Would you have the nerve to mix these on your own?/Photo: Adam Seger
By Lauren Knight
More than just the traditional bartender, the mixologist is a crafter of recipes, a purveyor of liquefied bliss who mixes up sometimes arcane ingredients to please us with innovative flavor combinations. The craft of mixology remains a mystery for most, an enigma stirred into a paradox, served in a double Old Fashioned glass.
The rising trend of DIY cocktails makes mixology more accessible.
“It is about letting people be their own mixologist,” says Adam Seger, a veteran of the craft who has spent his career developing cocktails that challenge standards. From working directly with chefs and involving the kitchen in the bar program, to sourcing unusual ingredients for his recipes, Seger is a pioneer in the craft cocktail revolution.
It was through that latter endeavor that Rare Botanical Bitters came about. Seger partnered with Rodrick Markus, whose Rare Tea Cellar is highly regarded throughout the food community as a source for hard-to-find ingredients and unique tea blends. Markus and Seger, his customer of twelve years, decided to work together to create syrups, shrubs and other beverage components using the highest-quality teas, sweeteners, and botanicals. Read the rest of this entry »
By Michael Nagrant
“Second floor retail is murder,” says Kyle McHugh, aka “The Boozehound” and owner of boutique wine, beer and spirits retailer Drinks Over Dearborn (DOD). Though McHugh learned this truism in business school, he opened DOD on the second floor of an old office building called The Raleigh on Dearborn between Erie and Ontario anyway.
It wasn’t that he was the Evil Knievel of liquor retailers interested in spitting on MBA textbook theories. Rather, a greater truism trumped all: rent prices in the Gold Coast (an area he preferred for its affluent traffic) were a straight-up serial killing. McHugh figured he could better avoid the death of his business by executing his business plan the right way: get a bigger space to conduct classes, tastings and host a wide variety of interesting stock instead of compromising and blowing his life’s savings and small-business loan on a dinky little box on the first floor.
And in a business climate where faux anonymity and cloak and dagger is the new version of the Vegas-style blinking neon sign, who could discount McHugh’s decision? After all, the Lincoln Park restaurant Alinea doesn’t even have a sign and the popular Wicker Park cocktail lounge The Violet Hour looks like a graffiti-covered abandoned building.
If you build it, they will come, right? Read the rest of this entry »
Top 5 Great Things I Drank This Year
Japanese Julep, Drawing Room
Snap Pea Caipirinha, Nacional 27
The Riviera, Violet Hour
Ham and Cheese cocktail, Nacional 27
Launois “Cuvee Reserve” Brut Blanc de Blancs, Binnys
Top 5 Best Drinks
Sakerita, Sushi Wabi
White Sangria, De La Costa
Day At the Park, Park 52
Lavender Margarita, W
Lemon Drop (by Matt), Shula’s
From the outside, new Wicker Park lounge The Violet Hour appears to be just another dive bar. There’s no sign, and the plain wood paneling nearly obscures the door, except for the bright yellow light bulb hanging overhead. But the line outside on weekends arouses curiosity about this secretive new hot spot where the cocktail reigns supreme.
Named after a line from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland,” the elegant setting inside The Violet Hour is a striking contrast to the outside. Theatrical, blue curtains divide the three rooms and ornate chandeliers accent the lofty ceilings. Candles and soft lighting illuminate the pristine rooms, reminiscent of a Prohibition-era social club in a metropolitan hotel. Tall, regal blue chairs and cushy booths beside a fireplace provide a comfortable spot for sipping chic cocktails made with the utmost care by the expert, well-dressed bartenders. Read the rest of this entry »