French Cocktails

Joie de Verre

Capturing a love of France in a glass

Posted on February 12, 2019

French culture has captured the minds of Americans for centuries. Whether it’s being wistful for the writing salons of Paris, enjoying decadent butter-laden cuisine, sampling some of the world’s best wines, or lusting after the latest runway fashions, there’s just something about French sophistication that we can’t help but idolize. Though French cuisine fell a bit out of fashion in recent years, a turnaround is in the works, especially in San Diego. Thankfully, this French resurgence extends to libations, too.

Jeune et Jolie is the latest newcomer to Carlsbad’s white-hot dining scene. The sister restaurant to Campfire, which is just down the block, Jeune et Jolie is a more upscale, French-inspired restaurant featuring modern cuisine. Thanks to bar manager Leigh Lacap, who also designed the list at Campfire and was formerly behind the stick at Ironside Fish & Oyster, it also has what is arguably the most creative cocktail list in town.

Highlighting flavors of former and present-day French colonies and allies, it’s heavy on classic French spirits. Having once lived in Vietnam, the “Viêt Nam” cocktail is a personal favorite. Lacap mixes blanc vermouth, Manzanilla sherry, Aveze Gentiane liqueur, lemongrass, Bird’s Eye chili, yellow Chartreuse, lime, pastis, and Thai basil for a punchy drink that tastes both nostalgic and excitingly new at the same time. Flavors more commonly found in food, like lemongrass, chili, and Thai basil, are a thrill to have in a savory-yet-still-refreshing drink.

French Cocktails

Jeune et Jolie’s “Viêt Nam” cocktail

Another new French-inspired watering hole is fresh on the scene in the Gaslamp Quarter. Rendezvous is the latest venture from the team behind the ever-changing, experimental cocktail menus at The US Grant Hotel’s Grant Grill. Also situated inside the hotel, Rendezvous is a 1930s-style bar that recalls the freewheeling days of both Paris during that era and also the bar’s namesake — a spot called Rendezvous, the Wonder Bar, which was established in the hotel just after the Prohibition era.

Inside, vintage decor with brass, gold, and leather details envelop living room-style sofas, dimmed lighting, and communal tables. Basically, it’s a gussied-up yet still informal place to see and be seen, to meet and discuss. An added bonus is the roaming Vieux Carre cocktail carts that visit guests at their seats.

The menu, designed by beverage director Jeff Josenhans, is just as creative as one would expect from someone with such a reputation for being so. Housemade Chartreuse, barrel-aged cocktails, and other mad scientist concoctions are mixed into an ever-changing list. Selections include the “Le Coq,” which combines a bouquet of French thyme and rosemary liqueurs, La Fee Absinthe Parisienne, Domaine Santé “All-Sass” Riesling Nectar, and La Vieille Ferme Réserve Brut. The “Mort Vivant” includes gin, absinthe, Lillet Blanc, Crème Yvette, and citrus for a refreshing mix. And the “Sunbathing in Normandy” comes with brandy, Suze, strawberry-infused Dolin Blanc vermouth and soda with an option to upgrade to premium Cognacs being included.

If it’s French chic you seek, perhaps a good start is in your glass.   Jackie Bryant, Photography by Lily Glass

French Cocktails

Jeune et Jolie