Polite Provisions, the airy San Diego bar from Erick Castro and multi-talented business partner Arsalun Tafazoli (Craft & Commerce, Neighborhood, Noble Experiment and more) in once-sleepy University Heights delivers one of the most complete drinking experiences in Southern California. First, there’s the space, which features a peaked glass roof that provides incredible light, a classy marble bar, black cushioned seating, decorative tiled flooring, and a pressed tin ceiling. Next comes the menu, which specializes in “local tonics, elixirs and cures” and may seem sprawling, but simply provides too many good options for a single visit. Finally, there’s the price, with most drinks costing a shockingly low $8.
Castro is one of California’s leading bartenders, with San Francisco experience that includes stints at Bourbon & Branch and Rickhouse, and a tour of duty as Beefeater Gin brand ambassador. Still, even though the man can seemingly do it all, like any good manager, Castro knows how to share credit. Under “Holiday Cocktails” on the most recent menu, he makes it clear that Dark Harvest ($8) was “created by Frankie McGrath.” McGrath was behind the bar during my visit, and he took time to explain his approach for the refreshing fall drink.
The base of the cocktail is bourbon, in this case, Buffalo Trace, which contributes the “robust nose of dark fruit.” Fresh lemon juice and cinnamon gomme provide bright acidity and warmth. McGrath started working with Amaro Montenegro, but found it too “musky,” so switched to sweeter Becherovka. The balance worked well on an overcast San Diego afternoon.