Speaking of speakeasies
The wall was phony.
Its balanced rows of kegs: imposters.
I channeled my inner Nancy Drew and pushed hard until I felt something give.
The secret door swung inward to San Diego’s new speakeasy, The Noble Experiment. Hidden in the back of Neighborhood, a spot known for its burgers and beers (along with an absence of booze), Arsalun Tafazoli (Neighborhood owner) and Nate Stanton (El Dorado co-owner) were genius enough to invent this covert kingdom of specialty drinks, because there’s nothing people like more than a secret…unless it’s a secret that involves alcohol. Of course, there’s a price-tag for exclusivity, so prepare to pay.
Relics reminiscent of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion (ceiling portraits/ moving artwork) and Alice in Wonderland architecture (skinny dimensions/ stretched ceilings/ checkered, marble floor) gave the sense of having chosen the “drink me” option...we had fallen down the rabbit hole.
The crystal chandelier reflected prisms along a back wall covered with gold skulls, their low glow forcing us to read our calligraphy menus by candlelight. Keeping it authentic meant only pushing booze poured during prohibition = no vodka. But it wasn’t missed.
Hemmingway daiquiri – white rum, grapefruit, lime, maraschino: Mouth-puckering refreshment gave way to sweetness as I found a gift at the bottom of my glass- a maraschino, the perfect finishing touch. But this cherry on top was no cherry at all, but instead a juniper berry – inventive and delish!
Rich man’s mojito- dark and white rum, sugar cube, mint: Smoother than a normal mojito, pebble sized cubes arced over the glass and planted stalks of mint in their place for the perfect adult snow-cone.
Bramble– gin, lemon, muddled blackberries: This reminded me of a simple, summer dessert in liquid form. Laden with mini cubes and topped with a plump blackberry, the muddled fruit softened the blow of booze with refreshing tartness.
Pepino Fizz –tequila, lemon, cucumber, egg white, club soda: Face-contortingly sour is the only way to explain this one. My least favorite, but I liked the introduction of egg white for a bit of depth. Not to worry Purell purists – the alcohol and citrus kill off any scare of salmonella.
Dealer’s choice: One of the bar’s best features allowed for personally made cocktails based on liquor preference and flavor choice (fruity, citrus, smoky, etc.) The bartender then created concoctions appealing to said tastes. One friend went for a scotch/citrus blend and received the, “Cock and ball,” another was handed the “Paper Plane.” But one mix in particular, a tall drink of tequila, caught my eye and ended up on my list of all time favorites.
El Guapo (The handsome one) – tequila, muddled cucumber, Chalula hot sauce, lime: The most impressive drink of the evening and my answer to a bloody Mary. Who needs all that tomato juice when you can have Chalula hot sauce instead? The first swallow brought a burst of heat eased by a wave of muddled cucumbers and lime, cleansing the palate just in time for the next sip. These could be dangerous, as in ending up in a Mexican jail dangerous…but what is life without risk? We shall meet again El Guapo...the sooner the better.
High brow highballs: My hubby even got to try Balvenie 21, a scotch that goes for about $200 a bottle and isn’t on most barroom shelves. Though the pour cost $30, he was glad he finally got to try it without having to pay for a full bottle.
Noble cause: Come for the intrigue, stay for the drinks…but not too long. They’ve already accumulated quite the wait list for a place that’s so hush-hush, but for the time being The Noble Experiment still stands as San Diego’s best kept secret.