This trail has been created for you – the city dweller – so that you might exchange, for a short time, the hectic scene of your urban life for the rugged beauty and freedom of adventure into the solitary wonderland of nature.
So reads the announcement from the U.S. Forest Service about the National Trails System Act of 1968. It made Pasadena’s Gabrielino Trail, one of the oldest continuously used routes in the western hemisphere, protected land.
That spirit of beauty and adventure has returned this November as the 1886 bar located inside the Raymond Restaurant, accessible by a secret entrance off the valet parking lot or more obviously through the dining area.
The 1886 is named after the year that both Pasadena incorporated and Walter Raymond opened his self-titled hotel atop Raymond Hill, née Beacon Hill. A 200-room Mansard Victorian resort, it was the first of many classic retreats that beckoned tourists from harsher climes to relax in the natural splendor and salubrious air of Southern California.
On Easter Sunday, 1895, chimney sparks ignited a fire that devastated the Raymond in 40 minutes. It was rebuilt in 1903, now with 300 rooms and a caretaker’s cottage in the back. Walter Raymond and his wife often stayed in the cottage, while movie stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Tom Mix resided while filming in Pasadena, or where wealthy eastern moguls from the east coast such as the Carnegies, Pullmans, Rockefellers and Morgans spent their winters without seeing a snowflake.
Besides the ornate décor and gorgeous hillside scenery, the Raymond also had special amenities like a four-acre flower nursery, a nine hole golf course, card rooms, and in the basement, a pool and billiards parlor, plus a secret bar. Although Pasadena was a dry town that disallowed the sale of alcohol, there was an exception for hotel guests. Where would you get a good drink, hell any drink in Pasadena in the late 19th, early 20th centuries? The Raymond.
In 1931, the Great Depression took its toll, and the bank foreclosed on the property. Raymond and his wife stayed in the groundskeeper’s cottage until Raymond’s death in 1934. After his funeral, the hotel was demolished and the land sold to residential developers. The cottage is all that remains.
In 1975, the caretaker’s cottage became a secluded dining establishment dressed from the Victorian and Edwardian Eras, or the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. In 2010, the wayback machine was set to 1886. General Manager Chris Mangandi, owners Rob & Leslie Levy and Garry Weyand chose to add a deluxe bar to their restaurant. They contacted Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest of Liquid Assets to bring their vision to life. Still flush with the success of First & Hope, Marcos and Aidan went to work researching the history of the Raymond and Pasadena. David Poffenberger (a dandy surname for the project) and Derrick Flynn from SO | DA Design arrived to add new wall coverings, a tin ceiling, tufted banquette, Craftsman chairs, drafting bar stools, high and low wood tables, bar lighting and several specialty fixtures such as an antique phone and clock on the wall, and custom French doors that open to a winsome wisteria-covered patio lit by Old West lamps.
Great care and consideration was given to the cocktail menu as well, with an emphasis on rye whiskey and bourbon. Marcos dug deep into history and geoclimate to create a full list of drinks that are seasonal, regional, reminders of the past and yet re-energized by modern options. “It’s the pioneer spirit,” he says. Marcos imagined what the drinks would be like if the Raymond never burned down, if there was an unbroken legacy of immortal bartenders from 1886 to today.
A new staff was trained by Liquid Assets to serve libations like the Rose Parade Punch, made with gin, roses, cucumber and soda, a Pimm’s “No. 7” Cup based on 1886’s proprietary formula of tequila lengthened with grapefruit soda, or my favorite, the Honey-Nut Old-Fashioned, crafted with peanut-infused bourbon, honey and bitters, and named after Marcos’s favorite cereal as a kid.
The “rookies” of 1886 are already pacing with the best bartenders in Los Angeles: Garret McKechnzie won third place at the 2nd Annual Repeal Day cocktail contest, sponsored this year by Plymouth Gin. You might be able to recognize one of 1886’s staff shakers like Brady Wiese or Danny Cymbal by their bushy moustache, which they’re growing out for fun and/or to sell the historical recreation.
Executive Chef Tim Guiltinan created a bar food menu to pair with the drinks and includes Kentucky Fried Quail, Crispy Pork Belly, Grilled Japanese Octopus, and 1886 Cheeseburger and Fries.
On Christmas Eve, the Raymond and 1886 offer a special 5-course prix fixe dinner ($89 per person, food only), riveted by Hot Holland Punch and soothed by the singing of carolers. On New Year’s Eve, a $20 cover charge will bring you party favors, entertainment, and champagne for a midnight toast. Or, early seating (5 p.m. – 7 p.m.) of a 5-course meal is $90, and a 6-course late seating dinner ( 7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.) is $105 per person, and includes the party favors and champagne. Perfect way to prep for a Tournament of Roses Parade or Bowl game watching.
“This is a tent pole for Pasadena,” said Aidan Demarest at the opening party. “Build it, and the rest of the tent will follow.”
Could a cocktail revolution in Pasadena be far behind?
1886 is open Tuesday through Sunday evening from 4:30 p.m. to midnight, and from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the day.
- 1886 Bar at The Raymond
- 1250 South Fair Oaks Avenue
- Pasadena, CA 91105 (at Columbia)
For more 1886 coverage, check out Thirsty in LA.