Arlene Ibarra

This drink is literally lit. 

Carey Jones
September 07, 2018

Ornate punch bowls, tricked-out tiki mugs: presentation is, of course, part of the cocktail experience. And smart bartenders often consider the aesthetics of their own bars when planning a drink’s look and feel. But a cocktail that actually doubles as a design element? That’s new to us.

Meet “Den After Dark” at San Diego’s Sycamore Den, the creation of bar manager Jesse Ross: a cocktail for four, served within a functioning lamp that lights up at the table.  “I had noticed a trend of large-format drinks that were not served in conventional punch bowls,” Ross says. “I wanted to put our own spin on it—but cooler.”

Ross worked with a local craftsman to create the custom lamp. The rounded base serves as a punch bowl, accommodating the entire cocktail, with four holes for Pyrex straws; the shade is upholstered and fringed, jibing with the bar’s aesthetic. 

Arlene Ibarra

“We wanted the lamp to look liked it belonged at Sycamore Den, which is designed to look like a 1970’s ‘Dad’s den,’” says Ross. “There’s wood paneling, lava rock and vintage light fixtures, plus era-appropriate replica shotguns and rifles, banjos and fiddles.” (It's just another example that the '70s are back with a vengeance, especially in the cocktail world.)

And don't worry. Lest you worry about electrocution, there’s no power cord in sight. “The lamp ‘lights up’ via a non-functioning light bulb that we filled with firefly lights, and control by a remote,” Ross explains. “It gives the effect that the bulb is plugged in and shining.”

And the drink itself? Ross calls it a “modern, funky take on a classic Mai Tai,” echoing tiki flavors with housemade orange curaçao and clove syrup, together with fresh lime and tangerine, vodka, and for an unexpected herbal quality, Jägermeister. “The single-serving version comes in a custom vintage-style Mai Tai glass,” says Ross—but why would you opt for a single serving?