While vacationing in Los Angeles in September, I hopped on a bus to spend two days in San Diego. I was staying with a friend in the middle of the Gaslight quarter, one of the city’s historical neighbourhood, now famous for its vibrant nightlife. While it’s true it was really busy, even on a Tuesday night, I was in search of a proper cocktail bar, that wouldn’t be too far from where we were staying. The good thing with following bartenders on Instagram? You will always find helpful suggestions when you’re travelling. In that case, it led me to Noble Experiment.
As we followed Google Maps directions, we ended up in front of what seemed like an out of business building. My friend looked at me confused but I had already noticed a paper on the window redirecting us towards another entrance at the corner. We pushed the door open and entered what looked like a small restaurant’s kitchen. I hadn’t told my friend we were going to a speakeasy so she was again quite surprised. I was too as I thought they’d at least be someone in there but the kitchen was empty. Then a back door opened and a hostess came through, followed by a few guests that were leaving. That was our luck as Noble Experiment is pretty small with a capacity for about 30 guests. They do take walk-ins but you never know how long you might have to wait.
Following the hostess through a wall of kegs, we entered a magnificent parlor with a chandelier and classic paintings hanging on the dark wooden walls and ceiling. The bar sat beautifully lit with golden lights. However, the real eye catcher was the wall of golden skulls across it. Far from being creepy, it gives the bar a chic Victorian gothic touch.
Sitting comfortably in the leather booth at the end of the room, my friend and I had a perfect view over the entire room and the bar. Now came the time to look at the menu.
A word about the menu, as in the object, first. Noble Experiment’s menu keeps in line with the bar’s identity. A dark booklet, it opens to two sheets of beautifully skull embossed paper with red and gold finitions and gothic calligraphy. It was a thing of beauty. I politely asked the hostess if I could keep it for my bar menu collection. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible. As could be expected, these menus are quite expensive to make. Maybe I should have mentionned I was ready to buy it?
Noble Experiment menu’s listed seven cocktail categories with for each the choice between the classic recipe or a twist. Guests could also opt for the “Dealer’s choice”, i.e letting the bartender surprise them with a cocktail made with their choice of spirit.
Having visited the Chartreuse museum in July and a mezcal lover, I first ordered a Bolero Verde. As described on the menu, it was a tall, fresh, slightly gingery drink using mezcal, ginger, celery, amontillado, lime, green Chartreuse and soda water. It went down nicely after our Taco Tuesday dinner.
For my nightcap, I went for the second of the two “Dessert” drinks Noble Experiment was offering. Called Buddha’s Kiss, it was a smooth, boozy version of Thai iced tea. Normal considering it listed a Thai tea reduction among its ingredients, along with a blend of pot and column-stilled rum and a float of coconut whipped cream.
Decor, cocktails, atmosphere, Noble Experiment was a true gem. Visiting it made me regret I wasn’t staying longer in San Diego so I could explore more of the city’s cocktail offer. I’ll save that for my next trip to California I guess. In the meantime, I returned to Venice Beach and Santa Monica for other culinary and cocktail adventures.