Pasadena will never be as cool as downtown L.A., but it’s trying. For proof, stop into the new bar inside the historic and lovely Raymond Restaurant. Named 1886 (for the year this cottage, once part of the Raymond Hotel, was built), it has dragged Pasadena into the cocktail era—about two years after it dawned on the rest of L.A., but hey, we’re not into fickle fads here in the land of old houses and older money.
Like the Varnish, which is tied to the equally historic Cole’s restaurant downtown, the 1886 is tiny, handsome and dimly lit. And like several other downtown hipster hangouts, including the Edison and Seven Grand, its cocktails are the creation of Aidan Demarest—only here, he created not only the cocktail menu, but the concept, the look, and the whole package. It has instantly become the coolest place in Pasadena, even if there are a few middle-aged folks sipping scotch who don’t even know it.
Because the building dates to 1886, Demarest created a cocktail menu that at least in part would have fit right in that era, when gin and whiskey were the standards and vodka was pretty much unknown. You must try the Orange Grove, which, said our friend John, “tastes like a fearless bite into a gin-and-tonic-infused orange.” Others to consider include the Rose Parade Punch (gin, roses, cucumber and soda), the Medicina Latina (a hot drink at Demarest’s other bars: tequila, ginger and mescal) and, for wintertime, the Dickensian Hot Holland Punch, which is served either individually or in a bowl for a group. Summer will bring its own drinks, and it will make the candlelit outdoor area even more inviting.
To eat are small plates—three precious oysters, decadent crispy pork belly, a cheeseburger with fries—that are just fine.
All in all, it’s a place to sample excellent, hand-crafted cocktails, conduct a little conversation, romance or business, and chill out, 19th-century style.
1886 Bar, the Raymond, 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626.441.4770, theraymond.com. Closed Mon. Full bar. AE, MC, V.