SUMMER DRINK MENU PITS NEW VS OLD SCHOOL
Last winter proved to me that no one is perfect and, sadly, all good things must come to an end, or at least take a break to gather and refocus. I couldn’t believe my taste buds when 1886 Bar at The Raymond released its winter drink menu, finally, the best bar in these parts had come up short. And it was a “greatest hits” menu to boot, so how could they get it wrong? Wrong they did and after some bartender shuffling, the mad scientist kids have proven themselves tops by releasing a stellar summer lineup of cocktails.
This new menu, once again aptly designed by bar vet Peter Lloyd Jones, is all about “fight night” as the bar staff was divided into two teams to come up with new drinks. Half the menu features wholly original libations, while the second half is mostly a play on classic drinks, think daiquiri or Manhattan, or a popular style like tiki.
For me, the team hit on nine of 10 drinks, which is pretty impressive, especially considering my discerning booze tendencies. Standouts, in my opinion, include Jesus Gomez’s Sex Panther. I have a feeling this will be the hit of the summer—thanks to its name alone. Named after Paul Rudd’s cologne from the movie Anchorman, this drink is a fine mix of lavender-infused Plymouth Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, honey, lemon and grapefruit. It’s sweet yet balanced and absolutely delicious.
Another favorite was Luis Nava’s Shag Party—a tea-ki cocktail made with fresh lemon juice, Jamaican, Trinidadian and spiced rum with black tea syrup with pineapple, cinnamon, and anise notes, served over crushed ice with fresh grated nutmeg. This drink, in a word: awesome! It plays like a tiki drink and is so well balanced. A mix of three rums, this drink runs on all cylinders.
Not to be outdone, Peter Lloyd Jones, now one of the head honchos at 1886 Bar, delivers with his The Frank Underwood. Described as a seductively southern Old Fashioned made from Peach-Tea infused 100-Proof Old Grandad Kentucky Bourbon and served with a candy peach garnish, this charmer is named after Kevin Spacey’s character in House of Cards. Be warned, this is one boozy cocktail.
I’m a really big fan of Ned Kirby’s The Chocolatier, a bold Manhattan that features Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon, chocolate rum, Green Chartreuse and Carpano Antica served with a side of bittersweet chocolate disks. This drink is fantastic, especially if you love chocolate like I do. Personally, I’m over the Manhattan craze and I would rather have this drink any day instead. This is the new Manhattan, with or without the paired chocolate, but there’s something about the taste of the bittersweet chocolate with the cocktail that is so spot-on. This is one solid drink.
Likewise, if you’re a fan of liquid dessert like I am, the English Channel, also by Ned Kirby (he’s The Man this season—at least for sweet tooth lovers), is a citrus-y cocktail featuring Genever, Velvet Falernum, fresh pineapple and lime juices, and a dust of clove. While it is a sweet cocktail, it’s not overly sweet, yet manages to be a refreshing and well balanced.
Barman Greg G. did a fine job with his Rainbow Breakfast, a classic fruit daiquiri made with banana-infused aged Cachaca, fresh lime, brown sugar, house-made pineapple foam and topped with a sprinkle of fresh blueberries. The presentation is impressive as the drink comes with a great visual. While the drink is sweet for a daiquiri (at least a proper daiquiri), it works. My drinking partner called it “beauty and brains” as it looks good and has a complexity that makes this drink a standout.
Fans of smoky drinks will want to give Adam Vaughn’s Loch Ness Monster a try. A mix of Ardbeg Scotch, lime, a bar spoon of Green Chartreuse and a mist of Yuzu bitters, this is a play on a whisky sour that pays homage to the legendary Scottish monster and the monk who first spotted it. I feel this drink may have worked better with mezcal, but then that would have changed the story. As it is, I love how simple, yet tasty and balanced this cocktail is.
Another tiki-ish drink is Peter Lloyd Jones’ Ring the Alarm, which blends Martinique, Jamaican and Demerara rums, Amaro Montenegro, Velvet Falernum, fresh pineapple, lemon and lime juices and a tropical island garish. I thought this drink went down too easy. With three rums it’s pretty boozy yet it was gone in a flash. I prefer to make my drinks last a little longer.
The last two drinks on the menu are the very tart Trojan Horse, and the Infinite Garden, both my Casey Levental. The Infinite Garden, a is a pinot grigio based drink with Massenez Cherry Liqueur, and Amaro Montenegro, stirred and served in a wine glass with an orange peel. A spritz spinoff, this isn’t day drinking material for me and just missed as far as I was concerned. I’ve been told the ladies like this drink, but then again, I hate when people say that because I know girls that can throw down with the best of them when it comes to drinking and I think they too would find this one too light and fluffy.
With 10 new drinks, there’s a cocktail for every discerning taste. And we’re talking top quality drinks. After last season’s debacle, I found comfort in bars closer to home, like Copper Still, Melrose Umbrella Co., and Harlowe, but I’m glad to say that 1886 Bar, the little bar with big drinks, is back and the LA cocktail scene is all the better for it.
1886 Bar is located at 1250 S. Fair Oaks at The Raymond in Pasadena. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 4pm to midnight (2am on Friday and Saturday). Call 626-441-3136.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy of:1886 Bar