2019 Cocktail Bar of the Year: Raised by Wolves, San Diego - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Cocktail bars have long hidden in unexpected locations around the world—in obscure building basements and behind nondescript doors in restaurants and shops—and to find one of San Diego’s most notable recent openings, Raised By Wolves, you’ll need to head to a suburban mall. From the same creative team behind Polite Provisions and Craft and Commerce, Raised by Wolves is a part-bar, part-bottle shop concept dreamed up by partners Arsalun Tafazoli, Chris Patino and Erick Castro who chose the Westfield UTC location for a simple reason: the neighborhood needed good cocktails. “It was an opportunity to essentially bring a more urban-minded focus and mentality to a more suburban crowd,” says Patino, whose resumé includes time spent as brand ambassador for Absolut and Plymouth Gin. “Just because you leave the city life behind, shouldn’t mean that you should be deprived of a well-made cocktail in a well-thought-out and intimate setting.”

Castro echos that sentiment, adding that opening bars in underserved areas is part of their mission as a company. “When Polite Provisions first opened, people thought we were crazy because there were no cocktail bars in that neighborhood. Of course, now we’re one of seven cocktail bars in that area,” he says. “We want to provide the community a place to get together over a cocktail.”

Named after the tale of brothers Romulus and Remus from Roman mythology (“wolves are caring, loyal, nurturing, not to mention socially connected animals, and those are exactly the values that we strive to promote at Raised by Wolves,” Patino explains), the bar puts a lavish foot forward with its decor. Designed by Paul Basile of BASILE Studio, who also did the schemes for San Diego spots Born and Raised, Kindred and Craft & Commerce, the decor was inspired by French Art Nouveau and Victorian Rococo Revival styles. “We wanted guests to be physically transported from a contemporary suburban shopping center into 19th century Paris or London,” says Basile. “Once they cross that threshold, the deeper they go into the space, the more they forget where they are and are able to become totally immersed in the experience.” From the storefront, which resembles those that border cobblestone streets in European cities, to the central Nouveau gazebo that comes into focus in the center of the room upon entry, everything was inspired by “enduring antique craftsmanship,” Balise says.

“We wanted the place to be opulent,” Castro adds, citing inspiration from the London hotel bars he’s visited over the years. “In those world-class hotel bars with so much history; nothing is done without consideration, foresight and thought. We wanted every single thing, from the outlets and the lighting to the music, to be deliberate and well considered.”

The adjacent bottle shop required a little more legwork on the licensing and permitting side, but it was an obvious choice to include from the get-go, says Patino. “Being in a mall inspired us to think outside the box a bit more, and that led us to building out the retail shop. It makes sense; we’re in a mall, so let’s open up a shop filled with all of the brands (not to mention books, barware, etc.) that we would want to share with our friends and family if we were having them over,” he says. “Plus, how often have you been out for a drink and had an amazing cocktail that you couldn’t wait to tell your friends about? Now you can buy everything you need to make that drink on your way out the door.”

Offering an array of spirits that will appeal to “the most hardcore spirits nerd in town but also people who just happen to be walking through the mall,” Castro says, the bottle shop aims to be one-stop for cocktail-making staples, plus some novelties. Patino cites Old Fitzgerald from the 1960s, pre-fire Elijah Craig and Yamazaki Mizunara 18 Year as examples. “We even sell bottles from a number of the private barrels that we hand select ourselves,” Patino adds. “Basically, we have everything from the extravagant to the economical, but we’re really just looking for great spirits with great stories.”

Behind the bar, Castro embraces a similarly adventurous spirit. “Since the bar is kind of unexpected, I wanted the cocktails to be unexpected, too,” he says. Cocktails like the Dreadlock Holiday, his White Negroni variation, and the house Old Fashioned with coconut fat-washed Irish whiskey, banana liqueur and bitters, show playfulness within earshot of classics. Others, like the whiskey-based tiki gem the Iron Ranger and the Boogie Board—a bold mix of Navy strength gin, honeydew, pineapple and coconut that’s flash blended to achieve a fluffy texture—demonstrate Castro’s agility when left to his own devices.

With plenty of foot traffic at the mall complex, the bar will easily attract locals, and with its powerful combination of stunning design and creative, well-made cocktails, Raised by Wolves is poised to become a can’t-miss destination for drink enthusiasts around the country.

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