HEAD & SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST
I have to hand it to the powers-that-be at the forward-thinking 1886 Bar in Pasadena, housed at the chic Raymond Restaurant, home to a first-rate breakfast and all around stellar cuisine, for being, in my opinion, the city’s best bar. Too bad it has to be all the way in Pasadena when I live in perfectly convenient Hollywood.
Really, they need to move closer to me and all the action, but then again, their first rate bar program is creating plenty of action for bar aficionados around town. With summer on the immediate horizon that means the inventive 1886 Bar Spring Cocktail Menu is coming to a close, but that also means we get to welcome new and exciting liquid treats for the next several summer months.
The killer bar program, which launched back in the fall of 2010 by owners Rob and Leslie Levy, along with Cocktail Consultants Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest from Tello Demarest Liquid Assets, immediately rose above the crowd by offering wonderfully unique cocktails, such as the incredible Smoking Jacket, an absolute must-have during any visit, made with Pot Still Irish Whiskey, 1886 tobacco bitters, Maplewood smoke and edible “ash” made with vanilla, orange and cream. This drink even comes with a Surgeon General’s Warning. It smells like a campfire and is the perfect drink in this intimate, classy setting.
While I had issues with some of the whimsical Winter drinks, which, according to Marcos Tello, poked fun at how serious cocktails have become, I prefer more traditional and stiffer beverages than some of the fun and “silly” creations they came up with (points for creativity for sure!). But their Spring Cocktail menu was a total crowd pleaser, from the sweet and savory Coke & a Smile (Rye, Fernet Menta, Galliano Ristretto, whole egg, Coca-Cola, served in a Coke glass bottle) by bartender Brady Weise who is really making a name for himself as a leading mixologist. While he loves concocting drinks made with beer (he’s not a fan of the term “beer cocktails”) he did a bang up job with this one!
Another terrific Brady creation is his take on the classic Sidecar with his Weise Car (Cognac, curacao, lemon, hefeweizen). It’s a refreshing cocktail while staying true to the Malt family taste.
There were so many killer spring cocktails this season, and some of our favorites included Dinner at the Gamble House, a stiff ass drink that will put hair on your chest so watch out. Call it a man’s drink if you want, it’s potent and made with Cedar infused Bourbon, East India Sherry, and Sweet Vermouth. Simple and to the point, it gets the job done.
All I could say after trying the Curry-ously (Batavia Arrack, Curry Lime Cordial, soda) was “Wow!” The same goes for the Mexican Firing Squad, a 1937 drink made with tequila, grenadine, lime and bitters. I felt like I had just been shot with this one, but then again, stiff is how I like my drinks. The Earl Grey Martini, made with Earl Grey infused Gin, lemon, sugar, and egg whites, was as smooth as can be. And the Mama Loves Mango, mixed with mescal, tequila, mango, citrus and cayenne didn’t fool around either.
While it will soon be all about the Summer drinks at 1886 Bar, you’ll still be able to order all your favorite Spring selections. And do yourself a favor, order a Smoking Jacket and Bank Heist even though they won’t be on the menu…act like you’re “in the know” and cherish these special libations.
I can’t wait to revisit my favorite 1886 Bar this summer, even though it’s all the way in Pasadena!
The 1886 Bar at The Raymond is located at 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena. Call 626-441-3136.