The months of icy lemonade (and the subsequent brain freeze), frosty mugs of summer ale and ethereal rose wine are over. As trees begin to reveal their brown branches with leaves and sunshine fluttering away, it’s time for earthier elixirs to set your soul straight for the coming chill.
Stetsons Modern Steak + Sushi
151 E. Upper Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
Stetsons Modern Steak + Sushi got a facelift and menu updating as part of the recent $168 million dollar renovation of the Hyatt Regency Chicago and it’s looking good. Go ahead and order some maki, but the classic steakhouse menu beckons with autumn’s arrival. An ideal drink as a prelude is the Stetson Street Manhattan, an inspired blend of molasses, Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur and cherry bark vanilla bitters with Evan Williams 10 year/Stetsons Barrel whiskey. What really brings it home are the four brandied cherries from Door County, Wisconsin lying in stead across the top of the glass. Sommelier Amy Witz, mastermind of the Stetson Street Manhattan, says, “Once we add the cherry bark vanilla bitters to the cocktail, the scent immediately arouses our guests’ curiosity and they usually end up asking to see the unique eye-dropper shaped bottle.”
814 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Thinking of fall drinks, apple cider rules the roost and when you mix in un poco de tequila, expect one fabulous apple cider margarita. The team at de cero sources apple cider from a cider mill in Coloma Michigan called Jollay Orchards. The delicious Honey Crisp apple cider is shaken with 100% Blue Agave tequila and fresh lime and orange juice. The refreshing ‘rita twist is a seasonal favorite for regulars at the modern taqueria that features from-scratch tortillas filled with fresh ingredients from pork shoulder to pineapple. Since the River West eatery specializes in fresh fruit margaritas, you can also try jicama or cucumber margaritas with pureed fruits, vegetables and herbs blended with house lime and 100% Blue Agave.
1941 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
The cocktail program at Storefront Company is steered by Chef Bryan Moscatello, a former Food & Wine Best New Chef who plates well-sourced, sophisticated farm cuisine in the Wicker Park restaurant. He apparently pulls product right from the ground for his cocktails, too. Case in point: the Golden Beet consisting of beet-infused Karlssons vodka, lemon, horseradish and ginger sounds like the perfect nightcap as the sun begins to dip earlier in autumn. Moscatello explains, “On our Golden Beet, the garnish is a skewer of roasted gold beets and watermelon rind pickles, the beets are glazed in the rind pickle liquor. By having these savory elements take on a pickle-like quality, it gives them a sense of belonging.”
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955 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
This is cocktail dream central courtesy of Chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, which means the bartenders are seriously schooled in the art, herbs and produce are practically picked daily and service is five-star. Micah Melton, Chef de Cuisine at The Aviary, loves the hotspot’s “Tea in Trinidad” for autumn sipping. Zaya 12 Rum, Gingerbread Dream rooibos tea and Ver Jus Rouge are mixed and then dry ice is plopped in so the spicy scents of rum and tea tickle your nostrils. Insert a straw and be prepared to be wowed. Melton explains, “I like the drink for fall because it’s a warm cocktail and the aroma of gingerbread and vanilla from the rum play along with fall flavors.”
108 W. Kinzie St.
Chicago, IL 60654
Perish the thought that the name is a reference to your training bra days. Double A’s cachet begins with its space, a subterranean lounge below Mexican eatery Mercadito, and continues with the mad scientist/bartending team known as the Tippling Bros., Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay. That it’s intimate and truly “bar theater” makes it worth a peek and a drink – especially a belly-warming concoction like The Crippler that, according to Double A, combines Old Overholt rye, J.M Overproof Rhum, STROH Jägertee, Sombra mezcal, yellow chartreuse and Memphis barbecue bitters. Carducci says, “It took a lot of work to get the ingredients to work together in the right balance. Rye is spicy, the rhum agricole is earthy and dry, mezcal offers smoke; the Jagertee, an Austrian spice liqueur, adds sweetness, and Chartreuse brings a touch of herbaceous complexity to the cocktail. There’s a little heat on the finish from the barbecue bitters, which is really cool. It is a very strong cocktail but one that is warming and surprisingly easy to drink. It does live up to its name, so be warned.”
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Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.