SERVING SAVORY & SENSATIONAL SUMMER COCKTAILS
Our favorite bar, 1886 Bar at The Raymond in Pasadena, has done it again. The cozy and forward-thinking cocktail haven is now serving summer drinks and laying waste to any and all libation competition.
This dark and cozy bar, which seats less than 30, is the anti-add-Redbull-in-your-drink kind of place. Instead, the first rate bar program, a favorite among local cocktail aficionados, is home to wholly original and complex drinks. And the impressive Summer Cocktail Menu has really raised the bar. Fair warning barkeeps, it’s no longer good enough to serve a great Old Fashioned or Manhattan or Sazerac, no these guys, especially thanks to the top of the class work by bartender Brady Weise who is at the forefront of spirit-making these days, are serving the best cocktails anywhere in and around Los Angeles—and without any attitude or pretention.
The Summer Cocktail Menu is divided into four categories: Their Tiki; Our Tiki; Dirty Pretty Things; and Elixirs. The Tiki portion of the menu features classic tiki drinks such as the Zombie, and Scorpion Bowl, which serves four. The Strawberry Colada on Fire uses house-made strawberry and pineapple reductions, coconut cream, limejuice, and Nicaraguan white rum over crushed ice and is served with a whole strawberry set ablaze. It’s nice and sweet and just plain perfect for summer.
The Our Tiki menu features some twists on classic tiki recipes by playing with textures and flavors to create surprising yet pleasantly familiar favorites. These are modern and molecularly constructed cocktails that really impress. Brady’s Shooting Star offers a unique take on the classic Mai Thai and uses saffron-infused gin and cranberry-infused St. Germain to highlight the diversity that's possible in the Tiki category. A true menu highlight is the Deconstructed Piña Colada created by Greg Gertmenian. Rearranged molecularly, think of this one as a spiked ice cream sundae with spiked lime sorbet, white rum pineapple foam, Barbados Rum Coconut Foam, oatmeal crumbles, and a mist of bitters, served in a classic ice cream sundae glass with a spoon. Give this drink a gold star or taste and originality.
The Dirty Pretty Things section is in a league all its own thanks to bartenders employing molecular techniques to deconstruct and re-imagine some deliciously lowbrow, dive bar classics. The Sex on the Beach Popsicle by Gillian Georges is just brilliant! This drink, a favorite when I was in college, has been crafted as a frozen Popsicle using white rum with fresh pineapple juice, and chunks of fresh cranberry suspended in the top of the bar. This is another one of a kind winner.
It should come as no surprise that Gillian worked at The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel, where mixology and chemistry come to liquid life. Another Gillian creation is the Mojito Jello Shot, which is just what it sounds like, a Jello shot with Flor de Cana.
Gillian’s Sangrita Sphere may be small is size but packs a mean punch. The 1920's traditional Mexican recipe is recreated here using spherification to encapsulate fresh orange, lime, red chili powder and tomato. The sangrita sphere is served with a shot of silver tequila and designed to bring out the spice and citrus flavors of the agave.
Other great Dirty Pretty Little Things include the Peter Lloyd Jones’ Sake Bomb—a modern take on the raucous tradition using Plum-infused Yamazaki 12-year delivered in a shot glass made of ice and dropped into Japanese lager. And don’t forget Brady’s Cherry Bomb, which resurrects a long forgotten dive bar classic using Anthem cherry cider, rum, and acid phosphate as a base, topped off with Cacao Nib infused Becherovka. This is a wonderful complex and layered drink.
And finally, the Elixirs—truly silky, stirred originals. This one is probably my favorite category, narrowly beating out Dirty Pretty Little Things. Jones’ Red Belly Black is a Mezcal Old Fashioned and offers a "smack," a term used when utilizing three different ingredients with the same flavor component, in this case grapefruit bitters, grapefruit-infused syrup and grapefruit peel. It’s also named after one of the most poisonous snakes in Australia. This is way more wicked than any Old Fashioned you’ll get elsewhere.
Another terrific Brady Weise creation is the Ciudad de Oro, inspired by Matt Biancaniello of Cliff’s Edge, this drink includes coffee-infused El Dorado 12-year rum, Cynar, and absinthe and is sure to light up warm summer evenings. Coffee lovers, great ready to meet your new favorite drink.
Truly outdoing themselves with the Summer Cocktail Menu, which even managed to improve on the stellar Spring menu, no visit to 1886 Bar can ever be complete without ordering the off menu Smoking Jacket, an 1886 Bar creation made with Redbreast Irish Whiskey, tobacco bitters, Maplewood smoke and edible “ash” made with vanilla, orange and cream. It’s the best drink you will find anywhere.
Now if only I could get this libation leading bar to relocate around the corner from my house I’d be the happiest drinker in the world. But for now, I’ll just have to head out to Pasadena like everyone else and dive into the summer’s best liquid creations!
1886 Bar at The Raymond is located at 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena. Call 626-441-3136.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photo by acuna-hansen