Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

The Week of Living Tiki: Eight Faux-Polynesian Establishments in Seven Days

News and Dish, Pub Crawls, Rum 2 Comments »
Vintage postcard of The Hawaiian Isle Hotel

Vintage postcard of The Hawaiian Isle Hotel

By John Greenfield

You might say that Mai Tais run in my blood. When I was a kid in the 1970s, my family used to hang out at a tiki hotel called the Hawaiian Isle, owned by my dad’s cousin Leo Frank. It was located at 17601 Collins Avenue in the Sunny Isles section of North Miami Beach. Don’t look for it; it’s not there anymore.

Images of Polynesian deities were plentiful at the inn, including a twelve-foot-tall, backlit mask by the front door, with eyes that alternately glowed green and pink. A talking parrot greeted guests in the lobby, and there was a floorshow featuring hula and other South Seas dance forms. The place was frequented by everyone from French-Canadian snowbirds to Jewish Mafia figures.

Those early days at the Hawaiian Isle must be a factor in why tiki culture resonates with me so much nowadays. Along with strolling through the steamy Garfield Park Conservatory and soaking in the hot tubs of King Spa in Niles, visiting faux-Polynesian lounges and restaurants is one of my favorite ways to take a brief vacation from the grim realities of a Chicago winter. Read the rest of this entry »

True Resolution: Five Goals, Five Bars, Five Nights

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Big Joe's turtle arena

Big Joe’s turtle arena

By Stefan Castellanos

During the holidays, a merry malaise sets in. We can float along on ham sandwiches and movie marathons without ever fully achieving in-the-moment consciousness. It’s bliss, and the happy numbness tends to permeate our holiday conversation as well. Some Navidad novocaine turns a frustrating year at work into “a learning experience,” your crazy cousin into “a free spirit trying to find her way” and, most dangerously, your half-hearted plans for future self-improvement into “a great opportunity for personal growth.” Though well-intentioned, these statements are safe and empty, and they set a passive tone for the days to come. There’s nothing like a big pot of black-eyed peas and euphemism to ring in the New Year, right?

Luckily, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, provided your execution is on point. Check it out. I made five New Year’s resolutions, each as unoriginal and armored in doublespeak as a cowardly breakup text. But to spice things up, I paired each goal with a “corresponding” bar—one for each of the five days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve—in hopes of enhancing my experience and kick-starting 2014. At worst, I have a few drinks, plus add some excitement and structure to this awkward chunk of time. And at best, I take tired clichés and turn them into actual progress toward self-improvement, thus cracking the New Year’s Resolution code. It’s a win-win. Read the rest of this entry »

Drink Before You Eat: Black Wednesday Events

Drinking Events (yes, redundant, we know), Pub Crawls No Comments »

Bar Umbriago

Bar Umbriago
All you can drink for three hours? Now if that’s not how Chicagoans celebrate Black Wednesday I don’t know what is. It’s happening at Bar Umbriago. For $40, guests will enjoy unlimited drinks starting at 9pm and ending at midnight, and a live DJ until closing time. The only drinks this special will not include are shots, which means all of Bar Umbriago’s signature cocktails and house-infused vodkas are up for grabs. Bar Umbriago, 6 West Hubbard, (312)494-1200, 9pm-12am, $40.

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The Brewing Cycle: Cross-country beer-blogging bicyclists explore Chicago

Beer Rhymes With Cheer, Pub Crawls No Comments »

By John Greenfield

“What advice would you give someone who wants to open a brewpub?” asks David Michael earnestly, wielding a video camera, with a bike helmet hanging off his backpack. “Don’t do it,” answers Revolution Brewing’s mutton-chopped owner Josh Deth with a grin. “It’s a whole lot of work.”

Michael and his buddy Chip Snyders are currently pedaling from New York to San Francisco, stopping at as many breweries as possible. They’re filming a documentary about the trip and blogging at, and Michael is contemplating a move into the beer business. “We’re talking with brewers and employees who work intimately with craft beer and the people who consume it,” says Snyders. “We want to dig deep into the culture.”

I’ve offered to take them on a two-wheeled tour of local brewpubs and taprooms, starting with Revolution in Logan Square, where Deth has a right to grumble about his workload. He’s almost finished building out the tavern’s second floor as a special-events space with a stage for live music, dark wood accents and muscular arches that make the room look like a medieval feast hall. Meanwhile he’s planning a 35,000-square-foot production brewery at 3340 North Kedzie, slated to open in early 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Hit a Homerun: The best of Wrigleyville bars

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Best bar for elbow room and a dance floor

Casey Moran’s
This spacious bar is a favorite for birthday parties and the like, channeling a slightly more upscale vibe with its baroque/modern interior and bathroom attendants. Calmer and quieter than elsewhere, it’s easier to actually strike up a conversation here. Still, on the dance floor the music is blasting, and the DJ throws in some classic dance tunes along with the Top 40 hits, so if you’re craving a bit of Michael Jackson along with your Ke$ha, this is the place.
3660 North Clark, (773)755-4444

Best bar if you’re experiencing Chad/Trixie overload

The Gingerman Tavern
If you can’t get with the Wrigleyville scene, or have simply had enough, The Gingerman is the place for you. Right next to Metro, The Gingerman attracts an older, alternative/punk crowd that doesn’t feel emasculated drinking the cider they serve on tap. The television is sports-free and the bar is cash-only, but if you can roll with the punches, you might meet a cutie in a black hoodie and glasses.
3740 North Clark, (773)549-2050 Read the rest of this entry »

411: Around the Bases

Drinking Events (yes, redundant, we know), News and Dish, Pub Crawls No Comments »

The Cover Your Bases Wrigleyville Bar Tour will help kick off baseball season this Saturday with a twist on the typical bar crawl. Participants will get a t-shirt with a baseball field design and will receive a sticker—representing each position on a baseball team—at each bar stop. Once attendees fill up their shirt, they can enter a drawing to win Cubs tickets, restaurant gift certificates or t-shirts. Festa Events, which runs the 12 Bars of Christmas pub crawl, created the event. “We’ve done TBOX for thirteen years and entertained the idea of branching out,” says manager Kelly Tribout. Their first foray, a Mardi Gras-themed pub crawl, was successful, so they wanted to try their luck with Cubbie fever. They are considering starting up a few events later this year as well. “It’s tough in Chicago with all of the events in the summer,” Tribout says. “But hopefully we’ll have some other pub crawls this fall.” Tickets for the Cover Your Bases crawl are $12 in advance (at and $15 on the day of the event.

Ho Ho Ho: A Sea of Santas take to the bars

Drinking Events (yes, redundant, we know), Pub Crawls No Comments »

In the Tavern Tap in the Congress Hotel, Santa sits at the bar drinking scotch on the rocks. He swirls the ice cubes around in his glass, sighs and looks behind him out the window, where Santa is also standing drinking a Heineken, with two other Santas. Even more Santas file in until 3pm when they all head out together. Welcome to “SantaCon Chicago,” a free, open invitation to dress up like Santa and stumble from bar to bar.
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411 Seven Days in Chicago: Crawl Around the Globe

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Two thirsty Dubliners have created a master plan to guzzle seventy-two drinks (twelve on each of the six continents they will visit) in twenty days. “The Twelfth Pub” tour stemmed from an Irish tradition—one night in December you visit twelve pubs with friends and drink a pint in each place. Coordinators Eammon Conaghan and Frank McNally, both 31, will have their first drink in Chicago on December 1 and then go on to Buenos Aires, Dublin, Johannesburg, Hong Kong and Perth, in that order. “We’ll generally try to include pubs representative of the cultural heritage in each town,” says Conaghan. “Then end up somewhere a bit more happening.” The trip is partly funded by a natural hangover medication called “LifeLine Hangover Defence.” “We’re going to give it the ultimate road test,” says Conaghan.