Valley News -

By Alex Groves
Associate Editor 

Hidden bar in Old Town Temecula takes visitors to different time and place


Last updated 10/22/2018 at 3:44pm

Alex Groves

The interior of Thompson & Twain Prospecting Company is filled with antique and 19th century-inspired decor to make people feel as if they're visiting an old mining town.

Take a trip to Old Town Temecula and you'll likely find bars, craft breweries and niche dining concepts in locations off the beaten path, but one those places is literally hiding in plain sight.

Blink and you'll miss Thompson & Twain Prospecting Co. -- and that's sort of the idea. The upscale cocktail lounge has no outdoor signage and is actually a speakeasy located directly between sister restaurants Espadin and Crush & Brew. It specializes only in drinks, not food.

Visitors can access the lounge through an ornately-decorated door in the rear of Crush & Brew and instantly travel back in time to an 1880s Western mining town. Ornate red and gold wallpaper, wooden antiques and old oil paintings line the inside of the dimly-lit room.

Antique lamps jut out from the walls and from ceilings; many are glossed over with a varnish to look as though they've been stained from cigar smoke over time.

Director of Restaurant Operations Spencer Szczygiel said the designers of Thompson & Twain searched various antique stores for worn items to really give visitors the feeling that they are visiting a 19th century saloon.

"It's really easy if you go Western to make it kind of kitschy and just go down to party city and buy a bunch of stuff that looks Western," Szczygiel said. "But that's not really the feel we were going for; we wanted it to feel a little more authentic when you came in."

The walls have vintage-looking signage advertising such locations as the "Temecula Post and Telegraph Office" and "Temecula Depot." The signs are recreations but were taken from historical photos of places that once existed, Szczygiel said.

Earlier this week, the speakeasy released a menu of 32 drinks for visitors to try, many of them composed of liquors that were popular in the 19th century west, including bourbon, rye and gin.

There's the lounge's house Old Fashioned, "Bandwagon," which has bourbon, demarara syrup (an unrefined sugar syrup) and coffee, chocolate and smoke bitters.

Because it's an Old Fashioned, guests will taste the bourbon most, but Szczygiel said the coffee and smoke undertones are supposed to be reminiscent of a campfire coffee that someone might have in the old western days of yore.

Another new menu is the "Gold Strike," which takes Thompson & Twain's highly popular "Gold Rush" cocktail of bourbon, local orange blossom honey, fresh lemon and grated cinnamon and gives it a twist by adding grapefruit peel.

A unique addition to the menu is the "Birth of a Bandit". The cocktail's name pays homage to Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Inspired by the Mexican drink Tepache, the cocktail has piloncillo sugar, blanco tequila, mezcal, Strega liquor and allspice bitters.

Though the speakeasy specializes in cocktails with brown liquors, every kind of spirit is available there and guests don't need to stick to the cocktail menu.

"Say someone prefers vodka drinks, then we'll ask them a few questions and be able to hone in on exactly what type of flavor profile they're looking for and be able to make something off the menu," Szczygiel said.

Fresh ingredients for the cocktails are extremely important to the folks at Thomspon & Twain, Szczygiel said.

"We basically prep everything in house," he said. "We have a full-time staff member that all he does is prep things for us, so all the juices, all the mixers, all that stuff, we do by hand."

He said that instead of store-bought ginger beer for mules, for example, the drink makers will use a house-made ginger syrup made from fresh ginger root.

"The flavors that you'll get on these are going to be more intense than you'll get at a lot of other places but that's kind of what we're going for," Szczygiel said. " We'd rather wow you with flavor and we find that our cocktails tend to do that."

Reservations, especially for larger parties, are encouraged, but the restaurant does leave space for walk-ins.

To make a reservation, or for more information on Thompson & Twain, visit their website at

Alex Groves can be reached by email at [email protected]


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