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  • Writer's pictureJarnard Sutton

Behind the Stick with Tony Aversa of West Coast Tavern

Photo Courtesy / Jarnard Sutton

North Park's hip restaurant and bar, West Coast Tavern, has been the place for good happy hour deals, a cool date spot, good eats and delicious cocktails. Bar manager Tony Aversa is creating some flavorful cocktails for his fall/winter cocktail menu that utilizes seasonal ingredients. This episode of Behind the Stick, we featured his boozy, herbal rum-based libation called Wrong Island.

Wrong Island


Photo Courtesy / Jarnard Sutton

4 dashes Angostura bitters

.5 oz Vanilla Liquour

.5 oz Coconut Rum

.25 oz Thyme Liquor

1.5 oz Malahat Spiced Rum

Garnish: Orange Zest

Garnish: Luxardo Cherry

What's the story behind the Wrong Island?

The name "Wrong Island" came from a friend and I joking around about a very unpleasantly strong looking punch bowl being made at a bar. I then wanted to create a drink around that name that embraced the strong aspect of a "Long Island" but actually tasted good and highlighted the spirits properly.

When choosing a rum, why did you go with Malahat Spiced Rum?

Since this is a feature for my fall/winter drink menu, I wanted good seasonal flavors, and the rich spices in Malahat fits the holiday profile perfectly.

Describe the taste.

The Wrong Island brings rich cinnamon and vanilla flavors, accented by an herbal note brought by the thyme liquor. The sweetness from the rum and vanilla liquor is balanced with a hefty dose of bitters.

What's the key component of this drink?

The real key to this drink is the small dose of thyme liquor. Its earthiness and herbal flavor really help to level out the sweetness of the rum, and bring out a lot of depth in the flavors.

What reactions do get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?

I love seeing people's reaction to the drink. It's usually a "Wow, that's not what I was expecting at all, but damn that's good!"

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

You can't go wrong with the Chicken and Waffles and a Wrong Island!

Tony Aversa, bar manager at West Coast Tavern, shows us how to make his sweet, herbal rum-based cocktail called Wrong Island.

Video produced by Jarnard Sutton

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

West Coast Tavern provides a fun atmosphere, great drinks and friendly service. Come in for dinner, enjoy some awesome cocktails and then catch a show at the Observatory while you're at it!

About Tony Aversa

Photo courtesy / Jarnard Sutton

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 fall cocktail is the "Come Rye with Me." It has a delicious balance of rye whiskey, biscotti and saline.

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, Sycamore Den, 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

Photo courtesy / Jarnard Sutton

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

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