1. Meghan Balser
After stints cocktailing at Diva and Pegu Club in New York City, Meghan Balser ventured west and worked for Cutwater Spirits and Seven Grand before landing a coveted spot at Herb & Wood. At the modern brasserie, Balser combines local spirits from Old Harbor and You & Yours with unique ingredients such as Domaine Santé grape nectar and Nostrum shrubs in cocktails that are original and well-balanced. Garnishes at the restaurant go way beyond citrus rind and include mini pretzels and a dark chocolate “lid” made by the pastry team. SIGNATURE DRINK Balser’s riff on a Manhattan, the Rye & Rye, is a lighter and more feminine take on the famous cocktail with the addition of Bianco aperitif and cassis liqueur. “I love the creative process of mixing up a drink, using subtle flavors to enhance a cocktail and creating something that excites your palate,” she says.
2. Danny Kuehner
A relative newcomer to the San Diego mixology scene, Danny Kuehner dove right in when he began bartending at Madison on Park just over two years ago. He’s quickly gained a reputation for a creative cocktails menu including barrel-aged cocktails and classics such as the Clover Club, with Fords Gin, dry vermouth, raspberry, lemon, and Peychaud’s Bitters. At midcentury-inspired Madison, Kuehner says there’s no end to what he can do creatively. “We are always experimenting and tasting, and nothing is off the table,” he says. SIGNATURE DRINK The first cocktail Keuhner developed is still one of his favorites. The layered Jumping Cholla includes seeded jalapenos, pineapple, lime, egg white foam and El Silencio mezcal, as well as cracked Hawaiian black lava salt.