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Friday, May 11, 2018

Chicago Craft Beer Week is no more; all hail Illinois Craft Beer Week

Posted By on 05.11.18 at 06:00 AM

  • Photography by RJ

After years of focusing its annual May celebration on Chicago and its suburbs, the Illinois Craft Brewer's Guild now includes events across the state. Accordingly, it's changed the name of the event to Illinois Craft Beer Week.

According to ICBG executive director Danielle D'Alessandro, "As a statewide organization with over 230 breweries located across the state, it just seemed to make sense to expand to a statewide celebration of all the amazing things our breweries are doing." Events are still being added, but Alter Brewing in Downer's Grove is hosting the first annual Backyard Brew Fest to celebrate the breweries of the western suburbs. "It's not just about the beer, the liquid, it's about the community and the social experience," says D'Alessandro. "This is a way to get people throughout the state excited and engaged."

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Speed Rack’s season-seven finals bring some of the country’s best bartenders to Chicago

Posted By on 05.07.18 at 06:00 AM

The crowd at the southeast regional competition for Speed Rack season seven - SPEED RACK
  • Speed Rack
  • The crowd at the southeast regional competition for Speed Rack season seven

When Boleo bartender Mony Bunni competed in Speed Rack Midwest in 2015, she failed miserably. She was in the process of opening the bar Queen Mary at the time, and the annual all-female speed-bartending competition took place the day before the bar officially opened. "My head was all over the place, and I ended up forgetting citrus in two of my cocktails onstage, failing in front of everyone," she says. "It just broke my soul a little."

The next year, she says, she went into Speed Rack season six "with a vengeance." She not only won the midwestern competition (one of eight regional contests), but went on to become the first bartender not from New York City or California to win the national finals. "I grew up here; I bleed Chicago," she says. "The fact that I was able to be the person to bring that first title back, that was everything to me."

Bunni's win also helped bring the Speed Rack national finals to Chicago this year for the first time; the event takes place on Tuesday at Revel Fulton Market, with bartender Katie Renshaw of GT Prime representing the midwestern region. Lynnette Marrero, who founded the event with Ivy Mix in 2011, says that they'd already taken notice of the food and drink scene in Chicago and the fact that the James Beard Awards bring lots of people to the city each spring. "Then Mony won, and it was just kismet," says Marrero.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The new Chicago Style cocktail conference emphasizes thinking as much as drinking

Posted By on 05.01.18 at 06:00 AM

The founders of Chicago Style: Sharon Bronstein, Shelby Allison, and Caitlin Laman - ANJALI PINTO
  • Anjali Pinto
  • The founders of Chicago Style: Sharon Bronstein, Shelby Allison, and Caitlin Laman

Chicago Style, a "forward-thinking" cocktail conference taking place next week for the first time, was born from conversations—and the goal of the event is to create more. Founders Shelby Allison (co-owner of Lost Lake), Caitlin Laman (beverage director at the Ace Hotel), and Sharon Bronstein (vice president of marketing for the 86 Company) are friends who often discuss their jobs and the beverage industry in general. "That's how this conference came about," Laman says, "from Shelby, Sharon, and I talking about our regular experiences, and the topics [we wanted to highlight] are the things we talk most about right now."

It took one more conversation to get them to pull the trigger, though. "Sharon and Caitlin and I had been daydreaming about doing a conference together, and we had dinner with Lynette [Marrero], the founder of Speed Rack [a speed bartending competition for women]," Allison says. "She mentioned that Speed Rack might be looking to move from New York for the finals, and we said, 'You should have it at our cocktail conference.' Then we created it." And so, for the first time in Speed Rack's seven-year history, the national finals will be held in Chicago.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

How a warehouse foul-up led to Fortuitous Union, a high-end rum-whiskey blend

Posted By on 04.09.18 at 06:00 AM

Turner Wathen and Jordan Morris - TED WATHEN/WHITNEY MORRIS
  • Ted Wathen/Whitney Morris
  • Turner Wathen and Jordan Morris

Nearly eight years ago, Jordan Morris, now 32, and his friend Turner Wathen, 35, began planning a business to bring the best, purest rums they could find to the U.S. "We're looking for rums that are unadulterated," Wathen says. "No sugar, no caramels. We like the purity of rum." They identified a 12-year-old rum from Trinidad that they loved, bought some, and had it shipped to a warehouse in Louisville where—due to a mistake—it got mixed with whiskey. Their pure, unadulterated rum had been adulterated, and Wathen and Morris would have to figure out what to do about it.

Whiskey practically runs in Wathen's veins: his family has been making the spirit for five generations, starting in 1788 and continuing through Prohibition as one of the few companies licensed to sell medicinal whiskey (since then, Wathen says, "we drank and sold ourselves out of all our assets"). Morris's background is also in whiskey; he's worked in liquor stores, led bourbon tastings, and written whiskey reviews for the online magazine Whiskey Wash. So perhaps it's fitting that when the two decided to start importing rum, whiskey inevitably found its way into the mix.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Watch a bartender turn a perfect pairing—queso dip with a michelada—into a cocktail

Posted By on 03.29.18 at 05:54 AM

When bartenders Adrienne Stoner (Lost Lake) and Elizabeth Mickiewicz (EZ Inn) meet up to chat, it's usually over queso dip at Lonesome Rose in Logan Square. So when Stoner decided to challenge her friend as the next participant in the Reader's Cocktail Challenge series, she had no trouble picking the ingredient: Mickiewicz would have to make a cocktail with Lonesome Rose queso dip.

Procuring the dip was the easy part. Mickiewicz stopped by the restaurant and got two orders of queso dip to go—one to experiment with and one to eat. "It comes with cilantro and tomato," she says. "You can add black beans and chorizo, but I opted out for this challenge."

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Todos Santos is a mezcaleria, hold the tequila

Posted By on 02.27.18 at 12:48 PM

The bar at Todos Santos, in the basement of Logan Square Mexican restaurant Quiote - JAY SCHROEDER
  • Jay Schroeder
  • The bar at Todos Santos, in the basement of Logan Square Mexican restaurant Quiote

, the Logan Square Mexican restaurant from former Salsa Truck owner Dan Salls, has had a mezcal bar in its basement since it opened early last year. Last fall, though, the bar got its own name along with a new beverage director when Jay Schroeder (formerly of Mezcaleria Las Flores) came on board. Now known as Todos Santos, the space looks the same as before—wood everywhere, including the floor, ceiling, walls, stools, tables, and bar—but has an entirely new cocktail menu.

Todos Santos could more accurately be called an agave bar, since the menu includes lesser-known agave-based spirits like sotol and raicilla along with mezcal—but, Schroeder says, "agave bar just doesn't sound as good." He prefers the term mezcaleria, though he says he'll include as many nonmezcal spirits as he can. The one agave spirit he won't offer, though, is the best-known of them all: tequila.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fret not about Don’t Fret’s pop-up bar. It doesn’t exploit Chicago dive bar culture.

Posted By on 01.25.18 at 07:39 PM

The bar-inside-a-bar at Light Times Club - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • The bar-inside-a-bar at Light Times Club

Chicago media Twitter recently pounced on the irony of a simulacrum of a dive bar housed inside the kind of newfangled craft beer spot quickly replacing the very thing it's paying homage to.

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Metropolitan Brewing’s long-awaited Avondale taproom pairs beer with river views

Posted By on 01.25.18 at 03:28 PM


With a long wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a tree-lined section of the Chicago River, Metropolitan Brewing's Avondale taproom is practically pastoral. It feels like a hidden refuge, an impression enhanced by the fact that it's located at the back of a large building that's currently very much under construction. "I tell people when they're visiting that if they feel like they're going to be arrested for trespassing, they're in the right place," says Tracy Hurst, who co-owns the brewery with business partner and ex-husband Doug Hurst.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Kalak is a vodka that drinks like whiskey

Posted By on 01.18.18 at 07:00 AM

Kalak Single Malt Vodka, Sunshine Sue - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Kalak Single Malt Vodka, Sunshine Sue

By definition, vodka should be odorless and flavorless. Kalak Single Malt Vodka is neither—and that's exactly why bartender Julia Momose likes it. "What I love is the fact that the flavors really shine through," she says. "I get notes of lemon, freshly baked brioche and croissants, hints of cacao. It's opened up the possibilities for vodka—that it has all this flavor and complexity that can be played with [in cocktails] is really intriguing."

Momose has served as head bartender at the Aviary, followed by a two-year stint as head bartender at GreenRiver. She was named one of the best new mixologists in the country by Food & Wine magazine in 2016 and won a Jean Banchet Award for Best Mixologist in 2017. Most recently, she's created the beverage program at Oriole and has been working with Menu Collective, a local food and drink consulting firm, while developing plans for her own bar. All this is to say that she tastes a lot of spirits. "When writing a spirits list I try to have vodkas that are distilled from different ingredients—wheat, potato, maybe grape, corn—but now there's an option for a barley-based vodka, and that's really exciting," she says.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Two new guides to Chicago breweries try to get a handle on the thriving local craft beer scene

Posted By on 12.20.17 at 05:58 PM


As craft beer has exploded in Chicago over the past ten years, so has coverage of the local craft beer scene. But despite hundreds of articles on the subject over the years, nobody has published a print guide dedicated entirely to breweries in Chicago and the suburbs. Now, suddenly, there are two. The Beermiscuous Field Guide, published in July by the self-described "coffee shop for beer" that loaned the book its name, is a pocket-size guide to Chicagoland taprooms and brewpubs, excluding breweries where you can't drink onsite. Karl Klockars's Beer Lover's Chicago, released in early December, is more comprehensive, including not only breweries but also bottle shops and beer-focused bars and restaurants.

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Galleries & Museums
The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery Water Tower Place
June 16
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Lincoln's Undying Words Chicago History Museum
April 14

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