When it comes to the classic boilermaker, we found some new twists on the old standby.
Story by Daniel Tozier, Photos by Shannon Aguiar
Life in Pasadena is good. But that doesn’t mean it’s free of late nights at the office or crawling traffic on the 210. After a week of the grind, a strong cocktail from Old Town is very much in order. But then there are weeks, so full of stress and mayhem, that call for something a little (or a lot) stronger. Enter the boilermaker: hard liquor and cold beer poured into a single glass. Simultaneously smooth and sharp, it’s a simple, yet effective drink. You don’t need to be a cocktail artist to make one, but it helps. So we hit the town and found four local spots serving up this mighty one-two punch.
The Blind Donkey
It’s best to have your boilermaker made by people who know their whiskeys, and it’s hard to think of anyone more qualified than the staff at The Blind Donkey. This Pasadena whiskey bar has a small selection of off-menu boilermakers, our favorite of which is the Fire in the Hole. This variation earns its name by swapping out the standard whiskey for a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. The spicy liquor summons a glowing warmth while the cold pilsner works to balance out just enough of the burn to keep it suitable for sipping.
White Horse Lounge
The White Horse Lounge takes its cocktails seriously, opting for house-made mixers and high-end spirits in its intricate and complex drinks. The boilermaker here is presented with similar craftsmanship. Called The Smartass, this high-class version features a Guinness reduction, made in-house of course, combined with a generous pour of Tullamore Dew whiskey, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and honey, served on the rocks with a sprig of mint. The stout reduction smooths out the sharp notes of lemon and whiskey for a drink with the class of a cocktail and the spirit of a boilermaker.
There was a time when Dog Haus boasted a full chalkboard of boilermakers to choose from, but as the years went by, they were replaced by more popular and conventional cocktails. Lucky for us, there are bartenders on staff still keeping the old ways alive, and if you remember your favorite’s name, odds are they’ll remember the ingredients. The most popular one, still regularly asked for after all these years, is the Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherf*****. Combining a can of PBR with a shot of Jim Beam and zero frills, it’s everything a boilermaker should be: strong, simple, and to the point.
Available during happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. seven days a week), the boilermaker at Maestro trades traditional whiskey for a shot of tequila, a perfect companion to the enticing menu of modern Mexican fare. The standards here are high, with only traditionally made tequilas and mescals granted a place on the shelves. This bodes very well for Maestro’s boilermaker, which uses a mescal, produced by roasting the agave plants in earthen pots with wood, charcoal, and lava rocks. The process gives it a rich, smoky profile familiar to anyone who enjoys a good scotch. Even when poured into the accompanying Modelo Especial, the smokiness comes through, making for a rich and bold boilermaker.