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.


  1. As much as I was put off, or really just confused, by the Viera article, I'm just as pleased to see so many respected voices going to bat for Danny and Scofflaw.

    What we have here is a pretty admirable community.

  2. Touché.
    Thanks for the thoughtful feedback, Paul.