750 Fifth Ave., San Diego    |  Neighborhood: Downtown
(619) 546-9321 
|   Zymology.com

Molecular Mixology in the Gaslamp

By Miles Roberson

The definition of Zymology is the culinary study in the science of fermentation. The definition of fermentation is … ya know what? Doesn’t matter. Zymology 21 at 750 5th Ave. in The Gaslamp is probably the most interesting restaurant in town with the most unique food and cocktail menu I can remember. They take classic comfort foods and completely re-imagine them.

Their cocktails take you back to high school science class except this time you can drink out of the beakers and test tubes and not become deathly ill! The farm-to-bar cocktail program is a culinary laboratory offering drinks made from seasonal fruit shrubs instead of standard mixers. The shrubs can be incorporated into any cocktail style, from gin fizz to a margarita, to sangria popsicles with a beer or wine chaser and flights of Bloody Marys and mimosas served in test tubes.


The cocktails are formulated using house fermentation, puree and infusion techniques and are elevated to excite, intrigue and even make you think a little bit. Offerings include your standard cocktails that are then taken up a notch with shrub drinking vinegars, flights served in test tubes, boozy popsicles, craft cocktails on draft, hand-crafted cocktails and an impressive beer selection featuring many local brews.

I met with bartender JB to experiment and here’s what went down:

Suddenly Seymour
If you’ve ever seen Little Shop of Horrors, you’ll know where they get the name, and when you get this drink you’ll see why it has the name. Looking like a venus flytrap served in a 400-milliliter beaker, the Suddenly Seymour is a draft cocktail but that doesn’t mean there’s less love put into making it. Starting with Reyka, a hand-crafted Icelandic vodka, strawberry balsamic shrub is the star here. The shrub consists of strawberries and unrefined sugar. The California all natural Chareau Aloe Liqueur is added along with cucumber, mint and celery. The Seymour is tart, acidic and weirdly wonderful.

The Sun Also Rises
A traditional mojito consists of rum, mint, lime juice, soda water and sugar. Zymology’s take on the mojito starts with Caña Brava Rum and although still consisting of lime, mint and sugar, the interesting twist on The Sun Also Rises is what it’s poured over: seasonal fruit ice cubes. As the cubes melt, the flavor rises, giving the cocktail an ever-changing dynamic.

Equinox Fizz
A deconstructed take on a classic fizz, the Equinox is a concoction using an apple cranberry honey shrub that is shaken with Hendrick’s Gin, lemon, Angostura bitters and topped with a lemon-honey-egg white foam. The Equinox Fizz is a testament to the power of egg whites and alcohol.

The Resurrectionist
Composed of Fords Gin, house-made Pimms, strawberry shrub, lime, Cardamom bitters, St. George Absinthe-infused strawberries, The Resurrectionist is a local favorite with strong berry notes and a subtle absinthe undertone. It’s served with strawberries that also get an absinthe spray, followed by a quick hit from a blowtorch to really infuse the anise flavor. Watching this one being made is almost as fun as drinking it.

The guys at Zymology were kind enough to make me their lobster corn dogs to help soak up the booze. The problem with lobster tail is that it’s too often served un-battered and pathetically un-fried. Not anymore. And it’s on a stick for your convenience. The last thing you need is fried lobster on your fingers while you’re trying to drink. Fancy without the schmancy. Order this one!

Beyond the cocktail program, Zymology has an all-day brunch featuring sweet and savory offerings, small plates and lighter fare like open-face sandwiches, soups and desserts.

They also happen to be one of the only restaurants in San Diego to offer Siphon Coffee, a vapor pressured process that vacuum brews coffee through a double chambered pot. Supposedly this method produces the very best cup of coffee of all brewing methods—with a downside of it being an advanced method and taking a lot of skill. At any rate, the coffee is supposed to be darn good!

On the menu, guests can order everything from brunch style food all day, including chicken and waffles, green eggs and lamb and New Orleans style beignets with honey. Whether it’s brunch, lunch, dinner or just a few cocktails, Zymology 21 is all about finding ways to please your palate and open your mind.

In summary, Zymology 21 is elevating what has become the Gaslamp experience by taking customers on a taste journey that fires up all of the senses. The experience mixes the old processes of “zymology,” with modern cocktail and culinary preparations that include molecular mixology and gastronomy. They present interesting flavors but do it with a sense of showmanship. If you’re into alcoholic entertainment through modern mixology then put this on your bucket list of places to visit in the Gaslamp District.

Infuse, imbibe and indulge at Zymology 21.