Polite Provisions/Soda & Swine Review of Soft Opening – Creative but too much sweetness.

We visited my sister-in-law in the Normal Heights area of San Diego and were lucky enough to be walking by a much anticipated local bar, Polite Provisions, which features quite the array of Whiskey cocktails.  It’s apparently a partnership between a successful San Diego Restaurant group, Consortium Holdings, and a celebrity mixologist, Erick Castro, who was behind other speakeasy/whiskey oriented establishments like Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco.  As such, we were eager to try out the drinks (pictured below)!

Polite Provisions Cocktails

Polite Provisions Cocktails

The overall verdict?  It’s a very creative place with a real speakeasy atmosphere and friendly staff (more on that below).  I appreciated the nickels that lined the bathroom floors, for example.  But the cocktails, served pre-mixed in fountain style for speed and consistency, were way too sweet for my palate.  That would be fine if it just didn’t suit my tastes, which run to more smokey whiskeys, but my sister-in-law and her friend Cody were equally unable to stand the sweetness by the end of the evening.

Some comments on specific cocktails:

The Gin and Tonic – Anne felt it was ordinary and one could get a drink like that anywhere.  I thought it was very refreshing, but could undertstand Anne’s point.  Cody liked it.

The Full Windsor (A scotch drink – see menu here) – This was similar to an Old Fashioned.  I had one across the street at a restauran named Jayne’s and this was about the same, but perhaps a bit sweeter, which unfortunately masked the scotch.  Cody agreed about comparing it to a sweet old fashioned.

Champagne Cocktails (not on the menu, but given complimentary due to understandable delays with a soft opening) – I liked these because they weren’t as sweet as the other drinks.  And they were free.  Cody liked them because they weren’t too “champagne” like.  Anne didn’t really like them.

Mr. Brownstone (Irish Whiskey with Cinnamon) – Anne loved this drink at first and gave it a 10, comparing it the apples you put into an apple pie before baking.  But then I let her finish the drink and she couldn’t because, like an apple pie, it was too sweet to drink so much of it.  I thought the cinnamon was a really nice touch…but it was still way too sweet.  Cody agreed that there was too much cinnamon and sugar.  This was especially true if you used a straw and drank from the bottom, which was even sweeter.

Misty Mountain Buck (Rye Whiskey with Ginger and Pineapple) – Cody liked it as she likes the ginger, though thought it might be better without the Pineapple.  Anne thought it tasted too much like ginger candy.  I liked the complexity and ginger taste, but again, it was way too sweet to enjoy a lot of it.

The Honey Stone Julep (Bourbon with Mint and Honey, pictured below)

Polite Provisions Honey Stone Julep

Cody didn’t love it and at that point it hurt her to say that as she was rooting for the drinks to be good.  It crossed a line in terms of appropriate sweetness for her and reminded her of a drink to be served to southern women with big hair.  Anne didn’t like it and thought the flavors didn’t work as it needed more mint.  I thought it was ok.  The mint was nice it could have had more, but like most of the drinks, the main problem was the overpowering sweetness.

Overall, I would go back.  I just wouldn’t order any of their pre-made drinks, which is technically the whole point of the place.  I appreciate any place that has friendly service and tries to be creative and will support such places.  They make all of our lives better by innovating.  We all loved Frank (pictured below with Cody), who bussed our tables and generally smoothed out all the kinks inevitable in a soft opening.  He told us he met the owner when he helped him move and the owner noticed how hard he works…and it showed that night for us.

Cody and Frank at Polite Provisions

Cody loved the giant ice cubes.  Anne and I would both go back and have beers.  And to top it off, the food from Soda & Swine, the attached restaurant that specializes in meatballs, was amazing.  The chicken, beef, and vegetarian meatballs were all great.  The bread was light and it felt like they achieved the impossible of a healthy-non-greasy meatball sandwich.  We will totally be back to enjoy the creative touches and great food.  We just won’t likely order any of the cocktails, until they start offering some savory or smokey concoctions too.

- Ravi Iyer