Monday, December 10, 2012

Bub City!

Tonight is our first 'practice party' at Bub City—the time to iron out kinks and do things like spellcheck the menus (don't worry, Letherbee Gin, I'm on it!) before we open our doors to the public.

The bar looks amazing and we've got it stocked with tons of whiskey, including three of the barrels I picked up along the Bourbon Trail this summer (look for 'Bub City Barrels' of Four Roses, Jack Daniel, and Weller 107.)

Bub City via A Drink With Chicago
I've also put together a cocktail menu that I think perfectly suits Bub City's country-western dive-vibe. All three- or four-ingredient riffs on classics, including one I'm particularly excited about: a Mexican Firing Squad Special straight out of a French Quarter-worthy frozen drink machine. 

Bub City will be my homebase for the next few weeks, so come by and say hello!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Drinking Vinegars, Meet Daiquiri.

Drinking vinegars are where it's at this fall—they're the perfect way to get dead-of-summer fruit tastes when the dead-of-summer is long gone.

Someone sent RPM's executive chef Doug Psaltis some samples of Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegars, and he passed them on to me suggesting I give them a whirl behind the bar. I liked the pomegranate and pineapple so much that I ordered two full-sized bottles. At almost $19 a whack, they're pretty expensive, but because I'm only using a quarter of an ounce at a time, I feel like I'm really getting my money's worth.

I added some of Pok Pok Som's Full Strength Pineapple Drinking Vinegar to my daiquiri recipe, and the result was awesome. It's almost like adding salt to chocolate chip cookies; the vinegar just opens up all the subtle flavors of the cocktail. The aroma in intensified, you taste a level of pineapple acidity that isn't possible even with the freshest pineapple juice, and the finish is a pleasant, lingering one.

These vinegars will also make great 'mocktails': just add one part drinking vinegar to four parts soda.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Prichards' Distillery

After visiting Jack Daniel's, we drove to nearby Kelso, Tennessee, so I could pick up a bottle of Prichards' Private Stock rum (which is only available at the distillery's gift shop). The distillery itself is really special—it's in an old school (complete with gymnasium-turned-booze warehouse), and, as you can see in the photos, a true mom and pop operation.

Click 'read more' for all the photos...

Jack Daniel Distillery

Paid a quick visit the Jack Daniel Distillery on Wednesday morning, where I picked up a barrel of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select for Bub City. The tasting experience there differed wildly from the three I'd experienced earlier this week, as I'm sure you can tell from these photos. There wasn't a whiskey thief in sight, but I think the folks who normally won't touch Jack Daniel's are going to be pleasantly surprised by this particular barrel. 

Click 'read more' for photos...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Buffalo Trace

Headed to Buffalo Trace in the afternoon, and picked out a barrel of seven-year old Old Weller 107, also for Bub City. Click through for photos of their beautiful property...

Four Roses

Bought an 11-year old barrel-strength Four Roses barrel for Bub City today. Click through for photos of the distillery and bottling facility...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Heaven Hill Distillery

Spent the afternoon at Heaven Hill touring the property and tasting ten-year-old Evan Williams. Click through for more...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A little bit country, a little bit...?

Is this what a tiki bar in the basement of a country & western bar is supposed to look like? Whoa.

Thanks for the heads up on this one, Ben Poster

Monday, April 16, 2012

Vermouth cocktail round-up.

Spent the morning working on a magazine story about vermouth cocktails. My contributions were a vermouth spritzer, a vermouth cobbler, a reverse martini, and a negroni sbagliato. The negroni sbagliato is currently on the cocktail menu at RPM Italian, my home base until tiki time arrives. 


I picked up this great little Bitter Truth traveler's set when I made a vermouth-run to Binny's. I added a few dashes of the Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters to the mint bouquet on my vermouth spritzer. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Is there a Dewey Decimal classification for 'tiki'?

I'm anxiously awaiting three new titles for my library of cocktail books:

Trader Vic's Tiki Party by Stephen Siegelman; Hawaii Tropical Rum Drinks Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber; Scrounging the Islands with the Legendary Don the Beachcomber: Host to Diplomat, Beachcomber, Prince and Pirate by Arnold Britner.

I'm also the very proud new owner of Ed Hamilton's book, Rums of the Eastern Caribbean. I was lucky enough to score a copy from the Minister of Rum himself, and he was gracious enough to autograph the book for me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Regarding Mother's Ruin...

This week, Lauren Viera contributed an essay to the Chicago Reader that used Chicago's newest cocktail bar, Scofflaw, to illustrate the "embarrassing gap" between our community and those of "the competing bicoastal metropolises."

Plenty of other people have made more eloquent rebuttals than I ever could (Julia Kramer, Mike Sula, Ronnie Kaplan), but I just wanted to take a moment to point out two factual errors that I haven't seen called out in any of the other responses:

"...Dutch restaurant Vandaag, whose beverage menu is even more obscure: there are no basic London drys (e.g. Tanqueray, Bombay, etc.)--only genevers and aquavit."
Vandaag currently has five drinks on their menu that do not include genever or aquavit (New Amsterdam Toddy, V.O.C. Grogg, CB3 Sour, Bohemian Spritz, Euro Flip), not to mention an entire selection of beer, wine, cider, and mead. In fact, when I visited Vandaag last spring, I had a great conversation about whiskey with the whiskey-obsessed bartender over a whiskey-based cocktail.

"If you want, say, a tequila cocktail, your best bet is to saunter down the street to Mayahuel, which serves that and only that."
Mayahuel has an entire section of their menu devoted to Spanish sherries, which have nothing to do with tequila or any other agave-based spirits. They also serve cocktails that do not include tequila ("Sherry Nice Cocktails": Appleseed Punch, Hey Zucca, Flip For Jerez, Sobret Abla, Smoked Palomino), as well as beer cocktails (Chelada, Michelada, El Jimador's Shifty, Ariba en Umo). Meanwhile, the cocktail menu at Masa Azul in Logan Square is 100% agave-spirit-based cocktails.

So, two of the three spirit-programs Viera puts forward as shining examples of New York's superiority over Chicago's Midwestern cowardice are also too chicken shit* to be as exclusive as she purports them to be. And while Madam Geneva's cocktail menu is exclusively gin-based, they offer twice as many wine and beer selections as they do gin cocktails.

Also, there is one other point she makes that I can't empirically prove as bullshit, but I bet a lot of people would agree with me:
"...the Violet Hour is essentially a long-past-due sequel to New York City's famed Milk & Honey..."
Aside from both offering classic, pre-Prohibition-era cocktails, these places are absolutely nothing alike. Milk & Honey is a 30ish-person-capacity pitch-black dive, with ripped upholstery and a bathroom I was afraid to let my wife visit alone, while Violet Hour is a classy-ass joint five times the size of its 'prequel' with more drapery and crown molding than Ima Hogg's mansion. Milk & Honey is awesome, but to write off Violet Hour as its sequel is completely absurd.

In conclusion: I just wanted to let you all know that, factually speaking, this essay was a little half-cocked, and I wanted to make sure those inaccuracies were brought to light.

*Mayahuel and Vandaag are not chicken shit, and I love them.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Year, New You!

After three and a half years at The Whistler, I am moving on to an exciting new project with RJ and Jerrod Melman. My partners at The Whistler, Robert Brenner and Billy Helmkamp, remain great friends, and the wonderful and extremely capable staff of The Whistler will continue the great work we’ve done together since the beginning. My time behind the bar there will end on February 1st, with the final installment of our Book Club series.

Thank you so much for your support over the years, and I am looking forward to keeping you updated with the details of my next adventure. While you may not be able to find me behind a bar for the next few months, I’ll be keeping my blog updated with my activities and whereabouts.