Chicago: Bar Hopping in the West Loop
Little Goat is ostensibly a diner with a coffee bar and bakery. Wedged in between all that is the bar. It’s a beautiful bar and the bartenders were still working out the kinks. I noticed they had often used bottles on the back bar rather than in their well. I watched as they kept turning around to grab the bottles they needed to make their listed cocktails. The bartender who helped us said this was his first bartending job in Chicago (he has bartended elsewhere) but he hoped the bar would make necessary changes soon.
It is always nerve wracking when you first open a bar. There were many calls for pineapple juice that went unheeded for a while. Poor dears. Luckily the bar wasn’t too busy on a Friday night (though it was early) and most people were having beers.
I scanned the cocktail list and settled on the Jazz Singer (Weller 12 Year whiskey, Germain-Robin Coast Road reserve brandy, Benedictine, bitters). I was intrigued by the Germain-Robin which is a brandy produced in California. The brown, bitter, stirred cocktail is my preferred cocktail style.
My friend had the Trench Town Dream (Atlantico Platino rum, Flor de Cana rum, Averna, Cointreau, Luxardo Maraschino, orange juice, lime). It was a bit sweet for me but she liked it well enough.
If we had stayed for another, I would have ordered the Late in the Afternoon (Plymouth gin, Lillet blanc, orange bitters).
We got a look at the menu and it looked like a cool place to try anytime but particularly brunch or lunch. Next time, Little Goat, next time!
We heard about Maude’s at Girl and the Goat and decided to check it out after dinner. It was very cute but also tiny so we couldn’t get seats at the bar. And standing around bar stools that were just used as coat hangers by rude guests, we decided this was going to be an one and done joint. And after a badly made Martinez (sorry, no photos), we definitely decided to head out. I suppose it’s another case of “this bar could be really cool on a Tuesday.” On a Friday, it was just too annoying.
Our bartender at Little Goat told us about RM Champagne Salon. We lucked out with a table in an odd little corner. I didn’t feel like champagne so I got a classic cocktail, Remember the Maine (Lion’s Pride dark rye, Dolin Rouge, Cherry Herring, St. George absinthe).
I was happy to see they were using liquors from craft distillers like St. George in California and Lion’s Pride from the local Koval distillery.
I also decided to try their Gin Cocktail (St. George Terroir gin, Lillet Blanc, Cocchi Americano). My friend ordered the Champagne Cocktail (prosecco, lemon syrup, Bar Keep lavender spice bitters) but they accidentally gave her the Vodka Cocktail (Hanger 1 vodka, thyme syrup, fresh lemon, prosseco). I’ve a bit problem using prosecco in the Champagne cocktail but we’ll let that go.
RM is a bit hard to find but it’s worth it for the classy vibe. I’d like to sit at the bar next time.
Before we had gone to Maude’s, we spotted the Dragonfly Mandarin. There were crowds of barely dressed young ladies, a line and big burly bouncers. We admit it, we were curious. How good was this club if women are wearing practically nothing in 17 degree weather? We asked one of the bouncers what was the music like (as if we couldn’t tell from the booming bass we heard outside). He swiftly replied Top 40 and we should come in. They did tell us we’d have to ditch our leftovers from Girl and the Goat though if we wanted to come in.
Jump to a couple hours later after Maude’s and RM, we were ready (I had to hide my leftovers in my purse). However, they did look through our purses and made fun of us for carting around all this cold-weather gear. Hey, you never know when you need an umbrella! After paying for coat check (ah, that explains the coat-less young women), we did get our dancing on to the
Top 40 hip hop urban music. I would have at least looked at the bar (sorry, no pics) but they closed rather early (before 1 a.m.) and we made do with drinks at our hotel.
Jeppson’s Malort is a liqueur made in a style of amaro. It’s the Chicago bartender’s handshake like Fernet-Branca is for other bartenders. I was warned very extensively by others I wouldn’t like it but I did. It’s actually very lemony and a bit sweet. Fernet is much, much more bitter. Later I heard the formula has changed a bit so that may account for why it’s not as bitter. These days, Violet Hour is making their own Malort. I’ll have to check it out next time.
I had a hard time getting into the cocktail list. I tend not to order classic cocktails right away and always go for something original. As mentioned, it was really cold in Chicago and something from the “refreshing” side didn’t appeal. I went for something stirred and boozy instead. I got the Bon Viveur (aged cachaca, sweet vermouth, herbal liqueurs). I asked if the aged cachaca was the Novo Fogo aged cachaca and it was. This was going to be my last drink of the night so I’m glad it was a good one.
I was involved in looking at the Malort so I wasn’t paying much attention to what my friend ordered. I believe she had the Cusco Cup (Peruvian pisco, Fernet-Branca, cucumber, lemon, ginger brew, Peruvian bitters) but possibly she had something else.
I do know though she ordered a Daiquiri. When I saw it over crushed ice, I was a little bit bewildered. It wasn’t until later that I remembered this post. I have to agree with Geoff on this one, daiquiris should be served up. I did notice La Sirena will also add seasonal preserves (for $1 more) to the daiquiri if requested. Isn’t that a cobbler if it’s served over crushed ice like this?
My friend said she liked it so there’s that. Considering how I’ve gotten shaken Manhattans and Negronis and a Martinez served down, I guess a crushed ice daiquiri isn’t the most horrible thing in the world. Perhaps it’s their way of bridging the classic to the atrocity of frozen daiquiris from machines?
La Sirena decided to close early that night since we were the only people left. It wasn’t even 11 p.m. yet on a Friday. It’s a new bar, they should have really stayed open later in case anyone else decided to come in. They’re in a prime spot — as mentioned, across from the Aviary. And they have a good reputation with the local bartenders as a late night spot (their bar menu goes until 12:30 p.m.) so it was odd. I do hope they succeed though.
© The Minty 2013