San Diego speakeasy Raised by Wolves makes list of best bars in North America
Raised by Wolves, a speakeasy nestled in the middle of the Westfield UTC mall, has been ranked among the top 20 bars in North America. It was the only bar in San Diego to make the annual Top 50 list of North America’s 50 Best Bars 2022.
The bar – which is owned by local hotel group CH Projects – came in at number 19. It was one of five establishments representing California on a list that included bars in major US cities, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
At the top of the list was Attaboy in New York. One of the best bar co-founders, Sam Ross, helped organize the cocktail parties for two of CH Projects’ other concepts in San Diego, Youngblood and Noble Experiment.
The ranking was voted on by 220 bar industry experts, including an even gender split of well-traveled bartenders, bar owners, beverage media and cocktail connoisseurs from the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Each voter from a different North American region independently chose seven best bars based on their experience over an 18-month period.
There was no application, nominating process, or standardized criteria, so voting boiled down to expert opinions.
Baylea Morgan, general manager of Raised by Wolves, said one of the things that probably sets their bar apart from others is its theme and atmosphere.
CH Projects opened the $3 million vintage speakeasy in 2018 in the middle of the Westfield UTC mall, right next to the Apple Store. Raised by Wolves’ decor is from another era, with a plush marble bar, dark wood bookshelves lining the walls, a three-tiered fountain, and French Nouveau-style upholstered wraparound sofas.
Guests enter the secret bar by the fireplace lounge area, which spins 360 degrees like something out of a detective story.
A cocktail at Raised by Wolves can cost anywhere from $13 or $14 to an extravagant drink for $700, Morgan said. This outlier is made with 1960s Old Fitzgerald bourbon (a bottle online sells for around $1,500-$5,000). She said they had surprisingly gone through three bottles already and were down to their last.
“Every time you drink it, it becomes less available. So you’re drinking in the story, which is very exciting and the guests really love that aspect,” she said.
The bar offers a full menu of around 20 cocktails, a few beers and wines as well as a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails.
Another differentiator for the company 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 for any cocktails customers enjoy at the bar so they can then pick up ingredients from the store.
“Most cocktail bars are going to do the same style of cocktails but we do… riffs on classics,” she said. “We’re trying to build on the classic cocktail specs to make it a bit easier for customers to follow them home, because again the idea is that they can explore the bottle store and then take that experience home with them. “
The bottle shop has remained open for most of the pandemic, but since the cocktail bar is closed with no windows, it reopened last year.
The speakeasy isn’t so secret anymore though – the waiting list to enter on a weekend can be three to four weeks, while a weekday wait is around 12 days. Morgan said they do drop-in tours, but it’s become a destination for people who want to have private parties, take a whiskey tasting class, and visit when they come to San Diego.