Cocktail recipes from the best bars in Chicago, Illinois

Domestic travel is on the cusp of a resurgence with states across Australia beginning to relax lockdown measures. International travel? That’s a different story.

With many countries around the world struggling in the fight against COVID-19, we’ve been given conflicting information on when international travel will resume to a sense of normalcy anytime soon. Some people say we will be able to carry on with our wanderlust as early as the end of this year, some are saying it won’t be well into next year. The only sure thing right now is our ability to take ourselves to different destinations without physically crossing borders.

One way we’ve been encouraging that at the AU review is by sourcing food and drink recipes so readers can travel with their taste buds, whether that’s in the kitchen or behind a homemade bar. Now, we’re going to be hopping around some of the world’s most vibrant cocktail cultures and pulling a few drink recipes from the best local spots. Get your mixers out, because you’re about to become the best, most well-travelled home bartender there is.

Chicago, Illinois

It won’t take long between tapping away in what used to be Al Kapone’s favourite jazz club (Green Mill), or hitting up the historic speakeasies and pubs of Old Town before you realise just how incredibly diverse and exceptional Chicago’s hospitality industry is. This is a city that sat at the heart of the seminal prohibition era, and has since sprung a collection of bars that can be counted amongst the very best in the country. Modern small bars that pay homage to the city’s history are commonplace, and just about every neighbourhood you can find, along with flashy hotel bars and rustic greasy spoons. There is no shortage of places to drink here, which is why the mixology is held to such a high, and competitive, standard.

Want a taste? Recreate the following at home so that when travel to the US is once again on the cards, you can hop around Chicago’s skyline like a pro.

“Walk Softly” from Bar Kumiko

One of the quintessential cocktail spots in the West Loop, Bar Kumiko is the classy mod-Japanese joint you demand from a city with such high hospitality standards as Chicago. The elegant venue opened back in 2018 and has since been one of the most popular bars in the area, intimate and fully committed to technique. Try master their gentle “Walk Softly” for an east-meets-west burst of flavour.

Ingredients

– 0.5 ounce (14ml) simple syrup
– 0.5 ounce (14ml) lemon juice
– 0.75 ounce (21ml) Dolin Dry Vermouht
– 0.5 ounce (14ml) yuzushu
– 1.5 ounce (42ml) Suntory Haku Vodka

Method

1. Combine in a shaker tin.
2. Shake until chilled and aerated.
3. Fine strain into a chilled coupe.
4. Finish with a splash of Champagne and a lemon twist.

“It’s a Jungle Out There” from The Violet Hour

Photo by Eden Laurin

Bartender Evangeline Avila from The Violet Hour is one of several mixologists that make this Wicker Park favourite one of the bars in Chicago. Not only is it located in a perennially trendy neighbourhood, but since the mid-00’s has been referenced as one of the pioneers of Chicago’s cocktail revival. The pre-prohibition styled space and James Beard Award-winning cocktail program is reason enough to spend all day soaking up the many libations this classy bar can throw at you. Take the “It’s a Jungle Out There” for example, and master its sweet, fruity body so you can swiftly impress any house guests at the next dinner party.

Ingredients

– 1.5 oz (42ml) Brugal Anejo
– 0.5 oz (14ml) Sfumato
– 0.75 oz (21ml) Pineapple Juice
– 0.25 oz (7ml) Lime Juice
– Strawberry and Pineapple Shrub

Method

1. Get out a Rocks Glass.
2. Used cubed ice.
3. Briefly shake all ingredients together and strain into glass over fresh ice.
4. Garnish with the Pineapple Leaf and Skewered Strawberry.

“Gin Gimlet” from KOVAL Distillery

Chicago wouldn’t be quite the same without its healthy mix of craft distilleries keeping that strong history of liquor alive. KOVAL Distillery is one such spot, beloved for their line of organic and kosher certified whisky, gin and specialty spirits using unique grains and a signature “heart cut” technique. Though they’ve shifted their entire operations towards providing alcohol for hand-sanitiser in 2020, they’ll still be there churning out the good times when it comes to time to visit Chicago. In the meantime, take a shot at their simple and classic “Gin Gimlet”

Ingredients

– 2 oz (59ml) Koval Dry Gin (you can buy it in Australia from Dan Murphy’s
– 0.75 oz (21ml) lime juice
– 0.75 oz (21ml) simple syrup

Method

1. Shake ingredients together with ice.
2. Strain into a coupe glass
3. Service garnished with a lime wheel

“Berry Basil Sangria” from LondonHouse Chicago

There are many highly regarded luxury hotels dotting the Chicago in and around the city centre, from the parkside Fairmont, the historic InterContinental, and the ultra-modern Swissotel, straight to this beauty – the design-forward LondonHouse Chicago which is part of Hilton’s lauded Curio Collection. With the hotel synchronising the classic architecture of 360 Michigan Avenue with a modernist 22-storey all-glass tower, you better believe they’ve got some high standards when it comes to their food and drink scene. Case in point is this beautiful “Berry Basil Sangria” which is all-berries in the profile, combining a tart rose wine with blueberries and the bright aroma of basil leaf to echo the flavours of summer.

Ingredients

– 1.5 oz (42ml) Vodka
– 0.75 oz (21ml) blueberry syrup
– 0.75 oz (21ml) lemon juice
– 1 oz (28ml) rose
– Fresh basil and lemon wheels

Method

1. Combine all ingredients in a wine glass over ice and top with seltzer water.
2. Garnish with fresh basil leaf and lemon wheel.

“Pink Kiss” from The Robey

Bucking the trend of Chicago’s luxury hotels hugging the iconic Magnificent Mile or edging Millennium Park, The Robey stands on the fashionable shoulders of Wicker Park, soaking up all that kinetic culture to form a complex boutique hotel that both honours the skyscraper in which it is located, and reflects the modernity that rushes through Chicago as relentlessly as the famously unforgiving breeze. It’d be hard to keep up with all high-quality spots in Wicker Park, so obviously The Robey is going to be hypervigilant when it comes to ensuring their mixology game is kept tight and up to scratch. Is it paying off? You decide with their signature “Pink Kiss”.

Ingredients

– 1.5 oz (42ml) earl grey infused vodka (a simple recipe can be found here
– 0.75 oz (21ml) lemon juice
– 0.75 oz (21ml) honey syrup
– 0.25 oz (7ml) campari
– 1 egg white

Method

1. Shake ingredients and serve over ice in a rocks glass.

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For more on Chicago’s bar scene head on over to choosechicago.com.

Feature image by Adam Alexander Photography and supplied by Choose Chicago.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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