The Smoothest Whiskey Bars In San Diego, Ranked

San Diego is a coastal gem that boasts impeccable beaches and a fantastic climate. Though it is the second largest city in the Golden State, its cultural atmosphere does not align with the idea of fast living. Instead, it promotes relaxation and enjoyment as routes leading to a balanced life. The vibrant culinary and entertainment scene perfectly fits with this idea. San Diego is packed with craft cocktail bars, trendy restaurants, music venues, and bustling clubs, which help build its reputation as a relaxed, fun-loving city.

San Diego is also a stellar destination for whiskey connoisseurs, or even aspiring whiskey connoisseurs just starting their adventure. No one will have trouble finding a favorite place for tasting, appreciating, and learning about this refined spirit. Among many whiskey bars, we have ranked those that offer the best selection and the most diversity, allowing the patrons to taste different labels and, if they choose, select their preferred style or a favorite regional expression. Of course, we have not forgotten other essential factors, such as knowledgeable staff, attention to detail, décor, and the additional offers that complement whiskies. These San Diego whiskey bars offer the whole package and will ensure that you have an amazing whiskey experience every time you visit.

12. Apparition Room (in Temecula)

Apparition Room is the oddball on the list as it is technically located in Temecula, a picturesque town outside San Diego, but this charming local spot deserves mention and should be on your list if you are ever in the area. Apparition Room is not easy to find. In a true speakeasy style, the bar is located inside the Devilicious Eatery, hiding behind a secret door. The interior immediately hints at a unique blend of classic speakeasy and trendier sensibilities. Upon entering, you will be welcomed by quirky portraits, taxidermy, and imposing chandeliers. You can lounge in comfy leather booths or at the bar. Though the décor is impressive, you should come to the Apparition mainly because of the top-notch drinks menu.

Appropriately, this speakeasy-like den has a well-stocked bar packed with an excellent selection of whiskey and bourbons. The cocktail list features a variety of classics and some amazing house specials, but whiskey-based cocktails are the real masterpieces. The Campfire Sour is easily one of the most unique takes on sours — the base uses a house whiskey blend, and the drinks come served with a cedar smoked marshmallow. If sours are not your favorites, go with the old fashioned, which Apparition makes in four different styles, all using different bourbons and add-ons. You can even go for a whiskey tasting inside the bar or join the full-blown whiskey-tasting sessions regularly held here.

11. Liberty Call Distillery and Restaurant

Liberty Call Distillery is not a classic whiskey bar, but what better place to get a whiskey fix than a distillery that makes its own batches? Liberty started as a small, local business in 2013 with the idea to make distinctive spirits with local ingredients that best represent Californian tradition. The distillery steers away from mass production and relies on an authentic artisan approach that demands craft techniques and the use of high-quality ingredients. The portfolio includes vodka, gin, rum, and of course, whiskey and bourbon, which you can try at the Barrio Logan location that also houses Liberty Call Distilling Kitchen.

The main focus is on bourbon. Though you can choose to taste individual labels, for whiskey fans, the best option is to go for the collective tasting that includes flagship bottles such as the Doublewood Bourbon, which is aged in two types of American oak, and the four-grain Blue Ridge Whiskey. You can also ask the staff if some limited batches are available for tasting.

Though it steps out of the traditional framework of a classic whiskey bar, Liberty Call is a great San Diego spot to try unique local whiskey expressions.

10. Whiskey Girl

Whiskey Girl is a familiar name in San Diego. Located in the Gaslamp District, this long-running establishment is best described as a classic American bar that combines excellent drinks, tasty grubs, and a dose of fun, all elevated with a friendly atmosphere and live music. The food is based on an all-American pub grub featuring wings, sandwiches, and burgers, while the drinks menu reveals a well-built list with draft and bottled beer, classic cocktails, and a limited selection of wines and tequilas. Of course, as you may guess from its name, whiskey is central at Whiskey Girl and is always a reliable option.

The menu carries around 70 whiskey labels. Bourbon is the most prominent variety, featuring some familiar names such as Bulleit, Elijah Craig Small Batch, and Maker's Mark, but you can also go for something more exclusive such as the Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch. For something unique — so much so that it's the only option on the menu under the "unique" category – go with the Bernheim Original, rare American straight wheat variety from the Heaven Hill Distillery. If you are not a bourbon fan, there are many other options, as the bar covers all essential regions and styles.

Whiskey Girl is not your quiet, dimmed whiskey bar. The place is all about delivering fun, and it's ideal for those who like to sip their whiskey in vibrant, lively bars, all fueled with good music.

9. Barleymash

Barleymash is another whiskey-centered establishment located in downtown San Diego. The bar was opened in 2012 by Eric Lingenfelder, who wanted to create a place to celebrate beer and bourbon as the two essential American staples. Along with drinks, Barleymash also adds food and live music to give the patrons the total experience. The bar sticks to the idea that nothing should be done in a hurry, so they encourage you to relax, enjoy the atmosphere, and naturally pair it all with a nice glass of whiskey that calls for slow sipping and contemplation.

Though the drink menu is packed with brews, cocktails, wines, and agave spirits, a considerable portion of the list is occupied by whiskies. You will find an extensive list of classic bourbons like Old Forester and Knob Creek, along with scotch, rye, Nikka and Suntory as regular Japanese representatives, and Irish whiskies. A special part of the menu is taken by the reserve section, which features labels that you will not see at your everyday whiskey bar. This is the exclusive, more expensive part of the menu that includes less available American and international labels, rarities, and limited editions.

8. Prohibition

As you may guess from the name, the Prohibition is a speakeasy-style bar that pays homage to the dark Prohibition era when bars had to be hidden out of plain sight. Though Prohibition is centrally located in the Gaslamp Quarter, it takes work to find it. The bar is situated in the basement and decorated to mimic a law office, perfectly fitting the designated theme. The decor and the ambiance follow the same 1920s tagline with dark mahogany wood and muted lights. The bar regularly hosts jazz, blues, and soul artists who help with the cozy, warm ambiance. Along with the décor, the management also supports a dress code inspired by the roaring '20s, so make sure to pick something elegant that fits the style and tone.

Prohibition is best known for its crafty cocktails that are spirit oriented, and naturally, they whip up some mean whiskey-laden creations that feature bourbon, Scotch, Irish, and Japanese whiskies. You should not miss the old fashioned that holds a separate place on the menu. The options include single-barrel old fashioned, where you pick the whiskey on offer. If you are a true connoisseur and ready to splurge, go for the top shelf section where you can opt for some rare, luxurious labels such as the legendary and crazy expensive Macallan 25-year scotch. This is the bar with no-nonsense drinks that still manage to be incredibly creative.

7. Salt & Whiskey at The Horton Grand Hotel

The Horton Grand Hotel is a downtown gem located in the Gaslamp District. Apart from the centrally located accommodation, the hotel is also known as a home to Salt & Whiskey, an elegant bar that celebrates and honors this timely spirit. Formerly known as Palace Bar, Salt & Whiskey is packed with revamped furniture sourced from various locations. The main goal of the décor is to recreate the 19th-century Victorian feel, so expect lots of intricate carvings, murals, and leather chairs that all ooze a sense of that old world. And though much of its allure hides in the décor, the Salt & Whiskey is also a go-to place for an upscale whiskey experience.

This is not the spot where you come for the familiar, entry-level labels. Salt & Whiskey works hard to collect rarities and whiskies you will not easily find elsewhere. The cocktail menu also hides some creative house specials accompanied by whiskey-centered classics. Along with elegant drinks, you can order some bites and dishes from the food menu.

6. Bar Three Piece

Bar Three Piece is a hidden speakeasy-like bar located in the back of the Seven Grand in North Park. It functions separately from the Seven Grand and is designed as a cozy, upscale whiskey den that would rightfully honor this legendary spirit. The interior gives off the right speakeasy feel — dim light, dark mahogany, leather booths, and stag heads perked on the walls will immediately set the tone that calls for a whiskey order.

And whiskey is all you will find at Bar Three Piece. Featuring several hundred labels, this is heaven for hardcore whiskey aficionados as the bar carries some rarities and bottles that are no longer produced. You will find big American whiskey producers and some notable distilleries from Scotland, Ireland, and Japan. Most distilleries are represented with reliable and entry-level whiskies, but they also carry limited editions that are not easily found elsewhere.

Bar Three Piece was conceived as a place where whiskey lovers can unwind, but the goal was also to create a hub for learning and education. The bar regularly organizes different whiskey tastings focusing on regional expressions, specific distilleries, or interesting whiskey pairings.

5. Sycamore Den

Sycamore Den is a bar that rocks the retro '70s style but keeps the vibe hip and trendy. Opened in 2013 by Nick Zanoni, Sycamore features a classic wooden décor partnered with old-school leather booths, all complemented with musical instruments and guns mounted on the walls and a large, stylish bar that dominates the area. Zanoni sold the bar in 2022, but despite the change, the philosophy of a friendly, no-frills neighborhood bar remains the same.

Although Sycamore does not define itself as a whiskey bar, the menu is packed with fantastic whiskey options. Rye, bourbon, Irish whiskey, and Scotch, including single malts and blends, are part of the classic offer and feature some familiar names. For those searching for something less ordinary, there is Taiwanese Kavalan single malt and some legendary Japanese labels such as Nikka, Shibui, and Suntory. If you are in for a cocktail, go for Sycamore's signature creation, the Wolf Ticket, which mixes Wild Turkey 101, simple syrup, peach liqueur, lemon juice, and bitters.

Apart from whiskies, Sycamore has a fine selection of tequila and mezcal, along with the essential red and white wine varieties. Draft beer is also well covered, with all major categories represented. Essentially, even if you are not here for the whiskey, Sycamore will not disappoint.

4. Seven Grand San Diego

Seven Grand is a model of what you expect a whiskey bar to look like. Located on University Avenue in North Park, the rather simplistic exterior does not do justice to the lavishly decorated interior featuring everything you expect to see at a place designated for whiskey lovers. Upon entering, you will discover dark wood paneling, leather booths, dimmed lights, and walls covered in taxidermy. The bar is equipped with a pool table, but the main feature is hidden behind the bar where neatly assembled shelves hold a seemingly endless number of whisky varieties.

This place will satisfy the whiskey novices, but it is also a go-to San Diego bar for the experienced crowd who are always looking for something new. The menu includes American and international bottles sourced from all notable whiskey locations. If you are not into sipping it straight, the dapper bartenders also whip up mean whiskey-based cocktails. For a place like this, we recommend the classics: the old fashioned, Sazerac, or whiskey sour surely won't disappoint.

Seven Grand is also home to the Whiskey Society, a tasting group where guests can familiarize themselves with different whiskey styles and labels. The meetings offer educational background and tasting experience led by master distillers and other experts from the beverage industry. This is also a place where you can enjoy live music several nights a week as a perfect complement to the entire experience.

3. Raised By Wolves

Though it is better described as a speakeasy-like cocktail bar, Raised By Wolves deserves its place on this list due to its refined whiskey selection and creative whiskey-based cocktails. The bar is the latest business endeavor created by Arsalun Tafazoli, Chris Patino, and Erick Castro, a team responsible for multiple successful cocktail spots. Raised By Wolves opened in 2018 and was immediately deemed controversial as it was located in a shopping mall outside Downtown San Diego. However, the move proved to be genius, as the bar inspired similar places to open in the area.

The bar carries privately selected single-barrel bourbons chosen by this passionate team. The offer also includes single malts, Japanese whiskies, and rarities like the legendary Van Winkle bottles. Some of the best whiskey-laden cocktail options include the classic old fashioned made with bourbon from the shop's private barrels or the Island Old Fashioned based on the coconut-washed Irish whiskey.

Despite its peculiar location, much attention has been put into décor. A large round bar dominates the room with a centrally located fountain towering over the bar. With dark wood paneling, marble floors, and antique details, Raised By Wolves oozes the vintage grandeur feel and creates a perfect atmosphere to enjoy an exclusive dram or some of the creative whiskey cocktails. The bar is located in the back, while the front is taken up by a retail shop offering rare spirits.

2. Aero Club Bar

Aero Club is one of the historic San Diego bars that has rebranded itself as a must-visit place for whiskey lovers. First opened in 1947 by pilot Marianne Profit, it was initially intended as a place for local pilots and other flying aficionados to hang out and share a drink. The spot was later taken over by Bill Lutzius, who decided to go for the whiskey-centered approach. The décor evokes memories of its beginnings, complemented by arcade games, pool tables, and a lively atmosphere.

The whiskey list is comprehensive, including more than 1,000 varieties. It covers rye and bourbon as two dominant American styles and includes classics from big whiskey players, namely Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and Japan. For the adventurous, there are Indian, Swedish, Taiwanese, Mexican, Australian, and English whiskies. Though whiskey takes center stage, Aero is well-equipped with a good selection of drafts. The cocktail list reflects the whiskey-centric theme and features classics and house specials.

Along with the excellent drink selection, many reviews praise the knowledgeable, friendly, and approachable staff. On the weekends, you can feast on various delicacies prepared by the Space Kat BBQ food truck. Essentially, Aero Club has a superb drinks selection, a homey atmosphere, a game area, and some scrumptious food options. It's not to miss if you are in the area; just be mindful that it is a small bar that can quickly get packed, so get there early.

1. The Whiskey House

For the best whiskey destination in San Diego, look no further than the legendary Whiskey House. Nestled in the Gaslamp Quarter, this local institution boasts an impressive whiskey collection that the Guinness Book of Records crowned as the largest in the world — which means it holds the most commercially available whiskey labels ever recorded — in 2019. The bar housed more than 2,400 whiskey varieties at the time, but the number has probably increased since then. With such a remarkable collection, this can be a go-to destination for serious whiskey buffs and those just getting into the complex world of whiskies.

As you may expect, the whiskey menu is incredibly varied, featuring a seemingly endless list of whiskey labels sourced worldwide. American whiskies are represented, with Kentucky dominating the list, followed by an exceptional collection of blended and single malt Scotch and other whiskey giants such as Japan and Ireland. Along with the big names, this place also includes some less familiar whiskey destinations, such as Brazil, Switzerland, and France. The menu finishes strong with many rum, gin, amaro, brandy, and tequila labels. Along with spirits, The Whiskey House also offers crafted cocktails, wine, beer, and several food options available for lunch or dinner.

If you get overwhelmed with the selection, the Whiskey House also has convenient tastings that can easily direct you to your preferred whiskey style.