By Stefan Castellanos
A winter bar must have two doors. They can’t be French doors, which swing open to reveal the splendor of summering in the countryside, les enfants Jean-Pierre and Gaston playing petanque in the yard as Papa scans the hills before the partridge hunt. They must instead be one in front of the other—two single doorways several feet apart, forming an enclosed vestibule. This pocket of space deadens the incoming cold. Once inside, the view looking out through the plate-glass doors is bleak by comparison. In the frosty, refracted frame there is a young man playing a futile game of “Can I eat these cheese fries with gloves on?” as he waits a frozen eternity for the Clark bus. And there are no partridges; it’s so damn cold there aren’t even pigeons. No splendor in sight, only tempered struggle.
These doors allow us to keep the elements chained up outside. We’re always aware of their existence, but for the moment we’re unencumbered, even liberate, by it. They allow us to say, “Yes, Winter, I hear/see you knocking, and no, I won’t be out until I damn well please.” And although many places have them, there is no more deliberate set of “Chicago doors” than those protecting the Duke of Perth. Read the rest of this entry »
Matt Young/Photo: Lilly Carey
It’s safe to say people are familiar with the pairing of gin and juice, but the pairing of gin and beer? In a bold, tasty experiment, Half Acre lead brewer Matt Young decided to couple Half Acre’s Pony Pilsner with gin barrels from Kentucky-founded micro distillery, Corsair. The concoction: a gin-barrel-aged beer entitled Gin Pony.
What sparked the experimentation?
“The idea for aging a beer in a gin barrel was mostly born from the opportunity to do so,” Young says. “Corsair had the barrels, and my good friend Steve Whitledge at Corsair was really talking them up. I think he even suggested aging a pilsner in the barrel.”
This suggestion became reality, leading Half Acre to age a small batch of their Pony Pilsner in Corsair barrels. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
Top 5 Gin & Tonics
Little Market Brasserie
Top 5 New Cocktails
Pappy Van Winkle barrel-aged Negroni at The Berkshire Room
Cease and Desist at CH Distillery
Tendron & Lime at Embeya
Cat’s Pajamas at Sepia
Rum River Mystic at Three Dots and a Dash
What’s old is new again, as Baderbräu, Chicago’s original craft beer, makes its triumphant return to the city. Chicago’s craft beer scene wasn’t always as vibrant as it is today and, in the early 1990s, Baderbräu was one of the only locally produced beers on the market. But just as quickly as it rose in popularity, so too did it deflate, all a matter of growing too big too soon. However, a Baderbräu renaissance is afoot, and it’s all thanks to beer savior Rob Sama.
Baderbräu was founded in 1989 by Ken Pavichevich, a former Chicago police officer with an ardent passion for beer. After falling in love with European-style beers, the burgeoning aficionado started raising money to build his own brewery in Elmhurst and give Chicago the kinds of craft brews he came to love in Europe. At its peak, Baderbräu was responsible for seventy-five-percent of Chicago’s craft beer consumption, wooing beer-lovers such as Sama, a finance student at the University of Chicago, who was getting into craft beers just as Baderbräu was hitting its stride. “If you could walk into a bar and see a Baderbräu handle, it meant you would be drinking good beer that night,” says Sama on the state of Chicago’s beer landscape at Baderbräu’s apex, wherein their beers were sold at more than 200 bars and restaurants throughout the city. Read the rest of this entry »
Bourbon and beer. They’re awesome, bold and delicious. Put them together, and you get something strong yet flavorful. Case in point, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. Released November 29, Bourbon County Brand Stout, Coffee Stout and three new additions to the BCS family (Backyard Rye, Proprietor’s and Barleywine) hit Chicago’s liquor stores where they will remain for a limited time only. Goose Island Brewmaster Brett Porter gave Newcity some insight on the craft and characteristics of the beer.
What’s the flavor profile on Bourbon County?
If you sat down with a sheet of paper and wrote down all the different flavors, you could probably fill a page with it. People taste cherry, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, people taste burnt wood… people taste hot alcohol flavors, a distinct bourbon flavor. Read the rest of this entry »
By Charlie Puckett
The alley air outside of a whitewashed, re-appropriated chop-shop is swollen with the warm blunt smell of grains and botanicals turned into award-winning gins and whiskeys. Inside, Paul Hletko, founder and master distiller at Few Spirits, boils the waters, more than a thousand casks after his first distillation in 2011, to make some of Chicago’s most notable artisanal spirits.
As a resident of Evanston, once the incubator for America’s infamous Woman’s Christian Temperance movement, Hletko especially understands the high threshold for success a nascent craft distiller faces no matter which city they call home. It’s as if the weather of the temperance movement, decades since past, still alters the national dew point in the way that start-up distilleries are still few in number and face high infant mortality rates. According to a survey conducted by the American Distilling Institute, approximately 208 craft distilleries currently operate nationwide as of mid-2012, a featherweight comparison to the hundreds of thousands of stills operating prior to Prohibition. “The greatest success so far is that we still have our lights on,” Hletko says. “In our business world, the first two years are the toughest, and we just hit our second year.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Sara Tenenbaum
If you asked any of the employees at Scofflaw why they were still handing you a spring drink menu a week into July, they explained that the gin joint’s newest set of signature drinks were still being crafted. They’re putting a lot of thought into this one, they told you, and you nodded and accepted the explanation because even if your cocktail felt a little out of season, it’s still one of the best in town. Despite its youth and its odd location, Scofflaw’s superior drinks and reasonable prices have made it one of the most popular and lauded bars in the city. This spring, Chicago magazine deservedly called it the best bar in Chicago, a little bit of extra pressure to keep churning out delicious and innovative cocktails with each season change. Perhaps that’s why it took a little longer to get a summer menu out there. The good news: it’s done, it’s out there, and it’s delicious.
The summer menu skews tropical, cold and refreshing, and is at its best when using the holy trinity of summer spirits: gin, rum and tequila. The Sleeper is probably the most refreshing drink on this menu, a bright concoction of gin, Escorial (a dry German herbal liqueur), honeydew, lime and orange bitters, chilled with big blocks of cucumber ice. Honeydew is not my favorite melon but it sings when allowed to play with gin, somehow boosting and mellowing the juniper notes simultaneously. Also deliciously refreshing is Alfonso, a neon orange mixture of gin, mango, lime, Peychaud’s bitters and berries. Served over heaps of crushed ice, it’s bright and fruity without even edging toward overly sweet. The New Toy is essentially an updated margarita but it is a spectacular update; instead of simple syrup they use Orgeat (an almond syrup) and Mole bitters, and the salt is in the drink instead of rimming the glass. The bite of lime and tequila is unmistakably margarita, and the twist on sweetness and salt has all the charm and sparkle of, well, a new toy. Read the rest of this entry »
By Keralee Froebel
Cal’s, arguably the world’s best—or worst, depending on who’s speaking—dive bar, has closed, and not because of economic pressure, but because the owners, the brothers Cal and Fred Feirstein, are heading into their long-anticipated retirement.
Open since 1947 at the corner of Wells and Van Buren, Cal’s thrived simply because it refused to change with the times. Painted baby-shit brown on the inside, with band posters and playlists for wall art, the decor was virtually nonexistent, the bathrooms didn’t function and no matter how many times the bartender mopped the inside of the bar it managed to always look filthy. And yet, Cal’s was beloved by the chosen few who either found it quite by accident, or heard strange murmurings of its mythical existence. “Two dollar PBRs in a downtown bar? Real punk music after dark downtown? Cheap drinks with no attitude? Lawyers, traders, UIC hipsters, bike messengers and postal workers drinking side by side?”
The actual existence of Cal’s was a dream come true for the class-smashing flaneur and urban adventurer. Where else could one go to get such a particular and delicious reduction of urban society? Coming to Cal’s was like tasting a fine, long-simmering bouillabaisse: it took time and patience to cultivate the contrasting flavors that co-existed there, and it rarely got as real and flavorful as it used to get at Cal’s on a random weeknight happy hour. Read the rest of this entry »
Top 5 New Local Brews in 2012
E. Normagene, Revolution Brewing
Van Horn English Bitter, Half Acre
Augustus IPA, Haymarket Pub & Brewery
Thunder & Son, Half Acre
Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island Brewery (Seasonal)
Top 5 New Cocktails in 2012
Tipsy Tortoise, The Tortoise Club
Oaxacan Sunset, Mezcalina
Clover Club, Maude’s Liquor Bar
R. Franklin’s Original Recipe Malort, The Violet Hour