SGV: Down the Rabbit Hole Bar
A few weeks ago, I talked my friend into checking out the Rabbit Hole bar a bar in Alhambra with me. We don’t usually frequent the San Gabriel Valley for cocktails (other than my beloved 1886 in Pasadena) but after dinner at nearby Pho 79, I didn’t feel like going to Downtown and the aforementioned ’86 is currently closed for kitchen renovations.
At some point in my life, I used to frequent the bars and lounges on Main Street but those days aren’t very appealing anymore. I’m grateful for the craft cocktails trend because even a small town like Alhambra can boast they have a craft bar. And with molecular mixology to boot.
I didn’t expect much even though I was really excited about the Alice in Wonderland theme. I loved the book and had just seen the ballet a few months back. The cocktail list wasn’t half bad, minus the typos. There’s usually at least one Alice themed cocktail though the Mad Hatter (Vanilla vodka, Bailey’s, raspberry, pineapple, cranberry, lime) sounded just awful to me. Training wheels, right? Perhaps you have to lure people down the rabbit hole…
Part of the ceiling makes you feel like you’re falling down the Rabbit Hole.
The back bar is pretty special with the metallic tiles. However, their booze selection could be upgraded. And I’d take out the televisions above the bar. They’re too distracting in a craft cocktail bar.
It may have been obvious to bartender Niko Novick I wasn’t the usual clientele for this bar. Maybe because I was talking about judging a cocktail contest in a few weeks at WSWA (Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America) but I was feeling mellow and wasn’t really engaging in my usual brand of bartender chat. I had already surveyed the cocktails list and didn’t think much of the back bar. I went for something simple then for my first drink, I decided on the Whistler’s Sip (whiskey, falernum, cherry bitters). It’s a bit hard to see but the garnish was a bit on the thicker side with pith showing. I’d probably recommend the bar investing in Y-peelers. Otherwise, the drink was solid.
Later I would learn Niko has his own mixology catering company specializing in molecular. N2 Mixology can be booked for parties around town.
I surveyed the list again. I decided to move towards gin and ordered the Skyfall (gin, lemon, cucumber, eggwhite, cinnamon). We discussed what gins they had and I went for Beefeater though the bar recommends Hendrick’s for this cocktail.
I switched back to rye after asking what’s the most unusual liqueur they had. It turns out they just ran out of Campari but they had Torani Amer in. Very cool, let’s do a rye Manhattan but instead of vermouth, I requested the Amer. With smoked BBQ bitters, it turned out very well.
A week later, I came back and started off with an Bulleit rye old fashioned but quickly moved to “something different.” Niko was behind the bar again and it was fun to watch him pace around the bar grabbing a bit of this and that then running with it. They got Campari back in and he busted out a new bottle of Beefeater for me. At first I thought he was going to go Negroni but he put his molecular spin on it.
These sort of “tricks” do wow the crowd. One of their most popular cocktails available on the specials board is the LSD Shot which is an absinthe based shot that requires the blowtorch. They’d probably go nuts at Bazaar or the Aviary.
With vapors trailing out of the shaker tin, Niko dropped a slushy he had quickly made into my glass. There was also Pom, lavender bitters, simple and I thought a dash of Angostura bitters as well.
Years ago, I wanted to throw an Alice in Wonderland themed party. My friends wanted to know if I’m Alice. No, I’m the Queen, of course.
But perhaps these days, I’m more the White Rabbit.
Oh dear, oh dear! I shall be too late!(626) 458-2039 © The Minty 2013