There is no shortage of creative cocktails, exotic drinks and craft beers in the Greater Pasadena area
The recipe for a great drink is equal parts temptation-to-the-tongue, rush-to-the-head and feast-for-the-senses. The third element is primarily determined by one’s surroundings while having said drink. Does one prefer a dimly lit hideaway or the great outdoors? A raucous adult playground or a sophisticated lounge? In the Greater Pasadena area, we’ve got them all.
Here are a few of options, well-known and new.
AL FRESCO REFRESHMENT
Summer evenings beg for a beverage on a breezy patio. Mercantile Alley just south of Colorado Boulevard is a great spot with a number of outdoor watering holes. Top of the heap is Kings Row Gastropub with its patio bar, beer garden and vintage brick interior. With 24 beers on tap, a quirky wine selection, hand-shaken cocktails and hearty pub food, the atmosphere is affable and party-like.
1886 Bar at The Raymond has a lovely patio as well. Set in the backyard shade of a restored Craftsman bungalow, 1886 serves up some of the best artisan cocktails in the San Gabriel Valley. They specialize in the classics here — Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, Sidecars — taking care to prepare and serve them to pre-Prohibition Era high standards.
Congregation Ale House and Stone Company Store are within a block of each other and have equally pleasant outdoor drinking areas. You must love Stone IPA and their other beers to get the most out of this place. Plus you can buy all sorts of merchandise. Congregation has the added perks of various artisan beers on tap, a medieval monastery motif, good-looking bar food and free parking.
A number of underground establishments have popped up in Pasadena, the newest of which is The Cellar: A Wine Library. A doorman on busy Colorado directs you down a corridor to an (unattractive) elevator. When the doors open one floor down, another mysterious door bearing antlers opens to a wonderland of fresh-cut cedar walls lined with books, wine bottles and paintings. A place filled with leather couches and table lamps. It’s like being in a Finnish sauna, or perhaps a wine crate. The wine list is high-end, as are the clientele and the prices.
Der Wolfskopf is Pasadena’s very own German beer hall. One half expects a horse-riding knight to trot down the line of Bavarian flags and iron chandeliers. The German-Belgian beer and food selection is impressive and the vibe in the brauhaus is fun, but the real surprise is downstairs at Der Rathskellar where unusual wall murals prevail and craft cocktails, like the Dire Wolf with creme de violette, are shaken. The cellar bar is only open evenings, Thursday through Saturday.
Two good brewery tap rooms have recently opened at the eastern and western ends of the San Gabriel Valley. On the border of Glendale and Burbank under a freeway overpass is Brewyard Beer Company, a completely charming brick-lined converted warehouse and tap room. With long communal tables, even one built into the bed of an old Ford truck, the atmosphere is friendly and open, in part due to the gregarious purveyors Sherwin and Kirk. Their Tropico, a Belgian saison with passion fruit, is my current favorite. Goes well with most of the offerings from the food trucks they pull right up to the open garage door.
On an industrial backstreet near the Foothill (210) Freeway is Mt. Lowe Brewing Co., Arcadia’s first microbrewery. While the beer is tasty, particularly the Thaddeus milk stout and the habanero-spiked Hills are on Fire, the atmosphere could use a little work before it’s ready for primetime. Historic touches like oversized photos of the original Mt. Lowe Railroad and railroad spike tap pulls add a lot, as do board games and amusements for all ages.
A PROPER COCKTAIL
Sometimes you need to get dressed up a bit and feel like a real person with a sophisticated beverage. The Tap Room at the Langham is good for a legitimate Pimm’s Cup or a flute of Dom Perignon. Men, press your slacks. Women, slip on your best heels. There’s jazz on Thursdays and live music on weekends.
John Sparr Tavern is a new upscale bar and restaurant in Montrose. Pounded tin ceilings, a Deco-inspired bar, custom-made stained glass and green marble walls cloak customers in an atmosphere of quiet conversation fueled by well-made cocktails, craft beers, California heavy wines and classic, good tavern food.
This by no means covers all my favorite bars in the area but I hope you’ll enjoy adding a few more to your personal arsenal. There are 365 happy hour days in a year.
Kings Row Gastropub
20 E. Colorado Blvd.,
(626) 244-7593 |
1886 Bar at the Raymond
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave.,
Congregation Ale House
300 S. Raymond Ave.,
Stone Company Store
220 S. Raymond Ave.,
The Cellar: A Wine Library
26 E. Colorado Blvd.,
72 N. Fair Oaks Ave.,
Brewyard Beer Company
906 Western Ave., Glendale
Mt. Lowe Brewing Co.
150 E. St. Joseph St.,
Tap Room at the Langham
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.,
John Sparr Tavern
3437 Ocean View Blvd.,