The new year isn’t quite a month old, and more than a few changes have taken place at 1886 Bar at The Raymond. Several longtime bartenders have moved on recently, while Big Bar favorite Rosie Ruiz was brought on board as the new 1886 Bar Manager. And Marcos Tello (Tello Demarest Liquid Assets) is back as Cocktail Consultant for the next several months. Changes can also be seen with the new Winter Cocktail Menu, which in previous seasons were divided into Seasonal, Regional, Shaken and Stirred sections. This time around, the 1886 team had some fun and separated the menu into Silly & Spice, Ghosts of Yuletide Past, Frothy and Silky. Regarding the new menu, Tello commented in the press release, “Programs need to evolve. 1886 really put in some good time learning those categories, but sticking to them can make things stagnant. Plus, we’re really taking things to the next level with our garnishes, so we thought it was a good time to break out and try some new categories.”
At a hosted tasting of the winter menu, Brady Weise and Greg Gertmenian were behind the stick during a busy dineLA Restaurant Week dinner service. Noting the lively crowd that braved the rainy streets, Ruiz said that 1886 is “a destination spot, large groups get together here and the stay the whole night.” Buoyant and energetic as always, Ruiz described the wide range of responsibilities she’s learning in the new job, her first as a bar manager. She’s currently working Friday and Saturday nights, with her shifts beginning at 8pm until she’s done closing at 4am. Of course, learning systems, placing orders, taking calls and other managerial duties bring her to Pasadena during the rest of the week as well. And then there are Tello’s “homework” assignments, which Ruiz described with mock fear. (At least, one hopes that her look of terror was fake.) Ruiz said that the 1886-Raymond team has been incredibly supportive, with Tello in particular always available to answer her questions. Though she hasn’t tended bar since beginning her new gig, Ruiz plans on bartending on one night beginning in a few weeks.
The tasting began with Ruiz’s favorite from the winter menu: the Bank Heist, a Silky cocktail made with Bank Note Scotch, plum syrup and bitters. The Bank Heist was created by 1886 bartender Peter Lloyd-Jones, who was inspired by an incident that took place in Pasadena’s historic Union Savings Bank building, where the gruesome remains of three bank robbers were discovered in 1946. According to local lore, three robbers broke into the bank’s basement vaults in 1901, but couldn’t get away when the building was surrounded. The robbers mysteriously disappeared, while all of the stolen gold pieces were recovered. Lloyd-Jones extends his nod to the story with the chocolate “gold coins” that are the cocktail’s inventive garnish.
Next was a Ghosts of Yuletide Past cocktail from recently relocated bartender Eder Campos, the Huckleberry Sour: bourbon, rosemary, huckleberry jam and lemon. Ruiz said that Campos’ sweet and tart variation on the classic Whiskey Sour is the most popular drink from the winter cocktail menu. The rosemary garnish offered a nice aroma that went especially well with the roasted lamb necks and Afghan bread, one of my go-to bar bites at 1886. Other legacy cocktails include creations by Laura Lindsay, Danny Cymbal and previous 1886 bar manager Garrett McKechnie.
The section formerly known as Shaken has become Frothy, which includes the Admiral’s Nightcap, made with aged rum, Allspice Dram, agave, lime and apple juices. The Admiral’s Nightcap, which could easily be featured on a menu in the warmer months, is an 1886 take on a cocktail created by Erik Lorincz (American Bar at The Savoy) when he won the 2010 Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year competition. LA’s beloved Maurice Chevalier IV, Scotland’s Dean Evans and London’s Marian Beke are also paid tribute in this section.
It was back to the Silky section for Weise’s DBA “Manhattan,” made with rye whiskey, Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters and Firestone Double Barrel Ale. 1886’s “malt family cocktail maestro” puts his signature beer-as-cocktail-ingredient technique to fine use in a sipper that is reminiscent of a Perfect Manhattan, with hints of effervescence, oak and vanilla. Ruiz noted that after testing many other ryes, the Rittenhouse 100 was the only one that worked for the DBA “Manhattan.”
The tasting wrapped up with El Frosty, a Silly & Spice cocktail by former 1886 bartender Lacey Murillo, who got engaged last year and moved to Australia just a couple of weeks ago. Ruiz said that Murillo “really outdid herself” with El Frosty (pictured at top). Inspired by a childhood memory, El Frosty is made with añejo tequila, cinnamon bark syrup, housemade spiced Tres Leches cream and egg yolk. Murillo worked with Tello to create this deconstructed Mexican eggnog, presented in a goblet with crushed ice. Tello said that The Raymond’s pastry chef Jeffrey Haines “completely reshaped the drink by adding a meringue” with ancho chili, giving El Frosty a healthy kick. Topped with a repurposed Broker’s Gin bowler hat and with straw “arms” raised high, El Frosty is the playful embodiment of the latest 1886 winter menu. “I think that’s part of what people love about 1886,” said Tello. “We take ourselves seriously, but we also like to have fun with it.”
1886 at The Raymond
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave. (at Columbia)
Pasadena, CA 91105