Cheery spirits (and beer): seasonal drinks in La Jolla

These final festive days of the year are for many a reason to seek out the sights, sounds and foods of the holidays. If your hunt leaves you wanting to add a few spirit-filled sips to the mix, here’s a sample of what La Jolla’s pouring!

Cusp Dining & Drinks at Hotel La Jolla

Few drinks announce the holidays quite like eggnog and Champagne. Cusp assistant general manager Demian Carpenter, in charge of the restaurant’s drink program, has fans of each covered this month, with creations he said aim to combine a bit of the traditional with flavorful additions. Among them, an eggnog that combines the taste of the holiday staple with that of another popular treat: tiramasu. Carpenter’s Tiramasu Eggnogg, he said, should make eggnog-lovers smile.

What sets his dessert-infused nog apart from many others, he said, is its freshness as a made-from-scratch drink. Its base of blended egg, whole milk and heavy whipping cream is mixed with rum, then shaken again before being topped with cinnamon and chocolate shavings.

The Triple Crown might be a go-to drink for Cusp visitors thinking of 2016’s arrival. Made from a base of Russian Standard vodka, some fresh lemon juice and a bit of simple syrup for sweetness, some fresh raspberries are tossed in and the drink is shaken to give it a pink hue before being topped with Prosecco. But don’t let that last ingredient fool you, Carpenter said. The vodka goes a long way in balancing the sweetness.

“It’s real easy to drink,” Carpenter said. “It’s for people that really like or are looking for a Champagne or Prosecco-based drink.”

And though it might come off as more of a fall seasonal, The Harvest — a mix of Maker’s Mark whiskey, maple, pumpkin puree and carpano antica (a flavored vermouth) — has shown to be another favorite. Served in a glass lined with honey-laden graham cracker crumbs, it might be the drink for true fans of pumpkin pie and whiskey.

Rounding out a look at Cusp’s most popular Fourth Quarter Cocktails, as the seasonal libations there are called, is the (lifelong La Jollans might appreciate this one) Vikings Class Reunion, made with Grey Goose Vodka, Luxardo amaretto, some fresh lime and simple syrup, then topped with built-up egg whites and bitters.

“Basically, it’s a throwback to when you were in high school and you were drinking amaretto sours,” Carpenter said. “Back then people would put amaretto and some sweet and sour mix in there. We build it from scratch.”

Craft cocktail popularity has made it harder to create drinks others haven’t, he added.

“So, I thought it’d be cool to do something that was a throwback,” Carpenter said. “Amaretto’s kind of lost its popularity over the years, but it’s never been really prepared in this manner.”

Cusp Dining & Drinks is located on the 11th floor of Hotel La Jolla at 7955 La Jolla Shores Drive.


With a total of 22 specialty holiday drinks on her menu, Barbarella owner Barbara Beltaire didn’t skimp a bit on providing variety this holiday season. From spicy to sweet, there appears something for everyone.

Taking a classic cocktail and giving it a colorful La Jolla Shores holiday twist, Barbarella has been selling a lot of its Poinsettia Mimosas lately.

“It’s definitely Christmas-ee,” bartender Torria Larson said. “It’s such a simple recipe, but people love it.”

Made of only three ingredients: Champagne, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, and pomegranate juice, it’s given some extra color with fresh berries, and garnished with a candy cane.

Beltaire has been the main inspiration behind the eatery’s holiday additions. And just like with everything else on the Barbarella menu, the holiday drinks don’t get served publicly until she’s approved them, Larson said.

“Really, it’s about what tastes good, and what the guests like, “ Larson said. “One of the refreshing things about this place is to work for someone who really knows what she’s doing.”

Also on the Italian restaurant and bar’s holiday menu is its Ginger Bells — a mix of gin, ginger beer, and fresh-squeezed lime juice — and the Let it Snow, Larson’s personal favorite. Made with shaken grapefruit juice and pear vodka — with a shaved coconut topping — Let it Snow could change minds for those who traditionally wouldn’t like grapefruit much, Larson suggested.

“It’s definitely different,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of grapefruit. It’s really different, but it’s delicious.”

Manager Alex Fatoohi prefers Barbarella’s Jolly Jalapeno Mango Margarita.

“That’s good, he said. “It’s Cuervo Gold tequila, muddled jalapeno, mango juice, and a fresh-squeezed lime.”

Barbarella is located in La Jolla Shores at 2171 Avenida De La Playa.

Karl Strauss Brewing Co.

The “12 Days of Christmas” theme at Karl Strauss continues in 2015.

With the longtime veteran San Diego craft brewer’s sixth featured holiday-themed brew now available, Karl Strauss has since 2010 given a name to each beer in its “12 Days” series that puts a local spin on each of the classic Christmas song’s corresponding days.

This year, instead of the carol’s “six geese a-layin,’ it’s “Six Suits A-Hangin’” that’s pourin’ from bottle to snifter at Karl Strauss, an homage to San Diego’s surf culture (the inaugural beer in the series was Parrot in a Pear Tree, for those who wondered how it began).

“Every season, it’s a very limited release,” General Manager Ryan Bloom said.

With an alcohol by volume of 8.5 percent, it’s not the strongest beer the series has produced — that distinction goes to the 2011 brew Two Tortugas, which had an ABV of 11.5 percent — but those counting their ABVs should know the Imperial Belgian Brown blend is still stronger than other, more regular brews offered at Karl Strauss. That includes the similarly named beer which might come to mind for someone familiar with the Karl Strauss menu when ordering a Six Suits A-Hangin’.

“We have a beer called Full Suit Belgian Brown,” Bloom said. “It’s named after a wetsuit because it warms you up, it’s toasty. Six Suits is pretty much a stronger version of the Full Suit.”

An ale brewed with caramel and brown malts “for rich flavors of graham crackers, roasted nuts and peppery Belgian spice,” the amped up Belgian Brown is aged on French oak to add a hint of vanilla flavor. “It’ll warm you from your head to your frozen toes,” the label reads.

Available since early December, Six Suits A-Hangin’ will be served at Karl Strauss until the brewers’ batches run out. Belgian Brown lovers can likely cheer, as Bloom said enough has been brewed to probably last into early or mid-January.

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. is located in the Village at 1044 Wall St.

Beaumont’s Eatery

Providing its take on the holiday classic, Beaumont’s Eatery began running on Dec. 18 a “killer” eggnog that apparently many can love, not only a mother (and her friend).

“It’s a really nice house-made eggnog that we do,” Beaumont’s general manager Gavin McManes said.

The kicker: the “house” McManes speaks of refers to more than just the Beaumont’s building. It alludes also to the source of the nog recipe, and the home of one of his employee’s family friends.

Tommy Fraioli, executive chef at Beaumont’s — or perhaps more accurately, his mother’s friend — is to thank if you enjoy this drink.

“It was actually my mom’s friend’s recipe, from back in the ’70s,” Fraioli said. “She sent it to me a couple of years ago, but this is the first time I got a chance to actually make it. I really like eggnog, and pouring brandy in store-bought eggnog doesn’t really do it.”

Highlighted with brandy, rum and bourbon, Beaumont’s eggnog is given just a dusting of orange zest, along with the traditional shaved nutmeg as a topper.

“When you drink it, you have the hint of orange, nutmeg — kind of all of it together,” bar manager Shawn Marks said.

“It is out-of-control good, and I’ve never been a fan (of eggnog),” McManes added.

But requiring five weeks of fermentation with cloves and allspice, the Beaumont’s eggnog isn’t something that can be produced to no end. Fans had better get to Beaumont’s fast if they want to indulge, as the specialty libation is only planned to be served leading up to Christmas — McManes pointed out that Beaumont’s will be open for business Christmas Eve, making that possibly the last chance to get a sip.

Also on the menu is something McManes said has fed off the resurgence of an old favorite. Modified with a Beaumont’s touch from the original, the Black Walnut Old Fashioned is something a traditional whiskey fan would like, McManes said.

Black walnut bitters, and a touch of orange bitters, give the Old Fashioned a slightly new direction, but Marks said the flavors play right into what’s fashionable in the cocktail scene now, while holding onto the nostalgia of a cherished classic.

“Bitters are popular,” Marks said. “I’m trying to introduce them into more craft cocktails now.”

Added to the bitters is one brown sugar cube — brown sugar, not white, is used in making any Old Fashioned at Beaumont’s — and Buffalo Trace bourbon. After adding ice, Marks gives the cocktail a mix and adds an orange zest along with an orange peel garnish. They give the patron his or her first hint of the flavors to come, Marks said.

“When you first take a drink, what do you pick up first, of your senses? Marks said as he explained his process. “Your nose picks up everything. I switched over to this Old Fashioned. I figured with the holidays, we’d decide to a walnut style to it. That brings out a lot of that cozy fire feeling.”

McManes said that with the Old Fashioned trending, along with whiskey-based drinks in general, Beaumont’s holiday version shouldn’t disappoint.

“It’s a lot of these classic drinks, so we’ll try to do fun, seasonal craft spins on classics,” McManes said.

Beaumont’s is located in Bird Rock, at 5662 La Jolla Blvd.