It’s Liquid Spring at The Raymond Pasadena’s 1886

Barrel Roll

It’s rare when I get a full picture of an entire cocktail menu, but it’s even rarer when I’m afforded the opportunity to do so and end up consistently impressed with cocktail after cocktail. The bar at 1886’s recent Spring menu makes it the destination in not only Pasadena drinking, but a go-to for some of the best cocktails in all of LA.

Pork Belly, Bourbon Aged Maple, Apple, Celery & Chili

Sure, it flies under the radar because of its location, but 1886 has also benefited as a result. Free of the obligation of appealing to overflow traffic, 1886 has the freedom to focus on seriously fun cocktails, akin to the audience the bar has cultivated since its opening in late-2010.

The Pimm’s #5 Cup (after previous other Pimm’s versions with other spirits) is a perfect cocktail to head off the menu for Spring. The rye, Bitter Lemon Fever Tree Tonic and housemade Pimms made for a perfect balance, rendering a super-refreshing cocktail just as a Pimm’s Cup should be.

The Cinnablossom

If you’re in the mood for their other rye cocktail, go for the 20,000 Leagues – a kind of swizzle made with peach-infused rye, mint, and housemade yellow chartreuse candy (the garnish was especially tasty!). Imagined by Pete Lloyd Jones, this delicious cocktail was the result of a request by the Pasadena Historical Society to honor residents who were aboard the Titanic. The ingredients were inspired by the Titanic’s own dessert menu.

The Water of Life, made by Garrett McKechnie with the Norwegian spirit, Aquavit, homemade Chamomile-Syrup and Nolet’s Gin, is the floral tea-influenced cocktail of the season. It’s also a light yet herbal treat and finished off with a sprig or two of Chamomile.

Bittersweet Farewell

The Cinnablossom by Lacey Murillo comes with a cinnamon garnish that is toasted – or flamed – tableside. Gin, lemon juice and homemade cinnamon bark syrup make for delicious gin-citrus cocktail with a subtle touch of spice.

One of the best beer cocktails I’ve had in awhile also happened to be the prettiest, which is quite lovely since it’s a testament to how far they’ve evolved. The Wild Orchid is a shaken cocktail made with Torontel Pisco, Vergano Bianco Vermouth, Grand Marnier and Hefeweissen with the orchid garnish. The effervescence of the beer worked well with the depth of the Pisco, vermouth and Grand Marnier for a really wonderful combination of flavors and textures.

The other flaming cocktail on the menu is the Bittersweet Farewell in honor of former 1886 barman, Danny Cymbal’s. A flaming lemon peel floats as an oasis in a shaken concoction of London Dry Gin, homemade Passion Fruit Syrup, lemon juice and Campari. It’s a beautiful gin drink with just the right amount of tart.

Rum Whistle

The all-out favorite of the night had to be the Rum Whistle, which is basically 1886’s new bottled special and bottled each and every night for a fixed amount to be sold at the bar the next day. It’s not only bottled, but it also has the widest range of appeal; boozers and non-boozers alike will love it. The green apple-celery soda base is spiked with aged white rum and finished off with fresh lime juice before being carbonated and bottled and the results are simply tasty. You may order more than one – not only because you can but also because you love it.

The Vintage Caprice Flight features three vintages of classic Beefeater Gin Barrel-Aged Caprice – made with Beefeater Gin, dry vermouth, Benedictine and orange bitters and then aged at 4-months, 8-months and 12-months. I was surprised to find that I actually favored the 8 month vintage over the 12. Older isn’t necessarily better and sometimes, your gin is just done aging.

Vintage Caprice Flight

The Barrel Roll (title picture) doesn’t just fall under the years-long trend of barrel aged cocktails, it’s also a super tasty rendition of aged Bols Genever, Carpano Antica, Green Chartreuse and a Campari chip by pastry chef Jeff Haines (who also did the Yellow Chartreuse candy). It just so happened to be one of my favorites. The chip was the slight sweet touch to the Bols cocktail and made for a strong yet nuanced cocktail.

Of course, you’ll need a few bar bites to line your stomach – but the selection at 1886 does more than that. They are daring yet successfully delicious plates, indeed. The musts: Shrimp toast and Lamb necks.

So get on over to 1886 right away and drink up. You’ll learn why it’s one of the best kept secrets in Pasadena.

All food and cocktails were hosted. Special thanks to Brady Weise.

Tue – Sun

5 PM

Parlor Hour: Tue – Fri

5 PM – 7 PM

Closed Mondays

1886 at The Raymond
1250 S. Fair Oaks Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105
626.441.3136

All Aboard: Blogger Bar Hop on the Trolley of Death

Trolley of Death

When Caroline on Crack (recap) asked me to join her and a bunch of bloggers, Plymouth Gin (represented by Erick Castro) and Aidan Demarest on a blogger bar hop, I could not turn her down. Lo and behold, the beauty is in the details and what we found out later was that our vehicle would be a half-open-air trolley, which would be used to take us to 5 bars in 7 hours.

Yes, 5 bars in 7 hours. With driving time, this amounted to capping our time at each bar at 45 minutes!

Plymouth Gin, a punchbowl and a couple bowling lanes

I prepared for the night by drinking plenty of water and ONE Coconut Water (great for electrolytes) during the day – which no doubt aided my endurance for the bar hop. We started out at The Spare Room and again, I got a few frames in (including a few spares – ha!) in between some beautiful cocktails – starting off with a Bloggers Brew (Plymouth Gin, pineapple, velvet falernum, lemon, Earl Grey tea and spices) – and finishing off with a punch bowl. My new cocktail from this bar was an off-menu You Drink Our Milkshake with vodka, cream, coffee liqueur, cacao – essentially a better White Russian. Delicioso.

We crammed into the photo booth to take our picture, polished off our drinks, filled up our score cards (that’s 5 drinks to hit at each of the 5 bars with a bartender signing off) and headed to the trolley for our stop at Big Bar, adjacent to The Alcove in Los Feliz. We also kidnapped a few recruits like Naomi Schimek. We got first tastes of riding in the open air trolley along Hollywood Blvd. on a Monday night while enjoying champagne (and later: PBR and bacon- and fig-infused bourbon bottled up and dubbed “Figgy Smalls”) supplied by Aidan. On board for this adventure were Daniel of Thirsty in LA (recap), Aaron the Savory Hunter, Lindsay of LAist, Josh from Food GPS, Elina Shatkin of LA Weekly Squid Ink, H.C. of LA OC Foodventures and the Examiner. Armed with the hashtag #bloggerbarhop, we set out for some exciting tweets during the course of the night as entertainment fodder for all our followers (Caroline and Daniel do a great job utilizing them in their recaps).

Slider with pork, guacamole and jalapeno at Big Bar

As a writer new to the group had repeatedly stressed at Big Bar, “The drinks were sooo good… Soo good!! Soooooo gooooooood.” The rest of us were just conscientious enough to let our palates enjoy that goodness, but yes. They were good, and so were the bar bites, with my favorite being a slider (yeah, I said it) with pork, avocado and jalapeno. Relief from that jalapeno was provided by heavenly bacon-wrapped, goat cheese-stuffed dates, a great lobster ceviche with chips and of course, the gooooood drinks. I definitely applaud Big Bar with successfully completing the task of feeding two handfuls of mostly professional boozers with a superbly executed bar menu in their truly small, cozy bar. I had a really great Aviation here amongst others – like Juan Sevilla’s Merry Widow (dry vermouth, benedictine, bitters & absinthe rinse) and will definitely return for more cocktails. Of course, we kidnapped Juan along with the lovely Mia Sarazen and Rich Andreoli as we left Big Bar and headed for 1886.

Rose Parade Punch at 1886

1886 is in Pasadena. The 110N is a common way to get to Pasadena.

Not to be deterred by, oh, nighttime Southern California lows or say, freeway-speed wind, and encouraged by a bonus two cocktails on the scorecard, I toughed it out in the open-air, rear section of the trolley while huddling with Lindsay on our wooden bench and the exposed staircase (with Aidan hanging off of it) on our right. After all, how could I cheer for a team that calls the frozen tundra home in the Super Bowl or call Mammoth my second home if I couldn’t handle this?

My fingers were frozen as they held the first cocktail that greeted us at 1886 – the Rose Parade Punch (Plymouth gin, roses, cucumber and soda). Everything else that was served at 1886 was delicious, like their Pimm’s Cup made with tequila and grapefruit soda and their Honey Nut Old Fashioned with peanut-infused bourbon. We even ran into a few industry Pasadena folk, so we knew we were in the right bar for having come so far.

Our kidnapping victim from 1886 was Marcos Tello, who rode the Trolley of Death with us to Downtown LA’s The Varnish via…you guessed it…110S. Score another 2 bonus cocktails as well as re-frozen 10 fingers for me from the trolley ride. I secured a Medicina Latina at The Varnish and it delivered as always. But it seemed that we had barely arrived before we had to leave for Seven Grand – just a few blocks away.

Old Fashioned, Whistle Pig Manhattan

Of course, Seven Grand was slammed as it always is and when we arrived we were 4th string at the already 3-deep bar. Before we skidaddled, though, Daniel was able to sneak in an order of a Whistle Pig Manhattan alongside someone else’s Old Fashioned. I stole a sip. 😉

Five bars, seven hours. …And Tommy’s. I stuck to chili fries since that was basically all I could handle, but it was a great way to soak up some of the evening’s suds. And back to the Spare Room we went. We tallied up our score cards while a member of our otherwise professional drinking group put his forehead to the bar – the ultimate no-no. To my pleasure, Lindsay and I won with a total tally of 22 cocktails (or make that, 18 cocktails + 2 outdoor trolley rides on the 110 fwy)! Free bowling for us!

I’d like to thank Caroline on Crack, Erick Castro of Plymouth Gin and Aidan Demarest for a wonderful time with some fun boozers. Let’s do it again!

The Spare Room at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Big Bar at The Alcove
1927 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

1886 Bar at The Raymond
1250 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105

The Varnish
118 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Seven Grand
515 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Tommy’s Original World Famous Hamburgers
5873 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028