The Sleek La Jolla Speakeasy You Can Only Enter Via A Magic Fireplace

A bar behind a liquor store in a San Diego mall might not sound like the place you want to go for an elegant evening on the town, but you'll just have to trust the photos on this one.

Raised by Wolves, a speakeasy and cocktail bar in the well-heeled La Jolla neighborhood should be an absolute must-visit for anyone in the area, and William Reed ranks it 19th on its list of the 50 Best North American Bars. The watering hole is located in the Westfield UTC mall, an upscale shopping center attempting to revamp the mall culture in Southern California into something people want to be a part of. Nestled among high-end restaurants and luxury stores is a bottle shop boasting an impressive array of rare spirits that serves as the entry point to this hidden bar. Once inside, save your bottle purchases for on the way out and have a seat next to the enormous fireplace before disappearing (secret-passage style) on a circular platform into a luxurious bar with a fountain centerpiece, oak walls, and spindly gilded bar seats. 

The Raised by Wolves aesthetic

"What we were trying to do with Raised by Wolves was create an unexpected venue in an unexpected place," bartender Erick Castro told Tasting Table. The bar is impeccably kitted out with custom draft handles shaped like golden wolf heads, hand-painted walls, fringed lampshades, velvet-topped barstools, chessboard tables, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and an enormous emerald-green glass domed ceiling. 

The aesthetic was inspired by glamorous European hotel bars of days gone by. Castro remarks that, "When you're in an old bar or ... sometimes a lot of these old restaurants, everything's very tactile, and there's evidence of human touch ... even if it's just wallpaper that looks bespoke. Nowadays, you don't really get that anymore, [and] think it's a shame because a lot of places around the world are all starting to look the same because they're all using the same mood boards." 

Castro says that while the bar holds around 200 people, they never pack it out, opting for a low key, sexy vibe in which people can sip their cocktail and listen to "the best music you've never heard," whether that's French jazz or 90s R&B. 

What to drink at Raised by Wolves

One of the most popular drinks at Raised by Wolves is the Island Old-Fashioned, which uses coconut-washed Irish whiskey, Peruvian bitters, Angostura bitters, and banana liqueur, which Castro told us was inspired by the unexpectedly tropical notes in Irish whiskey. The drink menu is extensive, with everything from a Negroni on tap to a $790 Old Fashioned made with the bar's store of Old Fitzgerald Bourbon from the 1960s (two or three bottles are sold every week).

Raised by Wolves' location poses a unique opportunity for bartenders to serve up complex drinks to the often picky clientele that frequent the bottle shop and bar, that, for example, know the difference between an Averna and an amaretto. But since the bar's in the middle of a public thoroughfare, less discerning customers wander in as well. Castro told us, "[It's] a really cool challenge. How do you make a drink approachable enough for just someone off of the street while still inventive and creative enough to please the most cynical cocktail lover?"