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  • Writer's pictureJarnard Sutton

Behind the Stick with J.J. Nesbitt of Cutwater Spirits

J.J. Nesbitt, lead bartender at Cutwater Spirits, shows us how to make one of their customer favorites, Weekend At Burnies, which is a tart, spiced, sweet and refreshing cocktail utilizing their Fugu vodka and Three Sheets Spiced Rum. We caught up with J.J. on Behind the Stick and he defines the 'perfect cocktail' and how he got into bartending.

Weekend At Burnies

1oz Fugu Habanero Vodka

1oz Three Sheets Spiced Rum

1oz Lime Juice

.5oz Passionfruit Syrup

.5oz Cinnamon Bark Syrup

Garnished with lime & cherry umbrella

What's the story behind Weekend at Burnies?

It's a funny name that worked with the cocktail that fit onto the menu (and a classic movie!!).

Describe the taste.

Tart, spiced, sweet and refreshing.

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

The presentation usually puts an immediate smile on their face, which puts a smile on ours, then after the first sip, the smile gets bigger. Mission accomplished!

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

Our lunch menu at our tasting room features a pork belly adobada sandwich with jalapeno slaw which is a perfect pairing for the spicy and refreshing notes from the cocktail.

Watch as J.J. Nesbitt makes the Weekend At Burnies cocktail.

What kind of experience can guests get at Cutwater Spirits?

Full experience hands down. We have an amazing and talented team all around, from everything that the tasting room and kitchen has to offer to everything in the distillery and production facility. To be able to taste and see what ingredients our products have, see how versatile they are and how they can work, then go back and get to see how it is all made is pretty honest and special.

About J.J. Nesbitt


Are you from San Diego?

I grew up in Texas and Florida, made my way around the world and San Diego has been home since 2006.

How did you get into bartending?

Like a lot of people, I was in school. I started working part time as a door guy, worked my way through all positions and started bartending and fell in love with it. The growth and progression of our industry as a whole has kept me passionate and hungry. I am excited to see what is next for us.

What's your favorite thing about bartending?

Everyday is something different. We get to learn everyday, we get challenged, we get to create, we get to make people happy, it is fun and not mundane... and no cubicle.

What is your favorite cocktail on the menu?

I honestly love them all. We pride our menu on making it hard to have just one favorite. Working at Cutwater Spirits, you get to see all the spirits from start to finish which translates all the way into the cocktail, so it makes it tricky to choose. But Fugu Horchata Vodka & Cold Brew on Nitro you cannot go wrong with though!!

What's your favorite spirit?

Right now, probably rum. It is the most diverse spirit and can work in any type of cocktail and please any type of pallet. We just released our new Bali Hai Tiki Rum and I am enjoying every bit of that.

Define the 'perfect cocktail.'

Well thought out and executed with fresh ingredients, creative, balanced and lacking arrogance. Able to please any pallet and put a smile on anyone’s face.

If you are going out for a cocktail, what are some spots you like to go in SD?

Wow, there are so many good spots around town that are doing amazing and creative things right now, but some of my favorites are The Lions Share, Campfire, Sycamore Den, George's Level 2 and The Grass Skirt.

What do you love about the cocktail scene in SD?

It is a very thriving, creative, loving and growing community that has a supportive and humble approach. It has been fun to see it grow and blossom to what it is now. I look forward to what our city will be 5 to 10 years from now.

What advice would you give an inspiring bartender about being successful in the industry.

Surround yourself with good people. Positive energy and a creative environment are crucial. Find a mentor and stay hungry, and do not get taken advantage of. Challenge yourself daily and do not forget to HAVE FUN!!!

What do you do in your spare time?

I try to enjoy our city, explore our growing food and cocktail scene, spend time at the beach and in the water, with my lady and our pups, and always find a creative outlet through cooking, growing our own food, making cocktails, woodworking or painting. If I can take a fishing or hunting trip a couple times a year with my brothers and Dad, that satisfies the Texan in me.

What's next for you?

I do not know what the future holds. Cutwater is a young and hungry company that has built an amazing and talented team around an unbelievable product that I am honored to be apart of. I think that it is a bartender’s dream to be able to have a distillery as their backyard, and we are fortunate to have that...There is a Dr. Seuss quote in here somewhere.

Cutwater Spirits

9750 Distribution Ave., Miramar. (858) 672-3848 or

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