Bartender Eric Nielsen pours a cocktail at 55 South.

Don Draper’s signature cocktail, the Old Fashioned, gets a delightful twist at 55 South, a new cocktail lounge on 1st Street in San Jose.

“Rather than muddle an orange and cherry in a glass, we substitute the orange with an orange bitter,” says Paul Chun, one of the owners of the San Jose lounge. “The cherry is actually a maraschino cherry that’s imported from Italy.”

The drink is served with an ice ball, which “has a surface area that keeps the drink cold without diluting it too much,” he says.

Located at the former home A Perfect Finish wine bar at 55 S. 1st St. in San Jose, Chun and his co-owners, Andre Chenoweth (former owner of A Perfect Finish), Eric Nielsen (a former bartender at Blue Fin Sushi) and Michael Nguyen (a DJ) aim to elevate the emerging cocktail revolution with what they call “Cocktail Culture 2.0.”

The “2.0” is a homage to Silicon Valley but also a revival of the cocktail culture inspired from bars such as Single Barrel, a few blocks down the street from 55 South, San Francisco’s Bloodhound and other cocktail lounges in the South Bay and Bay Area.

Chun says 55 South uses locally sourced ingredients such as fresh organic herbs and fruit from local farmer’s markets and modern techniques, such as using an Enomatic wine dispenser feeds nitrogen into bottles to keep them fresh.

The owners aim to add their own twist to classic cocktails by adding or removing different ingredients from the recipe, such as making their own simple syrup and using different types of bitters to enhance standard recipes.

“We try to combine the best of both worlds and we want to have fun,” says Chun, a former bartender at A Perfect Finish.

Nguyen, the DJ and entertainment director, aims to keep the music fresh and calm by steering away from hip-hop and opting for soul and R&B.

Although the lounge currently serves standard tapas—a cheese plate, hummus, pot stickers and more—the owners are currently working on a revised menu with chef Louis Silva of Naglee Park Garage. Because 55 South is not a restaurant, the focus will be on savory American comfort food bar bites, as organic and natural as possible.

In addition to signature cocktails, the lounge serves a variety of wine, beer, scotch, bourbon, whiskey, brandy, gin and vodka.

“We want to give you a great cocktail experience,” says Chun. “If you don’t leave the bar feeling great, then I didn’t do my job.”

Recipes

Bols Barrel Aged Genever Manhattan
2 oz of barrel-aged Genever
1 oz French-style sweet vermouth “Dolin Rouge”
Dash Angostura bitters
Dash Reagan’s Orange Bitters
Stirred and then strained
Garnished with a LUXARDO Maraschino and an orange twist

State of Grace (created for Chun’s friend, Grace, who was having a bad night and he was trying to make her happy)
Muddled fresh raspberries (3)
1/3 oz of each fresh lemon, lime and orange juice
1/2 oz of Simple Syrup
1 1/2 oz Russian Standard Vodka
1/2 oz of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Shaken, double strained, with a float of Prosecco Rose (or a Sparkling Rose Brut)

55 South
55 S 1st St
San Jose, CA 95113

Looking for more cocktail options in the South Bay? Visit the SanJose.com Lounges Directory.