San Diego speakeasy Raised by Wolves lands on best bars list for North America
In a ranking of the top 50 bars in North America, Raised by Wolves was the only San Diego bar on the list.
Raised by Wolves, a speakeasy tucked in the middle of the Westfield UTC shopping mall, was ranked as one of the top 20 bars in North America. It was the only San Diego bar to make the annual ranking by 50 Best’s list of North America’s 50 Best Bars 2022.
The bar — which is owned by local hospitality group CH Projects — came in at No. 19. It was one of five establishments representing California on a list that included bars in major U.S. cities, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
At the top of the list was Attaboy in New York City. One of the top bar’s co-founders, Sam Ross, helped curate the cocktails at two of CH Projects’ other San Diego concepts, Youngblood and Noble Experiment.
The ranking was voted on by 220 bar industry experts including an even split by gender of bartenders, bar owners, drinks media and well-traveled cocktail connoisseurs from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Each voter from a different North American region independently chose seven top bars based on their experience in an 18-month period.
There was no application, nomination process or standardized criteria, so the votes came down to the experts’ opinions.
Baylea Morgan, general manager of Raised by Wolves said that one of the things that likely set their bar apart from the rest is its theme and atmosphere.
CH Projects opened the $3 million vintage speakeasy in 2018 in the middle of the Westfield UTC mall, right by the Apple store. The décor of Raised by Wolves is from another era, complete with an opulent marble bar, dark wood bookshelves lining the walls, a three-tiered fountain and French nouveau-style tufted wrap-around couches.
Guests enter the secret bar by the fireplace seating area, which rotates 360-degrees, like something out of a murder mystery novel.
A cocktail at Raised by Wolves can cost anywhere from $13 or $14 to an extravagant $700 drink, Morgan said. This outlier is made with Old Fitzgerald bourbon from the 1960s (online a bottle retails for about $1,500 to $5,000). She said they’ve surprisingly gone through three bottles already and are on their last one.
“Every time you drink it, it becomes less available. So, you’re drinking history, which is very exciting and guests really love that aspect of it,” she said.
The bar features a full menu of about 20 cocktails, a few beers and wine as well as a selection of alcohol-free cocktail options.
Another differentiator for the business is that it has a bottle shop where visitors can purchase specialty liquors or canned cocktails curated by Raised by Wolves. Morgan added that their bartenders will personally write down the recipe of any cocktails patrons enjoy at the bar so they can then go browse for ingredients at the shop.
“Most cocktail bars are going to do the same style of cocktails but we do ... riffs on classics,” she said. “We try to lean on classic cocktail specs to make it a little bit easier for guests to follow that at home because again, the whole idea is for them to be able to explore the bottle shop and then take that experience home with them.”
The bottle shop stayed open during most of the pandemic, but since the cocktail lounge is enclosed with no windows, it opened back up last year.
The speakeasy is not so secret anymore though — the waiting list to get in on a weekend can be three to four weeks, while a weekday wait is about 12 days. Morgan said they do take walk-ins, but it’s become a destination for people to host private parties, take a whiskey tasting class and visit when they come to San Diego.
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