For the finest swills in all of Pasadena, 1886 Bar is your place. Located in the back of the Raymond Restaurant is a low-ceilinged room plastered in Victorian wallpaper and bathed in Old West mood lighting. And yet, there's nothing pretentious here. Between the laid-back staff and cushy seats you could fall asleep in, it feels a little like home—fitting, since the space is part of the former caretaker cottage of the historic Raymond Hotel. The pinnacle of this pocket-sized bar is undoubtedly the stellar drink program helmed by Aidan Demarest and Marcus Tello (you may know them from Neat, The Varnish and Seven Grand). The 21-long menu changes each season and thrives on originality, from the Pimm's #13 made with mezcal and Mexican Tamarindo soda to the Meyer lemon- and rosemary-infused Yoshi's Island. Wash those (both $14) down with some tater tots ($8) and you're set.
Good for: Splurging on top-notch booze and grub. Chef Tim Guiltinan has whipped up some delicious bar bites: $4 oysters to $14 pork belly confit (Hey, we never said they were cheap). The ambience is cozy or romantic, depending on who you're with and where you're sitting. Opt for the tufted leather banquette for intimate conversation, or sit at the short bar to chat up some enthusiastic barkeeps. It's easy to drink at 1886 on a nightly basis, though you might want to spread out your visits for the sake of your kidneys.
The scene: Beyond the frosted door etched "Est. 1886," the room is buzzing with easygoing locals, smartly dressed couples, and in-the-know imbibers watching over their bartender's every stir. A casual attitude abounds thanks to friendly servers and complicated drinks with long-winded descriptions that are just begging for questions.
The playlist: Upbeat Oldies to get patrons' shoulders shaking while they sip on their drinks. You'll hear songs like "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher" and "Superstition." Because how can you not dance in your Craftsman seat to that?
The bartender says: 1886 is Demarest and Tello's first complete concept-to-cocktail program. That means they had as much input on the tin roof as they did on the handcrafted libations vigorously stirred underneath it. The collaborators dodged LA's played pre-Prohibition fad to focus more on straight neat drinks reminiscent of the building's industrial roots, so bourbon and gin are king here. With a whopping 21 cocktails to choose from, you shouldn't have a problem finding something to wet your lips.
Drink this: For a next-level drink, order the Angel of Darkness ($14), but best to save this one for last—it's quite the layered concoction. First to hit you is the citrus lime and pineapple juices, then the sweet maple syrup, the rye and, finally, the sherry. The real knockout on the menu has to be the Bucky O'Hare ($14). Mixologist Gregory Gertmenian gives his twist on the classic ginger buck by adding smoky mezcal and amaro, the bitter-sweet Italian digestif, then topping it with grapefruit soda. The combination is utterly refreshing.