SUMMER FUN HAS BEGUN!
There is always two ways to look at things—on the bright side (or not); glass half full or half empty; or with lofty ambitions. Are you the over thinker with grand ideas or just the plow ahead type that wants to get to the finish line? I think I fall somewhere in between because while I do enjoy a good yarn and can always appreciate someone’s fine craft, when it comes to cocktails, and damn fine ones at that, I want glass in hand and good times abound.
Summer is here and so in a new cocktail menu from the genius kids at 1886 Bar at The Raymond in Pasadena. It’s no secret that I think this bar is tops in town. They’ve consistently upped the cocktails ante in the Los Angeles area, always managing to come up with the boldest and most daring drinks with no pretention or attitude. It’s like doing one’s job and doing it well is enough reward for these humble folks.
But if you do want to hear a good story of motivation, apparently the summer drink menu was inspired by chic, trendsetting fashion. And this season’s cocktail couture lineup would make even the late great fashionista David Bowie proud.
“In the early stages of brainstorming for this menu, we had taken inspiration from the latest fashion catalogues and designers who flaunted their work on the red carpet,” says Head Barman Peter Lloyd-Jones. “The idea was born that we could create a menu that would highlight the similarities in fashion, design and handcrafted cocktail creation.”
The new drink menu features 12 cover ready cocktails that stun and delight, and during our recent visit we started with Drop the Beet created by bartender Casey Levental. While beets are all the rage in dining these days, I haven’t seen too many drinks made with the vegetable so props to Casey for thinking so outside the box. Made will dill and cucumber-infused Stolichnaya Vodka, lemon juice, Mikey’s homemade pickle juice and finished with a homemade pickled beet, this drink is bold and intense. Drop the beet and watch this savory martini change color before your eyes. While this drink is so creative and daring, it’s not the best cocktail on the menu but it deserves to be seen and tasted.
Gin fans will want to know about Casey’s Bomb Collins. This summer smash is made with Beefeater Gin, Modern Times Saison (instead of the traditional club soda), lemon juice, simple syrup and a lemon/cherry garnish. This beer cocktail is easy going and perfect for day drinking and screams summer style with its slightly fizzy panache.
If you want to keep those good gin vibrations going, then Adam Vaughn’s The Blue Steel should not be missed. Prepared with Boodles Gin, Violet liqueur, Green Chartreuse, Dash Yuzu bitters and “Mugato Umbrella” tri-citrus garish, this libation is armed with pizazz. Boozy but balanced, it’s beautiful looking and stiff. Think beauty with brains…all substance.
As with any 1886 Bar menu, a highlight is always the inclusion of bar maven Marcos Tello, not only one of the best bartenders in the country but he’s the man responsible for running the bar for years; training the staff to excel to his standards. Marcos’ drink is the aptly named YAAASSSSSSS, an ode to Lady Gaga. Made with Pineapple Plantation Rum, passionfruit syrup, lime juice, Tello’s spice mix No. 1 (yes, Marcos even makes his own bar spice mix) with a lime wheel, this drink is sweet but delicious. Like a boozy slushy, this one is just so pleasing.
Another menu highlight is always any drink by bartender on the rise Jesus Gomez, and his Blood in Heaven made with Mezcal El Silencio Espadin, lime juice, pineapple juice, honey syrup, passion fruit syrup and a Peychaud’s bitters design is a wonderful take on a Daiquiri. Props to Jesus as his drink is a winner. Sweet yet slightly spicy, it works because it’s so well balanced.
Head barman Peter Lloyd Jones gets in on the action with his La Vie En Rose. Inspired by the romance of Paris, this concoction is a mix of Clement Canne Bleue Agricole Rhum, lime juice, Clement canne sirop [sic], muddled pineapple and overripe strawberry, topped with Rosé and finished with a dehydrated rose. Kudos to Pete as this one is sweet and smooth and so easy to drink.
A favorite summer drink of mine is Greg Gertmenian’s Rye Romper made with star anise infused rye whiskey, pineapple juice, lemon juice, honey syrup, and finished with fresh grated cinnamon. A complex cocktail, this drink will be an absolute delight with spicy food—that combination is just plain delicious.
If you want a boozy drink, then bartender Ned Kirby is your man with his Blondie, an ode to Clint Eastwood. A mix of Siete Leguas Reposado Tequila, mole bitters, Licor 43, Carpano Antica and a grapefruit peel, this drink is powerful and stiff. I love mole and I love its use in this cocktail. You will want to take your time drinking this potent potion.
Likewise, Adam Vaughn’s The Acid Flashback should come with a warning as this is a rough drink and I mean that in a good way. This boozy mix of Oxley Gin, Redbreast Irish Whiskey, Laphroaig 10yr Islay, maraschino, tobacco bitters and Absinthe, stirred and garnished with a thyme crown is not for beginners. But if you like your cocktail with bite, then you’ll love this one.
Whether you buy into the story of fashion influencing a cocktail menu or just want to enjoy stellar drinks because they’re among the best you’ll find in town, the summer lineup of new and creative and thoroughly satisfying drinks at 1886 Bar need to be enjoyed before the menu changes with the beginning of another season. In fashion, people say “You better work” but the work has been done, new heights of bartending excellence have been met and exceeded, all that’s left is for us to enjoy the daring and dynamic drinks.
1886 Bar at The Raymond is located at 1250 South Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena. Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday from 5pm to 10pm; Thursday from 5pm to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 2am. Call 626-441-3136.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy: 1886 Bar