The Bitter End

Mary Forrest

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The Bitter End

There used to be a bar in the Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego called The Bitter End. It was sort of a singles spot and was not a terrible place to find yourself, depending on whether you wanted to be hit on by guys who were likely to give you their business card. A lot of sales managers and assistant bank vice presidents. I would occasionally find myself there after visiting a few other haunts in Hillcrest or South Park (neighborhoods in San Diego, for the uninitiated) with friends who wanted to meet people. I cannot confirm but always assumed the conceit in the bar's name was that this is where you go to end your night, ostensibly because you didn't end up going home with someone you met elsewhere. (At the time of this writing, it's now a sports bar called The Tipsy Crow. I haven't been, so I don't have any sense of the clientele.)

All of this brings us to the point of my reminiscence: The Bitter End was the bar that served me my first martini with coffee in. It made sense that it was their signature drink, and it made sense that you would need a jolt of caffeine if this was the last stop on your crawl. Theirs was called the Black Martini and contained vodka, Kahlua, cold coffee, whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar. As I'm not super fond of sweet drinks, I have developed my own version of this that is extremely simple and can be made at home or ordered from your favorite barkeep. If you prefer a sweet drink, adding Kahlua or Bailey's or simple syrup works. But if you, like I, prefer your coffee black and your cocktails unsweetened, be sure to be explicit with your order. I have encountered bartenders who assume I want a little sweetness, and I don't fault them. Admittedly, this drink is not for everyone. It is actually bitter. But if you enjoy black coffee, it might be for you! I've ordered it from a bartender at brunchtime and been admiringly told the choice was "bad ass." 

For the record, I never went home with anyone I met at The Bitter End. But the taste for a coffee-based martini went home with me.


3 oz Ketel One Vodka

3 oz espresso (freshly brewed)

Coffee beans for garnish


Add vodka and espresso to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and enjoy! There is no cream in this recipe. That "crema" on the top is a frothy foam from shaking the ingredients. If desired, add a float of whipping cream on top. Garnish with coffee beans.

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