A view from the city: Chicago

22 April, 2014

A great bar tour would be: Aviary and the Office for cocktails, Big Star for tacos and tequila, the Violet Hour for a speakeasy stop, Scofflaw for gin and great staff, Billy Sunday for vintage Fernet, Barrelhouse Flat for more cocktails, Delilah's for incredible whiskey and rock, Three Dots and a Dash for tiki and Sable for a nightcap. Then we would go to the Green Mill for jazz or swing music. There are so many more great spots. Weegee’s, Maria’s Packaged Goods, The Punch House, The Drawing Room, Berskshire Room, Celeste, Drum Bar, Analogue, Longman & Eagle...you need to stay a few days.

Are there any new ingredients – perhaps local – techniques or approaches that you or other bartenders are using right now?

Chicago is in the Midwest in a strong growing region. We have amazing farms in an hour or two outside the city, so you see a great utilisation of this resource. We work hand in hand with the small farmers. If we want a specific herb or fruit many of them will grow them specifically for us. 

The line between kitchen and bar is becoming continually blurred as well. It serves any bartender well to spend as much time in the kitchen as possible. The possibility for ingredients becomes limitless. 

Who are the famous bartenders of Chicago and what are they famous for?

Calling out just a few people is difficult, as so many play important roles. My mentor is Bridget Albert. She is one of the key people who have helped to fuel growth in the community. She started the Academy of Spirits & Fine Service offering an in-depth educational opportunity to anyone interested. She continued this by forming an advanced academy taking groups of bartenders around the world to study spirits at the source. Her passion, sincerity, humility and commitment have sparked so many careers and helped to drive Chicago's beverage community.

What are your hopes for Chicago's bar scene – what needs to change or happen for it to become better recognised? 

This scene has grown sustainably and new generations of bartenders are coming into their own. Speaking beyond Chicago, we as a global community need continue to educate, experiment and share our passion for the industry with our guests. 

That said, a special note needs to be made to ensure we understand why we open our doors every day – that is for the guests. We are experiencing the first generations of bartenders who have only worked in speciality cocktail bars. We need to remind them that most of the public may have not ever experienced what we do. It is our job to welcome them in, raise expectations and create the best experience possible. This has nothing to do with a cocktail, it has to do with hospitality. Once that is established we enhance that experience with perfectly made cocktails. This will insure sustainability for our community and growth. 

And for Chicago to become more recognised? You have to visit. Amazing music, 25 miles of beaches, renowned museums, gorgeous parks and architecture, incredible food, drink and people. I recommend it in the spring, summer and fall, for obvious reasons. Salud!





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Nick Strangeway

Hacha leads by example

Back in 2002 celebrity chef Jamie Oliver launched Fifteen, a restaurant made up of a team of trainee chefs from underprivileged backgrounds.

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