THE RAYMOND 1886
GROOVIE 70’S SUMMER LOVIN’ TO DRINK TO
‘Summertime and the livin’ is easy.’
Those are of course lyrics to a popular song but also a SoCal mantra as those are words to live by in these parts. And those lyrics definitely rang true to me sipping on an inspired cocktail off the new 70’s Summer Lovin’ menu at The Raymond 1886 where its summertime and the drinkin’ is easy.
This new summer cocktail menu is special for many reasons but perhaps the biggest is that it marks the return of favorite son Jesus Gomez who stepped away for a minute to spread his capable wings. Now he’s back and is running the daring and leading bar program and this 70’s Summer Lovin’ menu marks the first under his leadership.
Jesus has done it all at The Raymond 1886. He started in the kitchen, worked his way up the ranks to bar back, then bartender, then mentor and bar maven to now overseeing one of the most respected if not best cocktail programs in town (and I don’t just mean Pasadena). While there has been changeover at The Raymond 1886 recently as chefs, head barmen and bartenders have left, Jesus is a calming and grounding force that gives me confidence that the drinks will continue to be legit, and the proof is in the fine cocktails found on the 70’s Summer Lovin’ menu.
My favorite of the “new” drinks is the Milano Torino (Caffè Camparino)—the predecessor to the classic Negroni. You see, before there was the Negroni, there was the Americano (substitute soda water for gin) and before that, going back to the 1860s, well, let’s say 1870s for that 70’s vibe, there was the Milano Torino. Although credited to Jesus Gomez on the menu, this is an old school classic made with Campari, Punt E Mes, Angostura bitters, and orange bitters. It’s low ABV (alcohol by volume) but it is packed with a wonderful taste—if you’re a fan of Campari. And big props to Jesus for putting this overlooked cocktail gem on his new menu.
Another Jesus favorite is the El Americano made with gin, Galliano Autentico, Coco Lopez cream of coconut, and orange bitters. It’s tiki-inspired fun in a glass and is great for day drinking and comes across as a solid gin drink.
Two other favorites of mine are on the stiffer side as veteran 1886 barmen Nathan Baker and Luis Nava each came up with some fine, boozy treats.
A Night at the Opera by Nathan Baker is strong but pleasing and is a great mix of bourbon, Smith and Cross rum, Madeira fortified wine, banana liqueur, and Angostura bitters. Put them all together and they really complement one another.
Not to be outdone in the boozy category is Luis Nava’s Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, which packs a punch with Laphroaig 10-year, Bruno Americano, Amaro Abano, and sweet vermouth. It’s smoky yet balanced and is very pleasing for anybody that likes their cocktails on the stiff side.
If you’re looking for easygoing drinks, then look no further than the I’m Heer, It’s Sloe by Andrew Cowan—a former 1886 barman. This mix of sloe gin, Cheery Heering liqueur, sugar, lemon juice, and tonic water is light and almost ice tea-ish; think lime Rickey.
Likewise, the Welcome to the Disco by Abby Peoples is sweet but tasty. Made with gin, lychee foam, grenadine, and lemon juice, the lychee foam is delightful and is a great touch.
And the Magna Doodle also by Jesus Gomez is impressive with vodka, Chareau Aloe Liqueur, red grapes, lemon juice, sugar, egg white, and Angostura bitters. There is a lot going on in this drink. Actually, the grapes are only shaken with the mix as there are no grapes in the drink itself. And while the aloe scent is strong on the nose it is subtle to the taste.
A drink that deserves a lot of attention is The Roundabout by Becca K. for a reason that may not be obvious. A mix of cachaça, Velvet Falernum, jalapeño, honey, lime juice, and Ting grapefruit soda, it’s slightly sweet yet subtle and is great for day drinking but what really blew me away about the cocktail is how well it pairs with pork belly. Coincidentally, we had an order of pork belly when the libation arrived and OMG the two were just incredible together. I don’t think one should ever be served without the other.
And young barman Miguel Perez is still turning heads this season with his The No-No with mezcal, Peche Liqueur, apricot syrup, and lime juice, which is sweet, but still works, and his Oye Coma Va! with tequila, Madeira fortified wine, Coco Lopez, Demerara syrup, house made horchata, pineapple juice, and lime juice. It’s an odd mix yet a bold concoction.
It is summer and I’m lovin’ that Jesus is back behind the bar at 1886 and that a new menu of cocktails, once again, are among the best drinks to be found in town. I know I can find relaxation with the Milano Torino, get revved up with A Night at the Opera or Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, or day drink easily with several of the lighter spirit cocktails. It’s a love fest this summer as well it should be.
The Raymond 1886 is located at 1250 S. Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Call 626-441-3136.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography By: Acuna Hansen