Booze Muse

The art and craft of liquid inspiration

Hop Stop: Can Beermiscuous Be the Coffeehouse of Beer?

Beer Rhymes With Cheer, New bars and clubs, News and Dish No Comments »

unnamedBy Stefan Castellanos

A young man journeys to a faraway land, its culture sparking a passion deep within, one that would go on to shape the man’s life in ways unimaginable. This familiar story could involve all manner of discoveries—language, the arts, sport, siesta. But as it did many Americans in the early nineties, it was a fascination with beer that took hold of a young Paul Leamon during his travels through Europe. Aged for more than two decades now, during which craft brews have gradually achieved omnipresence in our taverns and liquor marts, Paul’s relationship with beer has deepened in complexity, spilling into new and unforeseen walks of his life. An avid home-brewer, a connoisseur of food-beer pairings, and now an entrepreneur, he seeks to further startup ventures and a greater appreciation for craft beer via his newest project, Beermiscuous. Read the rest of this entry »

A Sense of Decency: Moscow Mules and DIY Drinks at the Highball Lounge

New bars and clubs, The Nighthawk No Comments »

Photo: Philamonjaro

At first, walking up the stairs into the Highball Lounge is a little jarring—the shiny, clunky metal stairs are loud and modern, not what you would expect from a retro bar like this. But walking into the dimly lit bar, the atmosphere and music soothe the nerves. The walls and decor are fifties and sixties-inspired, and while they reach into the past, the bar is definitely in the present. It’s like a dream, a mixing of two eras, a surreal place to cut loose and not think about reality for a while.

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

New bars and clubs, News and Dish, The Fine Art of Mixology No Comments »

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 »

Winter’s Ail: Alcohol cures the uncommon cold

New bars and clubs, Tales of Drunken Woe No Comments »

lMost people I know save barhopping for summer, when the temperature agrees with crowds and the night air rumbles with tension, with perspiration, with sex.

I drink in winter. The shedding of winter dress upon entering a dark and musty room feels like abandoning the torture outside. Rooms are empty, tables thin. You get to know your bartender. You’re the only sad bastard within range.

I have a half-dream of someday opening a tavern called Scar Bar—“scar” as in “emotional scar,” not “physical scar,” though bikers will always be welcome—where the soundtrack consists solely of Joy Division, The Smiths, Velvet Underground and Elliott Smith. You get it. When I heard the people behind the old Thursday night dance party at Neo were opening a bar in the Logan Square area, the neighborhood where I live, and they had the audacity to call it Late Bar, I was terrified. Terrified because I can actually imagine the Planet Earth people improving on my inevitably out-of-reach fantasy. Read the rest of this entry »

411: The Earth stays up late

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duran“Whenever two DJs open a bar, music is going to be a big part of it,” says Kristine Hengl, co-owner of the newly conceived Late Bar, set to open December 26 in Logan Square. “It’s part of our existence. There’s a whole bunch of music that we love, but sometimes it doesn’t really bring a crowd. We just think this is a great place to showcase that.” Located at 3534 West Belmont, Late Bar was created by Hengl and her partner Dave Roberts, a seasoned DJ in the Chicago nightclub scene. Open Tuesday through Friday from 9pm-4am, and Saturday until 5am, Late Bar’s flagship night, dubbed “Planet Earth,” will be every Saturday. “You’re going to think we’re really nerdy for this, but our name, ‘Late Bar,’ is actually from the b-side to Duran Duran’s single ‘Planet Earth.’ And we’re open till 4am, so it works.”

Yak Yak Yak: Lincoln Park institution Yak-Zies gets a makeover

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mGranite floors, two custom-fitted bars and gleaming cherry wood walls are some of the highlights of what used to be a “basement dive bar” just two years ago.

The original Yak-Zies at 506 West Diversey has reopened its doors after being closed, due to the death of its owner, Kenny Miller, in 2007. The “facelift,” as general manager Dan Schack describes it, began in November.

“People walk in and they’re like ‘wow,’” says Schack. “The response from the neighborhood has been unbelievable.” Read the rest of this entry »

Nighty Night: Inside the new resto-bar from the owners of Lula Cafe

Bars of Summer, New bars and clubs No Comments »

nightwood_001When Jason Hammel describes his experience of opening Nightwood in Pilsen, he draws similarities to being the new kid in town. “It’s a process to get introduced to a neighborhood and the people here,” he says. “To be a newcomer is not easy, it’s like the first day of school for us.” Yet in terms of popularity, this summer has proven that Nightwood is poised to become one of the neighborhood’s favorite upscale haunts.

The restaurant/bar has been garnering attention since its opening in late May, which is no surprise considering that it is the latest venture for Hammel and his wife Amalea Tshilds, the duo behind Logan Square’s Lula Café. They teamed up with Matt Eisler—owner of Empire Liquors, Bar Deville and Angels and Kings—and Kevin Heisner to create the minimalist space within Pilsen’s gallery district. “We had been looking here for a while; I think that it is a unique neighborhood,” Hammel says. “There are a lot of artists that live here, a lot of young people that are doing creative things. There is a geographic otherness in the same sense that Logan Square feels cut off from the rest of Chicago and I like that about it.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Violet Hour: The New Wicker Park lounge raises spirits

New bars and clubs, The Nighthawk No Comments »

From the outside, new Wicker Park lounge The Violet Hour appears to be just another dive bar. There’s no sign, and the plain wood paneling nearly obscures the door, except for the bright yellow light bulb hanging overhead. But the line outside on weekends arouses curiosity about this secretive new hot spot where the cocktail reigns supreme.

Named after a line from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland,” the elegant setting inside The Violet Hour is a striking contrast to the outside. Theatrical, blue curtains divide the three rooms and ornate chandeliers accent the lofty ceilings. Candles and soft lighting illuminate the pristine rooms, reminiscent of a Prohibition-era social club in a metropolitan hotel. Tall, regal blue chairs and cushy booths beside a fireplace provide a comfortable spot for sipping chic cocktails made with the utmost care by the expert, well-dressed bartenders. Read the rest of this entry »

Lounge Acts: New nightspots destined to become destinations

New bars and clubs No Comments »

By Liz Haley

Chicago neighborhoods are constantly evolving, and bars and restaurants need to keep up to meet the ever-changing needs of night-lifers. Pleasing everyone can be hard, but we’ve found a few spots that we think will suit any mood.

If you’re tired of the club scene and are looking for a place that feels like a club without a bouncer or cover charge, check out new Bucktown bar Plan B. Whether you’re there to watch a game or get all decked out and enjoy a few cocktails, Plan B is an unpretentious bar where everyone is welcome and it’s first-come, first-serve. General Manager Matt Field says the appeal of Plan B is that it’s always a fun, reliable choice, whether you’re looking for a place to start or end your night. The bartenders are friendly and without attitude and the beer is served ice cold from frozen taps. The music is mostly a mix of 1980s-1990s crowd pleasers and a DJ spins dance music every night starting at 10pm. You might find guys playing video games on the couches or girls dancing on the pole that separates the main bar area from the more private lounge area. Among the weekly specials are $2 beer cans on Thursdays and thirty-cent wings on Mondays. Plan B’s mixed drink and shot list offers choices from a watermelon martini that comes with a slice of watermelon to the signature “Motorboatin’ Son of A Bitch” shot. The food menu goes above and beyond your average bar fare and offers choices from the Plan B Fondue to “The Heart Attack,” a beef burger with fried ham, bacon, Swiss cheese and hot sauce. Red and black light fixtures and gothic chandeliers accent the ceiling and glossy black leather couches provide a comfortable spot to relax. Graphic designer Maureen Noone, 24, says Plan B is “unique to the neighborhood” and that in an area where new bars seem to come and go every week, she would definitely revisit.

When you’re in the mood for an “ultralounge,” the meatpacking district might not be the first place that comes to mind. But believe us when we say that stylish lounge Lumen is a breath of fresh air amidst the industrialization and factory life of the West Loop. Manager Anastasia Smith says that the West Loop area was a great choice for Lumen because the “area is so progressive.” Located at 839 West Fulton, Lumen lives up to its name with vibrant, chic lighting that accents the bar without overpowering. The DJ area is only visible behind a thin, rectangular opening on the left wall, which adds to Lumen’s aura of sophistication. The colorful, pulsating lights on the ceiling go perfectly with the music, which is upbeat and melodic and accentuates the chill, social ambience. There are no seats at the bar, but there is plenty of room to sit in the spacious, open lounge area. Elegant decorative touches such as vases of white gardenias decorate low-to-the-ground tables and the long, plush velour couches are perfect for sitting back and sipping a glass of wine or one of Lumen’s organic mixed drinks, like the green tea vodka tonic. If you’re looking to unwind after a long day, finish the night with an after-dinner drink or start your night with some cocktails, Lumen is the perfect choice.

Partying like a celebrity just got easier and a lot more fun with the opening of Manor in the heart of downtown Chicago. The upscale “super lounge” at 642 North Clark will make you feel like you’ve left the Midwest and entered an A-list party at the estate of an heiress. The velvet ropes outside the entryway and the studded black doors are your first indication that you’re in for a posh evening. The bar showcases top-shelf liquor and is decorated with avant-garde artwork of European mansions. DJs spin rap and R&B favorites while girls in black lingerie and fishnets stand on platforms and dance to the pulsating beat. The VIP area is the place to be—if you can swing it. The elegant black leather booths and dark wood tables are filled with a well-dressed crowd that loves to party and offers the ultimate privacy. Bottle service is a popular choice, with just about anything you could want to drink. If you’re in the mood to celebrate, order the Veuve Cliquot champagne, which is served with a New Year’s Eve-style sparkler on top. Manor does have a cover charge, but it varies, so call ahead to find out. Make sure to get yourself on the guest list, because you won’t want to miss a party like this.

Plan B, 1635 North Milwaukee, (773)252-2686; Lumen, 839 West Fulton, (312)733-2222; Manor, 642 North Clark, (312)475-1390