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  • Writer's pictureJarnard Sutton

Behind the Stick with Jay Choi of HIVE

Jay Choi, bar manager at HIVE, chats about his refreshing and boozy barrel-aged Henebery Mint Julep.

Barrel-aged Henebery Mint Julep


Muddled Mint

3 oz Barrel-Aged Henebery Spiced Whiskey

Dash of bitters

Garnished with mint bouquet

What's the story behind the Barrel-aged Henebery Mint Julep?

While I was making a cocktail list for Hive's new menu, I always thought that the Mint Julep would be a great summer drink, but had always wished there was a little something extra flavor- wise. In the past, I’d used my mom's homemade ume plum syrup to add a more fruity flavor to my mint julep, however, it was actually Jesse from Henebery who gave me the initial idea of incorporating Merlot wine as a syrup to add extra flavor (which is what we use presently - Round Hill Merlot).

What's the key component of this drink?

Henebery spiced whiskey and a mint Merlot syrup which adds extra flavor into the drink.

Describe the barrel-aging process.

Age ratio of 5:1 Henebery whiskey and mint cooked Merlot syrup into a barrel. It is important that you fill the drink all the way to the top to avoid oxidization. I constantly taste the barrel-aging process and whenever I think it’s matured enough, we bottle it, stopping the aging process.

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

An appreciation of the deeper and richer flavor as a result of the aging process, while still providing a refreshing taste.

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

I would love to pair my Henebery Mint Julep with our new seafood boil. The strong flavor of the seafood will balance well with the refreshing and savory taste of the Henebery Mint Julep.

Watch as Jay Choi makes his boozy and refreshing barrel-aged whiskey cocktail.

What kind of experience can guests get at Hive?

A lot of our first time customers are surprised by the variety of entertainment we offer. We are a restaurant / bar with 50 beer taps, a great cocktail program, 13 private karaoke rooms and an arcade place. There are also four huge projectors for sport games. There is an event happening at Hive almost daily, whether it be a live band or Taco Tuesday - customers will never get tired of Hive since there’s so many different options for entertainment.

About Jay Choi

Are you from San Diego?

I am originally from Seoul, Korea and moved to San Diego after high school. I have lived in many different cities, but for some reason, I always came back to San Diego. This is my third time coming back to San Diego.

How did you get into bartending?

I've always loved and enjoyed restaurant life. Whether it was cooking in the kitchen, serving or bartending. Also, my family in Korea owns a Korean sake brewery, so growing up I watched my grandma brewing and naturally developed an interest in booze.

What's your favorite thing about bartending?

I absolutely love the fact that I get to interact with my customers while I'm serving them. It is very important for a bartender to communicate with their customer on not only what they want to drink, but also what sort of mood they’re in. A bartender has to be able to apply all that information to the drink that he or she is serving.

What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?

I personally like our gin and tonic. Gin and tonic is a such a simple drink, yet it’s hard to find a really good one. At Hive, we use our house-made tonic syrup and pay great attention to detail. Personally, I love to drink it without a straw and just gulp it from the glass.

What's your favorite spirit?

It’s very hard to pick one favorite spirit - my answer always changes depending on my mood. Normally, Islay Scotch single malts, which has a good balance of peatiness, is my go-to night cap.

Define the perfect cocktail.

One that makes the person who is drinking it happy. Honestly that's all it is.

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

To be honest, I haven't been to too many bars in San Diego since I’ve come back due to the opening of Hive, I’m literally always here. But Chris Lee from Soho with whom I have worked and studied as a bartender for a many years, makes a mean cocktail.

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

The weather is my favorite thing about San Diego - dry and sunny with a good sea breeze. This has a lot influence on people's lifestyle and thus on the cocktail scene. San Diegan's like to take their time to enjoy their drinks, whether it's Sunday at noon while having brunch or on a weekday after work.

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

I like watching Korean shows when I have the spare time.

What's next for you?

In the future, I would love to get involved in distilling my own spirits.


4428 Convoy St.,Ste 100, Kearney Mesa. (858) 576-0700 or

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