789 Sixth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Quality Social bartender Noelle Phares is fast. The Chico native holds regional high school records in the 300- and 100-meter hurdles. That speed translates into something sweet to see and refreshing to taste whenever Phares is behind the bar on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“Everyone gets their drinks as fast as bartenders want to work,” she says, “and maybe it’s the work ethic instilled in track, but I work my butt off when it’s really busy. I’m sure it’s the work ethic — I’m never going to be happy going slower.”
She stops short of propping up a stopwatch on the bar, but this UC-Santa Barbara biochemistry grad says she can make between 500 and 800 cocktails in a single weekend night.
One of the drinks Phares enjoys putting together is Quality Social’s “H” cocktail (named in honor of San Francisco mix-master H. Joseph Ehrmann). Presented in a Collins glass, the pale green confluence of textured tastes is all about the cucumber.
“You should definitely taste the cucumber,” Phares says. “The flavors are relatively subtle, so the cucumber slice should remind customers what exactly they are supposed to be tasting.”
Waving off possible prejudice against the pepper topper, Phares says the H “is well rounded and crisp, and the black pepper gives it a little bit of a kick. You’re getting cold, sweet, and something else.”
Kitchen Proof: I made the “H” with cucumber-infused Hendrick’s Gin. “Definitely comparable,” says Phares. With all the virtues of the garden, the H has vegetable, fruit, and flower (this last, thanks to St. Germain elderflower liqueur) working together in an understated but eloquent bouquet for the tongue. The taste is lush with botanicals, but not overbearing.
Add ice, shake, and serve in ice-filled Collins glass (or a watering can or terra cotta flower pot) with cucumber slice. Top with soda and dash of ground black pepper.
In a cocktail shaker, pour:
- 1 ½ oz. Square One Cucumber
- Vodka (or Hendrick’s Gin)
- ¾ oz. St. Germain
- ¾ oz. lime juice
- ¼ oz. simple syrup