NEW FALL COCKTAILS SOAR
Some folks like to criticize Southern California for not having “real” seasons, but with fall upon us, we’ll let the East Coasters enjoy the fall foliage because we have something better—a new season of classic and creative handcrafted cocktails from the forward thinking mixologists at 1886 Bar.
Nearly three years ago, back when 1886 Bar first opened, it was the little bar at the plush Pasadena restaurant The Raymond, now it’s a drinking destination all its own as its reputation as the best bar in the Los Angeles area has created a legion of fans.
Each season, a dozen drinks are created for the season’s new cocktail menu. Move over Old Fashioned and Manhattans, those are child’s play compared to the concoctions created at the 1886 Bar mad scientist laboratory. The summer drink menu saw some really creative cocktails, including many tiki libations as well as plenty of deconstructed drinks, such as the wholly original Deconstructed Piña Colada. The fall menu, meanwhile, is simpler with cocktails consisting of less than five ingredients for speedier service.
This season there are daring and bold cocktails, some with terrific presentation, and even one unforgettable kickass dessert of a drink (make sure to read all the way to the end as I’m saving dessert for last).
Bartender de Jour Brady Weise has created three drinks on the new menu. His Pimm’s#10 is described as the tenth iteration of the bar’s secret Pimm’s recipe. This formula features Pisco as the base with fresh muddled citrus, cucumber and mint, topped off with a long pour of Fever Tree Bitter lemon soda. Another light and refreshing Brady beverage is the Late Night Stalker, a clean and crisp Collins cocktail mixed with celery-infused Akvinta vodka, Dry Vermouth, lemon, club soda, and a mist of Absinthe. Both of these are great as early evening drinks outside on the patio.
Brady’s ChocaCabana is a departure from his other two more refreshing drinks. This shaken digestif showcases the obscure talents of Cynar against a flamboyant backdrop of fresh lime, passion fruit syrup and a flaming line garnish to achieve deep tropical earthiness.
Give longtime consultant Marcos Tello the award for most creative drink with his Cádiz Cooler, a classically influenced refresher served in an actual hollowed-out cucumber with a salted rim and combines sherry, maraschino liqueur, muddled cucumber, lemon and is finished with Spanish salt from the province of Cádiz. This cool cocktail, with its slightly salty and limey taste, goes down way too easy.
One of our favorite new drinks this season is Adam McLean’s Gin n’ Roots, inspired by the recent opening of a juice bar in the Bronx by rapper Styles P…go figure. This healthy re-imagining of a classic hip-hop favorite features bourbon, Applejack, fresh-juiced carrot, muddled ginger root, lime and honey as a tall, bubbly Collins. I was a little worried about the carrot taste (as I’ve been burned before by cocktails with carrot juice) but the trick here is that the bar is using fresh carrot syrup to better create consistency. This well balanced drink is clean, refreshing and pairs so well with the Pork Belly Confit from the bar menu. You’d swear the two were born to work hand-in-hand. Between the taste of the pork and the grilled peaches, along with the savoriness of the drink, this an ideal match.
The Quick and the Dead is a drop-shot style combo (ala last season’s Saki Bomb) featuring a dram of 12-year Demerara Rum double infused with Stumptown whole coffee beans, alongside a glass of Irish Stout. This is a good drink with a nice jolt of caffeine-infused energy, but the real winner here is the specially infused rum. I say get it on its own as a shot to sip. It’s so delicious. It doesn’t really get any better.
For those who like their drinks on the harder side, think of the ¡Ay Papi! as a kickass margarita. This spicy sipper features Plata Tequila, mezcal, house Tamarind syrup, lime, honey and a blend of cayenne and chile. This drink is all about the kick and fear not, it will get the job done.
Likewise, the La Royale is a powerful potion—think a rich rum Manhattan served down on a rock that pays tribute to the maritime arm of the French military with cognac, aged rum, Benedictine, Carpano Antica, and a blend of bitters.
From Gillian Georges, the genius behinds the Smoking Jacket, the bar’s signature cocktail, is the Bonita Applebum (baring the relaxed potency of A Tribe Called Quest song title), a very pleasant fix with floral notes and a bite featuring fresh pear, Amaro Nonino, Applejack and lemon. This one is nice and goes down so easy.
The El Inquieto by Jesus Gomez, one half of the creative team behind the ¡Ay Papi!, is a Beer Alexander consisting of tobacco bitters, Stumptown-infused El Dorado 12-year, almond liqueur, Irish stout, a layer of hand-whipped cream, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. This drink was the subject of debate at our table. My co-conspirator for the evening (someone who knows a good cocktail when he has one) loved this drink, while I found it to be too creamy and bland. After I thoroughly mixed it, I thought it brought out more flavor and I liked it better, although it was still too creamy for me, but my friend then liked it less, so I’m guessing it’s just not for me and you’re better off leaving it as is.
Last but not least, let’s talk dessert. Although it’s the first drink on the fall menu, there’s no way this can be any other drink but the final salvo, unless you’re like me and have to finish every visit to 1886 Bar with the campfire goodness of the Smoking Jacket. The Chocolate Cake + Shot (courtesy of bartender Greg Gertmenian) is a bite-sized hunk of fresh-baked Chocolate Stout Cake topped with 101-proof bourbon frosting and served with an ice-cold shot of White Russian to wash it down. Delish! So creative, yet so simple, who doesn’t love chocolate cake with milk, and even better when you’re combining boozy cake with a White Russian. A decadent drink of a dessert, you will leave a happy camper after having this crowd-pleaser.
Fall brings on cooler days and nights, longer evenings, and luckily, a terrific selection of wonderful cocktails from 1886 Bar. I can’t wait to see what winter will bring but in the meantime, go and enjoy these tantalizing treats.
1886 Bar is located at The Raymond in Pasadena at 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave. Hours: Sun-Wed 5pm to 10pm; Thur-Sat 5pm to 2am. Call (626) 441-3136.