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  • Writer's pictureJarnard Sutton

Behind the Stick with Tony Aversa of West Coast Tavern

Tony Aversa, bar manager of West Coast Tavern, is creating some unique and delicious libations for Spring. We chat with Tony about his smokey libation called Muerte Negra, which means "Black Death." He uses activated charcoal water to give this drink its signature look.

Muerte Negra


.75 oz lime juice .5 oz agave syrup .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse .25 oz activated charcoal water 2 oz Mezcal Garnish with lemon zest

What's the story behind the Muerte Negra?

In literal definition, it means "Black Death." With the use of the activated charcoal, we wanted a stunning drink, and to match the dark beverage, we needed an even darker name.

Describe the taste.

I like to describe it as a grownup margarita. With the mezcal, the drink is given a light smokey taste, which is brightened up by a hint of floral and sweetness from the yellow chartreuse and agave.

What's the key component of this drink?

The activated charcoal is what gives this drink its signature look.

Why did you decide to go with a mezcal and not a tequila?

I like the smokey flavor that the mezcal brings and it pairs better with the yellow chartreuse than tequila.

What reactions are you expecting to get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?

Surprised but delighted. It is definitely not your average tasting cocktail, but the combined flavors still make it very palatable.

If you had to pair this cocktail with a dish, what would you pair it with?

My favorite pairing for this cocktail is our delicious Chorizo Mussels.

This cocktail is on the new Spring menu, what are some other cocktails we can expect on the menu?

We have two other standout cocktails on our new spring menu with some unique ingredients. First is our Chupacabra. We've elevated a simple spicy tequila drink with house infused Jalapeno Tequila and house-made Verdita (combination of blended Cilantro, Mint and Pineapple juice). Second is The Weekend at Adelitas. This combines tequila, lemon and a house-made carrot/turmeric/paprika juice.

Watch as Tony Aversa serves up his refreshing, smokey mezcal libation called Muerte Negra.

What kind of experience can guests get at West Coast Tavern?

We are all about the customer experience at West Coast Tavern. Whether you're coming in for a quick happy hour drink, or a full course meal, we've trained our staff to provide an amazing customer experience, and open up your minds and mouths to flavor combinations that you may have never tried before, but will certainly fall in love with. Our bartenders love to experiment with new cocktails and cater drinks exactly to customer preferences.

About Tony Aversa

Are you from San Diego?

I am from Philadelphia originally. I have lived in San Diego for 9 years now.

How did you get into bartending?

When I was young, I worked as a catering server. Several parties got understaffed, and they threw me behind to bar to fend for myself. Since then I have fallen i love with it and worked to perfect my craft.

What's your favorite thing about bartending?

Constant customer interaction. I love the constant flow of new people I meet every day, especially with San Diego being a tourist town. And I love being able to share my passion for drinks with them .

What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?

My favorite cocktail on the Spring menu is the Chupacabra. Though I am traditionally a whiskey drinker, the bright freshness of the Verdita mixed with the spicy tequila is an unbeatable combo.

What's your favorite spirit?

My favorite spirit is definitely Whiskey. Straight bourbon to be exact.

Define the perfect cocktail.

In my opinion, the perfect cocktail is simple and spirit forward. My drink of choice is whiskey on the rocks, so I like my cocktails straight and to the point. Maybe a dash of bitters or citrus here and there to elevate the flavor of the spirit.

Any local bartenders you look up to?

One of the very first bartender a met when I moved to San Diego was Jake Mitchetti. He got me introduced a lot into the San Diego bar scene. I've looked up to him, and especially his flare skills for a long time. I visit him fairly frequently at his currently location at OB Noodle house 1502.

If you're going out for a cocktail, what are some spots you like to go in San Diego?

Some of my favorite go to spots include Aero Club, Polite Provisions and Noble Experiment if I'm really feeling fancy.

What do you love about the cocktail scene in San Diego?

I love the competition in the cocktail scene here. In my opinion, we are a staple town in the country for advancements in cocktails and mixology, and I love how much pride all of our local bartenders take in their craft. Everyone here wants to be the best and make the best cocktails, and it keeps our industry ever advancing and growing!

What advice would you give people who are seeking employment in the industry?

Best advice I could give, work your ass off and learn everything you possibly can. Don't be afraid to start out at the bottom and work your way up. Most of the best bartenders I know started out as bussers and dishwashers. That's how you learn the most and learn to truly appreciate the industry.

What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?

In the little time I have outside of work, you can usually find me at the beach taking selfies with my dog, usually with a drink in had of course.

What's next for you?

I don't plan on leaving West Coast Tavern any time soon, but hopefully in the near future I will be making some moves to co-own and open a bar!

West Coast Tavern

2895 University Ave., North Park. (619) 295-1688 or

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