila, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and organic agave. The drink menu also includes a section dedicated to all different kinds of margaritas, as well as a zero-proof mocktail list.
There you have it! The 18 best bars in San Diego. What’s your favorite place to grab a drink in San Diego? Let us know in the comments!
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