Bartender | Photographer | Mentor | Organizer


Working in the restaurant and bar business since he was 15, Stephen's real passion started after his first bar shift in 2004.  It was at this time that he was introduced to cocktail bitters, a key bar ingredient, which would fascinate and continually inspire him to learn the trade.  Tinkering at home and in bars, Stephen has developed a portfolio of cocktail bitter recipes, a myriad of tinctures, syrups, drams, sodas, and many other hand made concoctions that give his cocktails distinct flavor.  Passionate about the classics, mindful of their simplicity, elegance, and restraint, he apples these methods to the modern cocktail.  


Most recently, Stephen spent a year at Hundred Proof on Park Boulevard, as Beverage Director, elevating the bar’s beverage program, overseen staff training and mentorship, provided a much needed identity and added a flair for hospitality that has put the bar on par with the short list for best bars in San Diego county.  2 months before the unfortunate closing due to unforeseen decisions from investment and ownership, Stephen and the staff of Hundred Proof launched a 51 cocktail menu full of house originals and some of their favorite classics.


Stephen’s previous notable works include 5 years running the bar programs for George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, California.  There he oversaw the creative direction of the cocktail menu, while choosing to create a sandbox that allowed others to contribute to the menu curation, leading to the acclaimed concept menu, “Neighborhoods of San Diego”, where Stephen and his team created 22 cocktails inspired by the distinctness of our city’s neighborhoods and packaged in a hardbound book, with each cocktail beautifully photographed in their respective part of town.   Stephen looks to find opportunities to mentor those that work under his leadership, as well as assist those bar professionals in furthering their knowledge and influence.  In his spare time, Stephen has consulted for Nórtico, the now two year old, first of it’s kind, pre-prohibition speakeasy bar in Tijuana, Mexico.  


Stephen also works hard to bring national attention to the San Diego bar community, serving as President of the local chapter of the USBG, and plans one of a kind guest bartending events both in San Diego and Mexico.  In his term as President, membership has increased 40%, there has been improved emphasis on community, continued education and leadership, as well as mentorship.  Along with the chapter officers, Stephen designed and lead a pilot community mentorship program, where 5 selected young bartenders were targeted, chosen on merit, and taught by the entire community everything from the mechanics of bartending, how to stay healthy in the business, other options for employment throughout the community, and an in depth look at what it takes to be the best, by being mentored by some of the best in the field.


Outside of his duties in San Diego, Stephen has taken his talents to such exotic destinations as Cabo San Lucas, Mexico City, San Francisco, New Orleans, Scotland, London, Laguna Beach, New York City, Los Angeles and Palm Springs for guest shifts and special bar events.  He has faired well in countless cocktail competitions, most recently taking second place in the nation in both the “2018 Glenfiddich Most Expirimental” Competition in Speyside Scotland, and 2018’s Remy Martin’s “History in a Glass” this past September in New York.

Stephen Kurpinsky

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