Food & Dining
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The Paloma Negra at Kalaveras. (photo: Sanam Lamborn)

Three meaningful chapters in my life have begun in April, two of which connect to our town: It’s my birth month, I moved here for love in 2007, and I started Eat in San Pedro in 2020. I’d like to take you along for some cocktails to commemorate these April milestones. 

Although we have many places that serve alcoholic drinks, sadly, Pedro doesn’t have a craft cocktail scene. Specifically, places where a seasoned mixologist skillfully balances spirits with fresh ingredients and attractive garnishes. Nevertheless, as someone who enjoys cocktails, I have found places in town that I enjoy going to.

Louie’s Old Fashioned (left) and a Navy Grog at J. Trani’s. (photo: Sanam Lamborn)

Ask anyone for recommendations for good drinks in town, and they’ll most likely say J. Trani’s Ristorante (584 W. 9th St.). I completely agree because my experience has been consistently well-made, strong drinks. Although all the pourers behind the bar serve great drinks, I noticed mixologist Louie Pantoja’s passion and creativity through his Instagram posts. A terrible Old Fashioned served at a local bar became the catalyst for a new career, which led to winning a 2018 mixology competition in Manhattan Beach for said drink and his mezcal grasshopper. Pantoja’s version of the first is bourbon-based instead of rye whiskey, and it’s very smooth. The latter is a blend of fresh-squeezed citrus, agave, and chocolate bitters. On a recent visit, when asked for a rum-based drink, he introduced me to the Navy Grog made with fresh lime and grapefruit juice. Other impressive drinks that he has made for me are coffee, lemon, and dirty martinis. You can find Pantoja behind the bar on Wednesdays and Sundays.

The Paloma Negra at Kalaveras. (photo: Sanam Lamborn)

The visually appealing cocktails featured on Kalaveras’ (383 W. 5th St.) social media lured me in pretty quickly. On my first visit, I ordered the margarita flight which includes their mango, cucumber, pineapple, and strawberry flavors. It was a good way for me to find two favorites: cucumber and pineapple. I also like the El Chupacabras margarita which has dried hibiscus flowers floating on top. The most impressive selection under the mezcal cocktails is the Fuego de Dragon which is served under a glass dome filled with smoke. My current obsession is their unique Paloma Negra which combines the traditional drink made with tequila, grapefruit, lime, and soda with charcoal. It’s served in a black salt-rimmed glass and an orchid as a garnish. Don’t be deceived by its looks and smoothness because the alcohol really does sneak up on you! 

A fully-loaded Bloody Mary at The Whale & Ale. (photo: Sanam Lamborn)

The new drink of the week (DOTW) series at The Whale and Ale (327 W. 7th St.) is a great way to discover new cocktails. The Irish Mule, made with Irish whiskey, ginger beer, and lime, is often my drink of choice. It’s difficult to not love the lavender lemon drop cocktail which is served with purple sugar on the glass rim and a floating flower. The showstopper here is the fully loaded Bloody Mary, garnished with olive, pickled pearl onion, shrimp, cheese, jalapeño slice, lemon, lime, and celery; it is a delicious treat!  

A dirty martini at 2800 Kitchen & Lounge. (photo: Sanam Lamborn)

The drinks at 2800 Kitchen & Lounge in the DoubleTree by Hilton (2800 Via Cabrillo-Marina) don’t have fancy presentations, however, the attractive view more than makes up for it. Having drinks on the patio overlooking the marina has become one of my favorite places to hangout for a drink, in particular, on Wednesday to Saturday evenings when bartender Michelle works the bar. There isn’t an official drinks menu, but the bar is stocked for all the usual cocktails. I am a die-hard gin-based dirty martini fan, and Michelle’s is a standout. 

In the past couple of years, when in need of a unique artisanal gift or a small batch of cocktails for special occasions, I have reached out to talented mixologist Nicky Saunders, founder of La Piña Hospitality and Bodega Raval. Saunders began making and delivering cocktails during restaurant closures at the beginning of the pandemic. Cocktails are delivered pre-mixed in bottles along with eye-catching garnishes. For menu and orders, please visit @lapinahospitality on Instagram. Cheers, San Pedro! spt

Sanam Lamborn

Sanam Lamborn created the Eat in San Pedro Facebook group and Instagram account in April 2020 to entice people to patronize San Pedro’s eateries.