Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

Cocktail and A Movie: The Music Box Theatre Gets Festive at Eighty-Six

News and Dish No Comments »
The Music Box Theater/Photo: Rosemary Lane

The Music Box Theater/Photo: Rosemary Lane

For eighty-six years this month, The Music Box Theatre (3733 North Southport) has been known for showing critically acclaimed independent and foreign films. As a kind of birthday exercise in renewal, the storied Lakeview movie palace has debuted a lounge and garden space that seeks to add some oomph to the movie-going experience.

Its cappuccino-and-cocktail-serving lounge opened in February, and the garden opened in July, part of a three-million-dollar addition to and renovation of the theater. Both have flown under-the-radar but are slowly growing into gathering spaces for young filmmakers, movie critics, moviegoers and neighbors. Read the rest of this entry »

Feni: Booze That’s News to You

Spirits Just Sound Happy, Don't They? No Comments »
Cashew apple

Cashew apple

By David Hammond

Feni. Ever tasted it? If you have, it’s likely thanks to Chicagoans Drew Whited and Brian McCaslin.

Feni is a liquor produced in Goa, India, from either coconut or cashew fruit. Whited and McCaslin make theirs of cashew fruit, which is the outer shell that encloses the “nut.” Once the cashew fruit is ripe, it falls off the tree, is collected and then smashed to extract the juice, which is put through a triple distillation process. The result is cashew “Feni,” an 85 proof clear spirit. Everything is one-hundred-percent natural and crafted by hand—exclusively by women—without the use of electricity. Read the rest of this entry »

Saddle Up: Grab the Reins at Pilsen’s Newest Bar, Tack Room

Bars of Summer No Comments »
Tack Room bar/Photo: Steve Scap

Tack Room bar/Photo: Steve Scap

By Anthony Todd

When you hear a new bar described as a “punk rock-inspired piano saloon,” even jaded cynics perk up to wonder, “What the…?”

Tack Room, the latest addition to Pilsen’s Thalia Hall development, has everything to make a Derby fan go wild—hand-picked bourbon, leather saddles and mint juleps—and enough Southern charm to appease anyone north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line. But the Derby is just a once-a-year party, and Tack Room intends to keep the energy going year round. Read the rest of this entry »

High Dive: Old Town Ale House’s Doormen Include a Pulitzer Prize Winner and Bad Bad Leroy Brown’s Trader Son

The Nighthawk No Comments »
Bill Currie, Hawkeye/Photo: Rosemary Lane

Bill Currie, Hawkeye/Photo: Rosemary Lane

By Rosemary Lane

Old Town Ale House (219 West North) has no bouncers. According to owner Tobin Mitchell, the iconic late-night bar—known for lewd political paintings and Second City patrons—has “doormen.” And not just any doormen.

Walk into the dimly lit bar Sunday through Wednesday, from 8am to 4am, and you’ll spot a seventy-four-year-old guy at the door by the name of Bill Currie, but everyone calls him Hawkeye. Currie sits on a stool by the door, a plaid bag full of New York Times newspapers right next to him. He does four crosswords every day. An institution at the Ale House and beloved by Second City students, Currie tells stories, makes winking wisecracks and, if he finds you interesting, he’ll try to suss out the Gaelic roots of your name. Read the rest of this entry »

Terroir o’ Land o’ Lincoln: Tasting the Wines of Our State

Wine is Poetry in a Bottle No Comments »
Illinois vineyard in winter/Photo: David Hammond

Illinois vineyard in winter/Photo: David Hammond

By David Hammond

Illinois is not generally recognized for its wine. Napa, Willamette Valley, parts of New York and Virginia, sure. But our state? No, not really.

Having tasted wines in regions as disparate as sunny Havana and cool Quebec, it’s clear that wine can, indeed, be made anywhere. Even here.

Wine has been “made” in Illinois for some time, but a lot of the juice has come from other regions like, say, California. It’s way more difficult to grow good wine grapes on the Great Plains than it is in sunnier states, but if you want a taste of the state, you want to drink wine made of grapes grown here.

At Galena’s Wine Lovers’ Weekend, we were more than a little surprised to taste a lot of wine made from Illinois-grown grapes. Read the rest of this entry »

This Bud’s for Who? The Enduring Appeal of Macrobrews

Beer Rhymes With Cheer No Comments »
Andy Ashby of Memphis Made/Photo: David Hammond

Andy Ashby of Memphis Made/Photo: David Hammond

By David Hammond

On a mid-May Monday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, beer makers from all over the world represented at the Glunz Global Beer Expo. There were many, many small, craft brewers, whose numbers are clearly growing. There was also a booth pouring Schlitz, Stroh’s and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

We are living in a golden age of beer. Perhaps at no time in world history have there been so many brewers, professional and home-grown.

When you go out for a beer, or crack one at home, we’re guessing it’s usually a small producer’s brand that you select. But you’re special, because craft beer accounts for only a little over ten percent of the market and America’s most popular beer is Bud Light.

Sipping some quality suds with the boys from Memphis Made (768 South Cooper, Memphis, Tennessee) which, like many microbreweries, distributes only in its region, Drew Barton, president/head brewer/co-founder said something that surprised me by saying, “Mega-breweries have some of the best brewers in the world.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, encouraging him to say more. Read the rest of this entry »

Sort of the College of Cardinals Conclave for the Wine Industry: Spending a Night at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour

Drinking Events (yes, redundant, we know), Wine is Poetry in a Bottle No Comments »
Wine Spectator Grand Tour/Photo: Camilla Sjodin

Wine Spectator Grand Tour/Photo: Camilla Sjodin

By Harris Meyer

Corina Alfaro and Carissa Emery, who only recently turned legal drinking age, stand holding sparkling wine in their expensive Riedel wine glasses, looking excited and a little tipsy.

The two young women had won free tickets from the B96 radio station—which otherwise would have cost $225 each—to attend the Wine Spectator Grand Tour 2015 at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom. They obviously are enjoying the three-hour event, featuring sips of 228 of the best and most expensive wines from sixteen countries and four American states, with retail prices up to nearly $500 a bottle for top-of-the-line Bordeaux. It’s Alfaro’s and Emery’s first-ever serious wine tasting.

They both say they prefer sweeter white wines and sparklers to the drier, more tannic reds. “We used to drink boxed wine, whatever, give us the cheapest thing,” Emery says with a giggle. “Now this has opened our eyes to a lot of different wines.” Read the rest of this entry »

Is Vodka Good for Anything? Chicago Booze Pros Ponder the Big Questions

Spirits Just Sound Happy, Don't They? 1 Comment »
Krissy Schutte/Photo: Arnold Klein

Krissy Schutte/Photo: Arnold Klein

By David Hammond

“Vodkas, a lot of times when I smell them, it brings me back to cutting up a frog in high school.” That’s what I was told during a recent conversation with Chicago uber-mixologist and beverage maker Adam Seger, who uses vodka in Balsam, his American amaro, which he infuses with a number of herbs to give this otherwise neutral spirit a lot of flavor.

“Vodka is a sponge with anything you put toward it,” says Seger. “The spirit doesn’t get in the way.”

Is that all vodka is good for? Being a sponge and not getting in the way? I sought the opinion of some Chicago bartenders. Read the rest of this entry »

Agave Adoration: The Mezcal Gospel According to Lou Bank

Spirits Just Sound Happy, Don't They? No Comments »
Photo: David Hammond

Photo: David Hammond

By David Hammond

“My interest in mezcal is as close as I come to religion,” says Lou Bank, a passionate apostle of the distilled agave spirit. We are sitting at Masa Azul (2901 West Diversey), communing over several bottles of mezcal that Bank brought back from Oaxaca and to dinner that night. Bank was eager to share, but his impulse in doing so was more than simple charity: he wanted to set me straight.

You see, I’d previously believed that mezcal, like tequila, was improved by aging in wood to become “reposado” (rested, aged two-to-twelve months) or “anejo” (aged up to two years or more).

Aging tints and mellows the mezcal. For Bank, that’s a desecration. Read the rest of this entry »

A Sonnet, Spoiled: Chicago Bartenders Reveal Five Easy Ways to Ruin a Martini

The Fine Art of Mixology 1 Comment »
Owen Worley, TETE Charcuterie

Owen Worley, TETE Charcuterie

By David Hammond

H.L. Mencken called the martini “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” The martini is an elegantly simple drink, following classic three-ingredient structure: gin or vodka, dry vermouth and a garnish (usually olive or a lemon twist).

What could go wrong? Lots. We chatted with several Chicago bartenders to get their take on how such a simple thing as a martini can go totally FUBAR. Read the rest of this entry »