The bar scene in Pasadena is vibrant and brimming with possibilities. The city’s libation tableau is an eclectic mix of trendy wine bars and specialty-beer establishments, sprinkled generously among classic watering-holes. Casual, but sophisticated atmosphere, unique signature cocktails and inventive versions of classic drinks are ideal thirst-quenchers for some. Others, however, prefer smaller, more intimate establishments, dusty dive bars and low-key lounges. Fortunately, Pasadena and its diverse medley of establishments dedicated to the enjoyment of wine, spirits and cocktails delivers on all fronts.
Finally, a wine-bar that eschews snobbish oenophilia in favor of a genuine love and celebration of wine and its complexities. In a living-room style setting, the Bodega Wine Bar’s friendly, knowledgeable staff and a first-rate wine list are just a few of the reasons patrons travel here from far and wide to shop, eat and experience with abandon. Aside from their exhaustive selection of wines from a variety of regions, they also offer beer, sake and specialty drinks and a superb menu for the ultimate libation-bar experience.
Bodega Wine Bar, 260 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626)793-4300 | bodegawinebar.com
Located in a vintage Craftsman behind the elegant Raymond Restaurant, the 1886 Bar at the Raymond is a beloved institution that continues to retain loyal fans with consistently superior service, as well as attract new ones by staying relevant and ahead of trends in mixology. The bartender here is an artisan and each order — from the simplest to the most elaborate — is prepared with care and attention to detail and customer preferences. Their menu consists of many seasonal favorites, so don’t be afraid to sample and experiment. A sophisticated take on the conventional Happy Hour theme is their “Parlour Hour” from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. There, you’ll find their magnificent 1886 Champagne Punch at a crowd-pleasing $6 per glass, artisan beers at $4 per bottle, and budget-friendly quality wines starting at $5 per glass.
1886 Bar at the Raymond, 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena. (626) 441-3136 | theraymond.com
Raise a glass to the Pasadena favorite, Lucky Baldwin’s Pub. It’s been thriving in the heart of Old Pasadena and at other locations for many years. A loyal fan base and relaxed, cordial atmosphere are thanks to English transplants David Farnworth and Peggy Simonian, owners and enthusiastic lovers of all things hops-specific. They are eager to share their extensive knowledge and selections of beer, which include intriguing varieties of domestic and imported beers, along with artisan and craft-beers and lagers, ales, stouts and much more. Anglophiles and adventurous patrons can immerse themselves in English décor and ambiance, celebrate European drinking festivals and indulge in traditional British fare with Lucky Baldwin’s full-service kitchen. The popular Fish Taco Tuesdays and events such as their “Lucky Hour” means that patrons do indeed get lucky, with discounted drinks and appetizers, delicious treats and satisfying dishes to sample and share.
Lucky Baldwin’s Pub, 17 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena.
(626) 795-0652 | luckybaldwins.com
Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste, 1770 E. Colorado Blvd.,
Pasadena. (626) 844-0447
Lucky Baldwin’s Delirium Café, 21 Kersting Court,
Sierra Madre, (626) 355-1440
The Kabuki Japanese Restaurant is much more than a top-notch spot for sushi, sashimi, specialty rolls, and other Japanese delicacies. It’s a place where the art of the cocktail has been elevated to its zenith. With a vibrant, colorful décor and hip vibe, Kabuki patrons sip and mingle comfortably among modern, but inviting furnishings. Visitors will marvel at the exciting choices in their sake, sochu, beer and wine lists. A generous selection of non-alcoholic drinks for the designated-driver or teetotaler provides a bit of refreshment for every sensibility and lifestyle. Their award-winning Happy Hour (3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays) features many of the favorites from their regular menus, but at steeply discounted prices, along with more casual cuisine, such as finger foods and savory appetizers.
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, 88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 568-9310 | kabukirestaurants.com; 3539 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 351-8963
The Colorado Bar is your quintessential dive bar, and they wear the moniker proudly. Those who recently voted it “Best Dive Bar” in Pasadena Weekly’s Best of Pasadena Readers’ Poll issue wouldn’t have it any other way. This bar makes its own ambiance with down-to-earth staff, local patronage, parlor games and complete lack of pretension. Beer, in all its many varieties, is the star of the show at the Colorado Bar. So pop in, order a cold one and soak up the local flavor while engaging in a friendly (or not-so-friendly) game of pool or darts. Or try out the vintage jukebox and get your groove back in a place where they might not know your name, but you’ll definitely be glad you came.
The Colorado Bar, 2640 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 449-3485
Searching for that obscure or hard-to-find beer or wine? Look no further. The Altadena Ale and Wine House probably has the selection you’ve been searching for, and a few others you never knew existed. This one-of-a-kind gem specializes in distinctive varieties of ale and wine in a congenial, welcoming atmosphere that encourages intelligent conversation and the amiable exchange of ideas. It’s no wonder Pasadena/Altadena residents remain fiercely loyal, despite the proliferation of slick, trendy establishments that cater to after-hours crowds and bar-hoppers.
Altadena Ale and Wine House, 2329 Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena. (626) 794-4577 | altadenaalehouse.com