THE RAYMOND 1886
WINTER 2021 PANDEMIC MENU
The start of a new season is always a special occasion for me as it, for years, has meant the release of a new cocktail menu from the lovely mad scientist bar staff at The Raymond 1886 in Pasadena. Each new seasonal menu always features a complex theme and clever backstory but when you’re living through a pandemic, well, the new menu will make due with a list of 10 cocktails (three classics and seven originals). And I’ll happily take that and be thankful for it.
Throughout the past year in quarantine, The Raymond 1886 still excelled as the premiere place to go to for cocktails. The bar didn’t condense its menu or limit our imbibing options. All of our favorite drinks were still available on-site when permitted or to-go. And this new winter menu again proves quite remarkable.
The classic cocktails feature the Corpse Reviver #1, the Tuxedo #2, and the ever-popular Japanese Highball (this one is only available on-site). These are tried and true adult beverages that do not disappoint.
But it’s the original cocktails that make this place so very special. Of the new cocktails, I’m a big, big fan of head barman Jesus Gomez’s Krampus, a lovely low ABV gem. A mix of Braulio Amaro, Lillet Rouge, ginger, pineapple, lemon, and Ting Grapefruit Jamaican Soda, it may not be boozy but it is so refreshing and pleasant. This drink, like the Japanese Highball, is for on-site consumption only, but it’s worth the trip for its wonderfully balanced yet complex bite of ginger and citrus. Boy it’s a great starter to kick-off your drinking experience.
My other two new favorites are on the stiff and boozy side. No surprise there.
Miguel Perez hit gold with his Hoffman House—a mighty mix of Eagle Rare bourbon, scotch, Cocchi Barolo Chinato (fortified wine), Drambuie, and Angostura bitters. Props to young Miguel for crafting a knockout cocktail well beyond his years. Think of this one as an elevated Rusty Nail with stellar balance.
And not to be outdone, Nathan Baker delivers with his Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken. I really want to know the story behind this drink’s name. A boffo blend of Laphroaig 10, Punt e Mes, and Gran Classico, this sensational smoky sipper is complex and packs a mean punch. And along with the Hoffman House, these two cocktails are exactly why I love drinking at The Raymond 1886—it’s that next level genius that others bars just can’t match.
And while I’m not personally a big fan of hot cocktails, mad props to Abby Peoples for her Fall for Me toddy style drink. It is winter after all (albeit a So Cal winter). A mix of Bacardi 8, Camus Elegance V.S. cognac, maple pear syrup, and hot water, this one is perfect for whatever ails you. I almost wish for a cold night just so I can really enjoy this one. It’s a comforting cocktail if there ever was one.
Nate Baker also come up with the Tropicalia, which is a very odd tiki-esque concoction. A mix of Real McCoy 3-year rum, Velvet Falernum, cinnabark, grapefruit, and lime, the drink really missed the mark for me on my first sip. Maybe it was the cinnabark, but cinnamon seemed to be the dominant flavor. But as I ate my salad with pears and candied chestnuts, the flavors really opened and it seemed like I had a brand-new drink in front of me. My second experience with the drink proved to be the same. I didn’t really enjoy the first sip but ask for a side of candied chestnuts and perhaps my palate opened and the cocktail became very pleasant. The art of crafting cocktails after all is science and this one really drove that point home.
For the past year during some very troubling times, The Raymond 1886 continued to be a beacon as a destination for the best cocktails in town. On a few occasions I was able to sit outside and enjoy fine drinks and feel as if the world hadn’t gone topsy-turvy or I was able to pick up and take home truly sensational cocktails that made my at-home drinking experience something really special. We’re all waiting for the return of normalcy but it’s little things like enjoying a Jesus Gomez cocktail or reliving old cocktail menu favorites from Luis Nava that made me feel like normal wasn’t impossible to regain. For a moment, I won’t say all was well, but I was able to enjoy the brief getaway.
The Raymond 1886 is located at 1250 S. Fair Oaks in Pasadena. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 4pm to 8pm; Thursday and Friday 4pm to 9pm; Saturday 9am to 2:30pm and 4pm to 9pm; and Sunday 9am to 2:30pm and 4pm to 8pm. Call 626-441-3136 to make a reservation.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: Fried Chicken Sandwich Studios