Archive for April 2011

New in Chicago: The Bedford

We had a girls night out last night and visited the new restaurant, the Bedford, for it's soft opening.

They were serving one cocktail (which is often the case on soft openings as to not overwhelm the staff). It was the Bedford Bramble (i.e Blackberry cocktail) and coincidentally very close to my Blackberry Ginger Smash. They used Pisco, lemon juice, muddled blackberries and sugar and ginger beer. Very refreshing. They were also serving Schlitz and Old Style, which I'm guessing was to keep it local and non-corporate.

The space is located at Ashland and Division (entry on Division St.) and is in the basement of a converted bank. They used a lot of original material from the bank such as the marble flooring, but the real treat is the lounge in the old bank vault.

The food is meant to be classic Midwest and is arranged in categories: Soil, Sea, Pasture, etc. I think all the ladies particularly enjoyed the bacon dust on the deviled eggs. But, why is it white?

Photos courtesy of Frances Arnold.

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Grub With Us

Thai Classic

Through the Liquor Glass is excited to collaborate on out 3rd meal with the social dining website Grubwithus.  This is a great way to meet new people and build friendships over an all-inclusive family style meal at some of Chicago's favorite BYOB restaurants, as well as sample some delicious cocktails and learn a few tips for making your own.   Check out our previous posts, where we dined with fellow grubbers at Los Nepoles and Simply It.

Please join us on Tues. 5/10/11 at 7:30 PM for an evening of delicious Thai food at Thai Classic in Lakeview.  We will be pairing 2 custom cocktails to enjoy with our meal, as well as dishing out some tips and recipes. There are only 8 spaces, so hurry and sign up here!

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Watermelon Cucumber Punch

little Connie gives Harrison a farewell kiss

This weekend we threw a Bon Voyage party for Nightwood's fabulous hostess/daytime manager Laurel, and her boyfriend Harrison. They are moving to Portland Oregon. I wanted to make a self-serve punch for the party so I would have time to mingle.

I sifted through several cocktail books and vintage punches for the perfect combination of flavors for the occasion, and in the end, decided to make my own recipe. Channeling spring, I went with a watermelon cucumber punch, inspired by a cocktail I had at Aviary (see post below). The punch has cucumber serrano infused vodka (delicious on its own!), Mezcal (see tequila vs. mezcal post), watermelon juice and fresh squeezed lime. Depending on the sweetness of the watermelon, you may want to add a touch of sugar. This punch has a hint of spice from the serrano, some smoke from the Mezcal, and looks beautiful in a punch bowl. This will make a great punch for a hot summer day...hopefully coming soon!

Watermelon Cucumber Punch
2 parts fresh squeezed watermelon juice. (puree watermelon in blender and strain in chinoise)
1/2 part Mescal
1 1/2 part cucumber serrano infused vodka (see recipe below)
3/4 part fresh lime juice (I prefer to strain pulp)
1/4 part simple syrup (1:1 ratio sugar to water)

Prebatch ingredients and chill until ready to serve. Serve in vintage punch bowl with block of watermelon ice. I used a heart shaped cake mold and filled it with left over watermelon juice. Empty milk cartons also make great ice molds. Garnish with cucumber slices or watermelon balls.

Cucumber Serrano infused Vodka
Bottle of vodka (I used Titos)
2 cucumbers peeled and thinly sliced.
1 serrano chili sliced lengthwise with seeds removed.

Put ingredients into glass container with lid. Let rest 48 hours in a cool, dark place. Strain, pour back into bottle and chill.

Notes: For a party of around 30 people I used a handle of Titos vodka (1.75L) and a 750 ml bottle of Mezcal. There was also plenty of wine and beer for guests. I am sharing the recipe with the measurements in "parts" which can easily be translated to ounces or cups for your convenience. A nice Mezcal can be pricy, as a substitute you might try using a smoky chili with the serrano when infusing the vodka.

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Mexico Parte Dos: Tequila vs. Mezcal

More greetings from sunny Mexico.

I can't talk about Mexico without talking about its national spirits.

I won't go into too much detail about the differences between the two, but I did want to give a few pointers that will hopefully help you make an informed decision when ordering a cocktail or buying a bottle:

- All tequilas are technically mezcals, as mezcal originally just referred to the process of distilling the agave plant. I think this is a bit confusing today as the process of making the two is different enough to drastically change the flavors.
- Tequila, which must be made in the state of Jalisco to be called a tequila, is made with the Blue Weber agave plant. The agave is steamed before distillation making it easier to taste than in mezcal.
- Mezcal on the other hand, is roasted in clay ovens before distillation giving it a smoky, intense flavor. It's also predominantly made in the state of Oaxaca from up to 28 different types of agave.

If you click above you can see Oaxaca in the south and Jalisco a little north and west of it

- Both spirits are made from the center fruit, or peña (named for its pineapple likeness), of the agave fruit. The worm that you will sometimes see in the bottom of the mezcal bottle lives in this fruit.
- A blanco tequila is bottled with no aging, a reposado is "rested" in oak barrels for at least 60 days and an anejo is aged for at least a year. The longer the aging the more smooth and potentially sweet. Blancos will have the most peppery taste.
- Always look for 100% agave on the bottle as anything else will be made up of sugars, other liquors or worse, chemicals.

In my humble opinion:
- A couple of good, entry-level tequila choices are Jose Cuervo Traditional Reposado and Cazadores Blanco.
- Any of the Del Maguey offerings are a good choice in mezcals, but they tend to be pretty expensive. For a cheap and delicious taste of mezcal, head to Big Star in Chicago... honestly my favorite margarita in the city.

Stayed tuned for a delicious vodka and mezcal cocktail for those still easing into mezcal's smokiness.

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Mexico Parte Uno: Michelada

Oh Mexico. I recently took a trip there and the vistas are unbelievable.

The drinks on the other hand... well.

If you're an American tourist in Mexico you will be treated to a lot of fruity, sweet drinks. Now whether this is because of economic reasons (it's cheaper to use a flavored syrup rather than a pulverized fruit) or tourist demand (are our palates shot by too much high fructose corn syrup?) is unclear, but either way it's a shame.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of great drinks to be had in Mexico but the onus in finding them is on you.

I offer one alternative.

The Michelada (pronounced Mi CHEE lada)
6-12oz light beer like Dos Equis
1-1/2 oz lime juice
1-1/2 oz "pepper" sauce (a mixture of Tabasco, Worcestershire and Soy Sauce)

Salt and black pepper the rim of a pint glass or imperial mug. Add ice then beer and top with lime juice and pepper sauce.

Notes: This is a drink as variable as the Bloody Mary. 1-3 oz of tomato juice or Clamato (tomato with a bit of clam juice) is traditional in some areas and not in others (it wasn't where I was on the Yucatán peninsula). You can also substitute lemon juice for the lime and experiment with different hot sauces.

Bottom line: this is a great drink for a hot climate and perfect for day drinking because of the low-alcohol. In Mexico it seemed like a primarily male-ordered drink and one bartender called it the Red Bull of Mexico. Hmm, I guess it has some balls.


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Extreme Cocktails


I had the pleasure of sampling some of Grant Achatz and his mixologists extreme cocktails the other night.  The drinks were served in beautiful vessels hand crafted by Martin Kastner.  Leave it to these culinary geniuses to take the art of cocktail making to the next level, with no small detail left unconsidered.

The drinks were carefully balanced and full of surprises as we sipped unusual combinations such as popcorn butter mixed with crème fraiche and rum, and cucumber vodka mixed with mescal, fresh watermelon and a chili ice cube.

But the real pleasure was the level of interaction you experienced with your cocktail.  We watched flavored ice cubes melt into and subtly change the profile of our drinks, poured hot punch steeped in a glass blown percolater (tableside) into a tiny punch cup, and guzzled house-made carbonated gin from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag.  All of our senses were stroked and sated.  Drink up Chicago!

Top Secret:  The booths act as an echo chamber.  Lean back and whisper secrets to the guest sitting at the opposite end.

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Honey Badger

Nightwood's spring cocktail menu is in its initial phases.  We had our first meeting yesterday and have some great drink ideas in the works.  Here is a preview...

Honey Badger
2 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin
3/4 oz Koval Chrysanthemum honey liqueur
3/4 oz Charteuse

Shake and strain into chilled rocks glass.  Garnish with lemon peel.
Note:  This is a boozy drink for the fearless!

A New Orleans twist on an old classic, the Aviation...

The Big and Easy
2oz Gin
3/4 oz fresh lemon
3/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1/4 oz simple syrup
7 generous dashes of Peychauds bitters

Shake and serve in chilled rocks glass.  Garnish with lemon peel.

We are also working on a take on an Arnold Palmer called the Sam Snead, a Calimocho with Eric's housemade cola syrup, a champagne cocktail using Crème de Violette,  a delicious Rooibus tea punch and many other refreshing concoctions.  The spring menu goes live at the end of this month.

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