Logan Square needs another cocktail bar like it needs yet another coffee shop. The neighborhood is already home to Billy Sunday, the Whistler, Lost Lake, Scofflaw, Mezcaleria Las Flores, and Best Intentions (not to mention all the restaurants with deep cocktail lists). Still, the folks behind Spilt Milk—a partnership between Footman Hospitality and the newly formed Equal Parts Hospitality, which consists of veteran bartenders Matty Eggleston, Tony Selna, and Jason Turley—took a gamble that the neighborhood hadn't yet reached its saturation point. It turns out that they were right. At around 9 PM on a recent Friday, every booth and bar stool was occupied and people were standing two deep along most of the long mahogany bar.
I hear there are those who love the energy of a jam-packed bar, but the mere sight of it was enough to send me into a hasty retreat. I returned on a Monday instead to find the place humming with activity, but with plenty of available seats. Located at the corner of California and Fullerton in a building that housed a pharmacy in the 1920s, Spilt Milk has retained a classic feel with dark wood, mirrors behind the bar, and banquette seating. The brick walls are painted black, and the pressed tin ceiling tiles are gold for a look that's both modern and homey—a corner bar that's far from a dive. The refreshingly brief menu focuses on the classics: about half a dozen cocktails, the same number of draft beers, and a dozen wines.
There is a point, however, when a brief menu can become more of a curse than a blessing. For me, that came after the second round arrived. I'd been intrigued by the Daily Dose, a combination of vodka, white port, clarified milk, and pink lemonade, but wasn't sure what it would taste like; the bartender eased my concerns by offering to make me another drink if I didn't like that one. The cocktail tasted pleasantly just like lemon cream pie. But it was a bit much as a follow-up to my syrupy-sweet first drink—pineapple soft-serve topped with a combination of rum, apricot liqueur, and lime juice—and a taste of my friend's Concord Grape Julep, a mix of bourbon, cognac, and grape juice that was pleasantly nutty but also too sweet.
When the bartender stopped by and offered to replace the Daily Dose with something else, though, I realized that the three cocktails I hadn't already tried didn't seem much more appealing. My friend solved the problem by switching drinks with me, leaving me with a Madras Margarita (spice-infused tequila, mezcal, tamarind, lime, and orange curacao) that was more in line with what I'd expected from the other Spilt Milk offerings: simple but well-balanced. That description also applies to the "house shot," which is simply dry vermouth with a seasonal infusion (mine was gooseberries). I don't know if the term "shot" really applies to something that's less than 20 percent alcohol, but I still enjoyed it. With a few tweaks, Spilt Milk could be the corner bar Logan Square—this corner of Logan Square, anyway—is missing. v