Cocktail Challenge

Monday, January 9, 2017

Osteria Langhe’s David McCabe utilizes snails to put a new spin on the Bloody Mary

Posted By on 01.09.17 at 02:27 PM

Osteria Langhe, the Piemontese restaurant in Logan Square where David McCabe tends bar, has been serving snails in pastry shells with beurre blanc since it opened in 2014. Until recently, though, McCabe had little to do with the gastropods, leaving them to the restaurant's chefs. But when Christopher Marty of Best Intentions challenged him to create a cocktail with escargot (or lumache, as they're called in Italian), McCabe had some planning to do.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Learn to make a matzo ball that will get you drunk

Posted By on 11.29.16 at 02:46 PM

"It was not a fun developmental process," Best Intentions bartender and co-owner Christopher Marty says of his experiments with matzo. Pito Rodriguez, a bartender at Sable Kitchen & Bar, had challenged him to create a cocktail with the unleavened bread traditionally eaten at Passover. "He just chose the first Jewish thing he could think of, I imagine," Marty says. "He's trolling me, obviously."

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Watch a Sable bartender turn his aunt’s mojo sauce into a Puerto Rican cocktail

Posted By on 09.29.16 at 04:41 PM

While the sauce called mojo originated in the Canary Islands, varying forms of it are popular in Cuba, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. But for Sable Kitchen & Bar bartender Pito Rodriguez, the truest form is made in Puerto Rico by his aunt Titi. Rodriguez says that Matthew Jannotta, the Soho House Chicago bartender who challenged him to make a cocktail with mojo, visited Puerto Rico with him a couple years ago and got a chance to try his aunt's mojo, which consists simply of cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and salt.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Sour Patch Kids cocktail and more boozy nostalgia from the Reader’s Cocktail Challenge event

Posted By on 09.22.16 at 05:00 PM

Last week's Cocktail Challenge event at Salvage One—inspired by the Reader series of the same name—saw nearly 20 local bartenders creating cocktails around the theme "nostalgia." Some looked back to childhood with drinks based on watermelon Sour Patch Kids or ginger peach lollipops, while others thought of a slightly different period of life: college. The Betty's Melissa Pinkerton served a take on Jungle Juice and had a table set up for beer pong.

Dan Rook of South Water Kitchen made a drink modeled on his Grandma Mary's zucchini bread (and served with zucchini bread), William Duncan of Money Gun expressed his nostalgia for baseball games through a Crackerjack rum old-fashioned served with peanuts and a beer chaser, and Bob Begandy of Punch House recalled going to the movies with a cocktail that involved Coke syrup and smoked popcorn.

Toasting marshmallows for Luxbar's S'more Cutty, Captain? - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • Toasting marshmallows for Luxbar's S'more Cutty, Captain?

Autumn was a popular theme; Brett Lichnerowicz of Luxbar made a s'mores cocktail with Cutty Sark Prohibition Era Whiskey infused with graham cracker and cocoa, served with a roasted juniper marshmallow. Jennifer Knot of 312 Chicago won the audience vote for best cocktail with Mama I'm Coming Home, a warm apple cider spiced with cinnamon and cloves and spiked with Cutty Sark Prohibition, infused with roasted pecans and Fonseca Bin 27 Port, garnished with a soft caramel candy you could stir into the drink.

The Betty's Jungle Juice - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • The Betty's Jungle Juice

The panel of judges—Dejorn Huffman, a spirits portfolio manager at Tenzing Wine; Al Klopper, a bartender at Slippery Slope; and me—had the task of determining the winners of the critic's choice award and the best cocktail made with whiskey from event sponsor Cutty Sark. Since our favorite cocktail, a take on milk punch from Jessica Lambert of Boleo, involved Cutty, it took both prizes. Called Rosy Retrospection, the drink was based on sweet potato pie and involved brandy, rum, sweet potato reduction, and black tea, topped with cranberry marshmallow cream and garnished with a sage leaf.

Rosy Retrospection from Boleo - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • Rosy Retrospection from Boleo

The recipes for both are below. If you want to make the Rosy Retrospection, all I can say is good luck, and I hope you have a lot of spare time: it has 22 ingredients and nearly as many steps. Also, if you're not planning to serve several hundred people you may want to scale the recipe down a bit.

312 Chicago's Mama I'm Coming Home - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • 312 Chicago's Mama I'm Coming Home

Mama I’m Coming Home (312 Chicago)
2 cups apple cider
1 ½ cups pecan-infused Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whiskey (or regular whiskey)
¾ cup Fonseca Bin 27 Port
¾ cup honey syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
7 cloves
Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let mull for an hour. Double strain the cinnamon sticks and cloves from the hot cider. Pour into an Irish coffee mug and garnish with a soft caramel candy. Makes ten four-ounce portions.

Mony Bunni of Boleo pipes marshmallow cream onto the cocktails - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • Mony Bunni of Boleo pipes marshmallow cream onto the cocktails
Rosy Retrospection ‘A Milk Punch’ (Boleo)

4 gallons of milk
Cold steep overnight with:
3 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons nutmeg
7 cinnamon sticks, toasted and broken
1 tablespoon cloves

Sweet potato water:
7 sweet potatoes
Roast whole in oven until soft and caramelized, then remove skin.
Cover sweet potatoes with four liters of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Refrigerate overnight. Strain off sweet potato. Set seasoned water aside.

Brew a strong tea of:
50 grams hojicha tea
25 grams caramel pu-erh tea
6 liters hot water
Brew for ten minutes. Strain off tea.
Combine tea water with sweet potato water. Add one liter of honey. Stir to combine.

2250 grams lemon juice
1125 grams orange juice

Other ingredients:
225 grams lactic acid
2250 g Smith + Cross Jamaican Rum
2250 g Lustau Brandy de Jerez
2000 g Cutty Sark Pro
1125 g Neisson Rhum Agricole

Batching and clarifying the punch:
It is important to follow the order of steps to ensure that the milk fats shatter and begin to curdle. It is imperative for clarification.
In a large container combine while whisking slowly:
1. Seasoned milk
2. Lactic acid
3. Lemon juice
4. Orange juice
5. Tea and sweet potato water
6. Spirits
Slowly add whiskey to incorporate.
Let sit for one hour to fully shatter and for the whey proteins to separate. Strain through a fine strainer. Strain a second time through a coffee filter.

Cranberry marshmallow cream
4 quarts heavy whipping cream
1 (10 oz) bag frozen cranberries
1 (10 oz) bag marshmallows
119 grams granulated sugar
20 g gelatin starter, melted

In a container, add three quarts heavy cream and cranberries. Let steep overnight. In a separate container, add marshmallows and one quart of heavy cream. Let steep overnight. Strain off solids.

In a stand mixer:
Combine infused creams, granulated sugar, and gelatin starter. Whip until thickened. Add to pastry bag, and set aside.

Serve punch over ice, top with cranberry marshmallow cream, garnish with a piece of fresh sage.


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Monday, September 12, 2016

Drink in the nostalgia at the Reader’s Cocktail Challenge event on September 15

Posted By on 09.12.16 at 03:31 PM

The Reader's Cocktail Challenge event series returns Thursday, this time with the theme "nostalgia." Based on the ongoing column in which bartenders challenge each other to make a drink with a chosen ingredient, the evening at Salvage One will feature nearly 20 professionals competing to create cocktails that evoke childhood (or another period of life about which they're nostalgic); there'll be drinks inspired by s'mores, Sour Patch Kids, ginger peach lollipops, and Jungle Juice, among others. The competitors include Erin Hayes of Lost Lake, Will Duncan of Moneygun, Melissa Pinkerton of the Betty, and Michael Jones of Sable Kitchen & Bar. (As far as I know, no one will be using Big League Chew, which Michael Tsirtsis of the late Oak + Char was tasked with incorporating into a cocktail back in April.)
Nandini Khaund's spooky cocktails at the Reader's 2015 fall Cocktail Challenge event - KATIE HOVLAND
  • Katie Hovland
  • Nandini Khaund's spooky cocktails at the Reader's 2015 fall Cocktail Challenge event

In addition to tasting all the cocktails, attendees can vote for their favorites; one of the two winners will be determined by an audience vote, while the other will be chosen by a panel of judges. Tickets also include drinks from Schlafly Beer or City Winery and appetizers from Fig Catering. 

Thu 9/15, 7-10 PM (6 PM for early-bird ticket holders), Salvage One, 1840 W. Hubbard, purchase tickets here.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Watch a Soho House Chicago bartender make a buttered popcorn-inspired cocktail

Posted By on 08.25.16 at 04:30 PM

Popcorn as a late-night snack is generally made in a microwave these days, but bartender Jenn Fink of Pub Royale and her friend Matthew Jannotta, manager of the club bars at Soho House Chicago, have a different tradition. "We're known to, late night, go back to the crib after the bars and make all types of popcorn—bacon fat, butter, regular salt," Jannotta says.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Learn to make a cocktail using shrubs, the trendy vinegar-based fruit syrups

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 12:45 PM

Advocates of drinking apple cider vinegar cite all kinds of health benefits, from reduced blood sugar to cancer prevention. But when Jenn Fink of Pub Royale was challenged by Brett Lichnerowicz of Luxbar to create a cocktail with the vinegar, she immediately thought of a drink popular in colonial America: the shrub. Made by combining fruit, vinegar, and sugar, shrubs were either mixed with soda water or used as a cocktail ingredient; they fell out of favor after refrigeration became common but have seen a resurgence in the last few years or so. 

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

How to make a cocktail using both legal and illegal varieties of grass

Posted By on 07.07.16 at 07:00 AM

After being challenged by Sammy Faze of the Drinkingbird and Billy Sunday to make a cocktail using grass, Brett Lichnerowicz of Luxbar did some urban foraging in people's yards "with or without their permission" to find some for his experiments. "There's so many varieties of grass—there's ryegrass, fescue grass, sweetgrass, bluegrass." Once he'd retrieved some samples, he says, "I steeped, I cooked, I pulverized, I muddled, I chewed. They all kind of taste like a green tea." He ended up using several in a simple syrup—lemongrass, ryegrass, and fescue grass, along with coriander, dandelion root, and burdock root—that "has a very strange flavor, like a green tea-lemon-poppyseed taste."

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Watch Drinkingbird bartender Sammy Faze make an oceanic cocktail with squid ink

Posted By on 06.02.16 at 10:30 AM

Squid ink, often used to flavor (and tint) pasta and risotto, can be intimidating enough to cook with. Making a cocktail with it is another beast entirely. But Sammy Faze, a bartender at the Drinkingbird and Billy Sunday, was—well, unfazed by the prospect of the challenge, which came from Michael Tsirtsis of Oak + Char. Faze describes squid ink as having a "very strong, fishy, oceanic aroma" that he decided to tame by making a sauce with onion, shallot, and garlic confit, cooked down with tomato puree and then combined with squid ink.

Searching for a spirit to cut through the squid ink and the aromatics in the sauce, Faze chose a malted aquavit from Bittermens that he says "almost drinks like a rye whiskey." It was a little too successful at masking the squid ink, though, so Faze used a little sake to bring back its oceanic flavor. A touch of lemon juice added brightness to the cocktail; for garnish he brushed a little squid ink onto a marigold to bring an oceanic aroma to the drink that he dubbed Ten Thousand Leagues. The finished cocktail is viscous and nearly black, and, Faze says, "you kind of feel like you're at the bottom of the ocean."

The Ten Thousand Leagues cocktail by Sammy Faze of the Drinkingbird - CORY POPP
  • Cory Popp
  • The Ten Thousand Leagues cocktail by Sammy Faze of the Drinkingbird

Ten Thousand Leagues
2 oz squid ink sauce
1 oz Bittermens aquavit
.25 oz lemon juice
Marigold and squid ink (for garnish)

"Throw" the cocktail: pour it from one tin to another with ice inside one of the tins to chill it. Place a chunk of hand-chipped ice into a glass and pour the cocktail over the top. Brush the marigold with squid ink and float on top of the drink.

Who's next: 
Faze has challenged Brett Lichnerowicz of Luxbar to create a cocktail with freshly-cut grass.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

This bubblegum cocktail was made with Big League Chew

Posted By on 04.25.16 at 12:04 PM

"As a kid, you played baseball, and you either had a mouthful of sunflower seeds or a mouthful of Big League Chew," Michael Tsirtsis says. When Roger Landes (Mfk) challenged the Oak + Char bartender to create a cocktail with the shredded bubble gum, though, it had been years since he'd sat in a dugout pretending to chew tobacco. "While I was making the cocktail I had a big wad of it in my mouth the entire time, blowing bubbles—it kind of inspired me," he says. "I got it in my beard quite often."

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