Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

Far From Gin-eric: Half Acre Trots Out the Gin Pony

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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 »

Cal’s: A Love Story

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cal'scrosswalkBy 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 »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2012: Drink

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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)
—Veronica Hinke

Top 5 New Cocktails in 2012
Tipsy Tortoise, The Tortoise Club
Oaxacan Sunset, Mezcalina
Clover Club, Maude’s Liquor Bar
Velero, Scofflaw
R. Franklin’s Original Recipe Malort, The Violet Hour
—Veronica Hinke  

Another Round? Highlights from the 2012 New York Bar Show

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At the 2012 edition of the New York Bar & Restaurant show at New York’s Jacob Javits center, countless brands old and new were vying for consumers’ attention. Not everything was specifically about booze, though—it was also about new ideas that might bring extra profit for bars and restaurants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sipping to the Beat: Drinkify Pairs Tunes with Drinks

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Can’t figure out what to drink while listening to music on Spotify? There’s a website for that. It’s called Drinkify.

Drinkify.org was “created in twenty-four boozy hours ” by Hannah Donovan, Lindsay Eyink and Matthew Ogle. They all met each other through music jobs at Last.fm and iTunes. At the event Music Hack Day in Boston they came up with the idea of combining music and alcohol— perhaps sparked by Donovan’s epic hangover from the night before.

Drinkify attempts to pair whatever song you’re playing with the perfect cocktail recipe. Just type in the artist, song or band, hit the “What should I drink?” and bam: Cocktail recipe. Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2011: Bars and Nightclubs

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Tom & Jerry at The Aviary

Top 5 “One Percent” New Bars/Cocktail Lounges
Telegraph
The Barrelhouse Flat
The Aviary
Bedford
Elixir
—Ella Christoph

Top 5 “Ninety-Nine Percent” New Bars 
Public House
The Anthem
The Owl
The Norse Bar
Fountainhead
—Ella Christoph

Soju’s Sojourn: Will Korea’s National Spirit Find Staying Power in the US?

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Korean nationals certainly take pride in soju, their widely consumed national spirit that is ubiquitous in Korean-American communities throughout the country and is enjoyed in a variety of ways—chilled or mixed with a number of beverages, including bek-seju (a strong ginger-spiced wine), yogurt or even beer.

Soju is the second most consumed spirit in the world (according to a recent report by Forbes magazine), but when you bring it up around westerners not hip to Asian drinks, few have even heard of it. This is bound to change, since large producers like Jinro and Charm have been hard at work introducing the spirit to American audiences. Read the rest of this entry »

The Sober Truth: The Boozelator lets bar patrons check themselves out before getting behind the wheel

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In spite of MADD warnings and DUI risks, far too many folks find themselves throwing back cocktails at the bar with car keys in their pocket or purse. But the fact remains that until they get pulled over and given a breathalyzer test, most people are not aware how much (if at all) they can drink before they safely and legally get behind the wheel.

Enter The Boozelator, a breathalyzer vending machine that dispenses straws for bar patrons to check their own alcohol levels—a strategy that is intended to create awareness of the dangers of drunk driving and also to allow patrons to check and see if they are safe to drive. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Paddy O’Fegan’s Opens, and Isn’t It Always News When an Irish Pub Opens in Chicago?

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Patrick Fegan (Paddy) and his team of chefs and bartenders are a bunch of characters, the type of people who always seem to have a few jokes in the chamber and a flattering interest in the people they encounter. They are also an ambitious lot, as they prepare for their August 15 opening of Paddy O’Fegan’s, the Fulton Market District’s newest Irish, Canadian, and American (Camerish?) neighborhood pub.

When you first walk into the pub, you will be greeted by Chef Jack Austin’s river rock mosaic floor, which reads “Céad Mile Fáilte,” Gaelic for 100,000 welcomes. Read the rest of this entry »

411: The Minimal Mixology

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When asked whether he considers himself a bartender or a mixologist, Peter Gugni answers with a grin and a nod, “I’m a bartender. I take care of my bar.” Gugni is also the general manager of The Bedford. Once the Home Bank & Trust, the basement of 1612 West Division is now a late-night kitchen and bar. Gugni designed the bar to be “built for speed,” he explains. “I wanted to make it so you don’t have to wait fifteen minutes for a drink.” Taking a minimalist approach when creating the original cocktail list with more than a dozen options, Gugni used “the fewest ingredients—but with the most flavor.” Such strategizing allows bartenders to carefully create beverages without having to cut corners to meet a busy crowd’s requests. Yet an overwhelming grand opening and a noticeably swamped bar staff led Gugni to rethink The Bedford’s offerings. With more than thirty wine  and twenty beer options, there are only three cocktails on the menu. To offer the highest and most consistent quality drinks, Gugni decided to take a step back.  “I don’t want to say we are a cocktail bar,” admits Gugni, “but we are a bar that does great cocktails.”  Read the rest of this entry »