SUMMER COCKTAILS AT THE RAYMOND 1886
A ‘SOMEWHAT’ BOOZY RETURN TO NORMALCY
For the past ‘oh so many years’, I have always looked forward to the change of seasons because that guaranteed that a new cocktail menu from The Raymond 1886, SoCal’s leading bar for ingenious and dazzling cocktails, was guaranteed to delight imbibers.
This season’s cocktail menu, which the bar still considers Summer, was just released with no fanfare. There’s no dynamic theme or artsy design, instead head barman Jesus Gomez has crafted a list of 10 solid new drinks that will definitely please the palette.
And because of these COVID-19 times, all drinks are available to-go prepared in 8oz glass containers. The only drink that’s not ideal for to-go is the very summery Long Day as it contains egg whites and may not travel well. But as good fun-in-the-sun drinks go, the Long Day, a pleasant mix of gin, Campari, lemon, sugar and egg whites, comes across as a gorgeous gin Julius. It’s refreshing and sweet but hardly saccharin and it goes down very easy.
The Mary Pickford is another sweet and summery drink as it’s a nice blend of white rum, Maraska maraschino (a pure, natural brandy), pineapple and grenadine. I feared it may be too sweet but it was very nicely balanced.
A somewhat similar sweet drink is the 19th Century although it comes across as less sweet as the lovely Mary Pickford. This 19th Century beverage is an “old world” concoction of bourbon, Lillet Rouge, créme de cacao, and lemon. It’s extremely nice.
If you’re looking for potent summer cocktails perfect for when the sun goes down, look no further than the Improved King Kong, and the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. These two “improved” drinks are lights out good.
Just as an FYI, think Fun Fact, an “improved” cocktail refers to a tweak or “improvement” to a long-standard cocktail recipe. The new gussied drinks would sometimes include new ingredients, such as maraschino liqueur or absinthe.
The 1886 Improved Whiskey Cocktail is a mix of rye whiskey, Maraska maraschino, and angostura bitters. It is seriously solid and completely legit. Likewise, the Improved King Kong will knock you over and possibly knock you out with its winning combo of bourbon, Jamaican rum, banana liqueur, and angostura bitters. Be really careful with your pours if you order either of these in 8oz bottles.
If you want your summer cocktails to be very tasty, the bar has got you covered. The East India Cocktail with its boffo blend of cognac, Maraska maraschino, lemon, pineapple, and angostura bitters is delightfully delicious and lemony. Not to be outdone, the Merry Widow, made with gin, Benedictine, dry vermouth, absinthe, and angostura bitters is very ginny (great for gin lovers) and the absinthe definitely comes through.
While it’s great that we can order cocktails to-go while quarantining, the selections that most bars are offering having become somewhat dull and uninspired. After the first month of quarantine, I didn’t want or need another Old Fashioned and I’m quite capable of making my own Margarita or Daquiri or Negroni. So, props to The Raymond 1886 for serving sensational cocktails for the at-home drinker. There’s no limit to the imagination here.
While I personally found the Quaker too sweet for my liking, and I was not floored by the Southern Cross or the Creole Cocktail, there’s enough on this menu to keep you satiated. If you like your cocktails with kick, get to the know the Improved King Kong and the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. You will not be disappointed. Just pace yourself.
Story & PhotographyBy: Jose Martinez