Friday, April 20, 2018

Chicago, The Loop, part 3

After our nightcap at Potter’s, Cindy and I thought that we ought to take in a bit of the blues, so we sauntered down to Buddy Guy’s Legends nightclub to see who was playing in the Jimmy Burns-hosted Jam. Buddy Guy’s no-frills atmosphere sports a wide-open warehouse of a room cluttered with tables and chairs around a broad stage in the center of its south wall and a shot-and-a-beer bar tightly cloistered into a back corner. The people come to Buddy’s for the music, not the drinks and, despite the weekday’s late night, the musicians put on a helluva show, gutting it out for the half-filled venue on their mics, guitars, and washboards.

As we do for all bars of this nature, I ordered double Seven and Sevens, relishing the sweet whiskey as an afterthought between and during sets. Buddy’s servers are as no-frill as the atmosphere and the Sevens came large, cheap and quick by Chicago standards. The Sevens were so good with the blues that I had to order another round.

For those of you that are too young to drink in Wisconsin, here’s how to pour the immortal Seven and Seven-

Drink: Double Seven and Seven 
Establishment: Buddy Guy’s Legends
Location: Chicago, Illinois
First Connoisseur: Every Midwestern ever

4 ounces Seagram’s Seven Crown Whiskey
8 ounces 7up

Get a solo cup. Fill with ice. Put in 7. Put in 7. Drink. Repeat.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Chicago, The Loop, part 2

The Palmer House has a long history. A originally lavish wedding gift of Potter Palmer to his wife Bertha, the Palmer House is so huge that it takes up the larger part of a city block, contains a small mall on its ground floor, and rises 25 floors to house more than 1600 guest rooms. Unfortunately for Potter Palmer, his wedding gift burned in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, just 13 days after its grand opening. Palmer was determined to rebuild; his business magnate reputation guaranteed a quick $1.7 million loan to do it. For the next 140 years, the Palmer House became the longest continually operating hotel in the nation. In the late 2000s, the Palmer House went through another $170 million renovation, just completed prior to our visit.

Beyond the open-room bar in the Palmer’s opulent lobby, the hotel also features a swanky Vegas-like cocktail lounge named Potter’s downstairs. Cindy and I dropped in for a quick round. A smartly-vested barkeep served us up a pair of Potter specialties: for me a Manhattan made from Potter’s own select barrel of Woodford and, for Cindy, Potter’s acclaimed Martinez crafted with the classic Old Tom gin that made this 1800s cocktail stand the test of time.

Drink: Martinez
Establishment: Potter’s at the Palmer House
Location: Chicago, Illinois
First Connoisseur: Cindy

1 ounce Old Tom gin
2 ounces sweet vermouth
Small barspoon of Maraschino
Dash orange bitters

The 1880s Martinez was made with Booker’s bitters which has just appeared on the market once again. Likely the Palmer House had long substituted the Booker’s with orange bitters because of its universal availability. In addition, the Martinez is usually stirred and served up in a coupe or Nick and Nora glass. However, Potter’s builds theirs over ice in an old-fashioned glass- no fuss, Midwestern style.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Chicago, The Loop, part 1

I never remember how close Chicago is. When it is only three hours to the heart of the Windy City, it is a real shame that we haven’t drank there (at least for New York City, we have a 1000 mile excuse!). To somewhat remedy this situation, we had a free weekend, though kids were in tow, to explore the Chicago Loop a bit and chart out a second, more adult, adventure in the future. 

Now the Loop is more known for its architecture than its cocktails, most notably the Willis (Sears) Tower, so we made sure to book a suitable hotel with a decent watering hole. We got a good deal off-season on the Palmer House, a historic hotel that has hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and U.S. Grant. After a shopping trip and a jaunt around Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate and massive playground, the family was hungry and thirsty. A short walk led us to the venerable Exchequer, a pizza and ribs joint which has been a mainstay in the Loop since 1969. We were there for Chicago deep dish pizza- Exchequer’s The Mob pizza in particular, featuring a variety of meat and garlic. 

Now, for those of you not in the know, good Chicago deep dish takes time. Time means beer. So Cindy ordered up a Guinness, and I went to the taps with Exchequer’s ‘own’ Amber Lager. I put the ‘own’ in quotes, because Exchequer Amber is actually brewed in Wisconsin at Stevens Point Brewery, so, yeah, I drove three hours south to get a beer that’s made two hours north of the FWL. Ha!

The Exchequer Amber graced a pint glass well; deep amber, light carbonation, with a creamy half inch of white loose head. It is a clean, very lightly hopped, toffee-malted draught, something that I’d say would be a good intro beer for the novice craft beer drinker. That said, it goes great with pizza, which is it what it was made for.

My second tasting was Great Lakes Brewing’s Eliot Ness Amber, whose namesake was the nemesis of Exchequer’s most notable patron, Al Capone. The Eliot Ness came dark copper in its glass with a finger’s worth of cream-colored head. It has a yeasty aroma with a tinge of green apple. The taste is consistent with its aroma, deeply bready, a slightly grapefruit sour edge, with a bite of noble hops on the backside. Very drinkable in the Chicago cool spring air. 

After our pizza, the day was over. Time for the kids to hit the hay and us to hit the hotel bar...