Feature Archive 'Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits'


30 Seconds on Top Chef, brought to you by Diet Dr. Pepper

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits, Bites: News and Miscellany

Hello Padma, do you have any French in you…

1- As usual, at least one chef is surprised there’s a dessert challenge…dude, there’s been a dessert challenge every single season.
2- Radhika breaks out of the Indian cooking stereotype and wins the quickfire
3- Oh, lord, Stephanie Izard just pimped Diet Dr. Pepper in the commercial break
4- Carla is a total whack-job
5- Shouldn’t they always anonymously judge the dishes?
6- Ha, ha, Toby Young, Anthony Bourdain would like his schtick back.
7- How does Toby know what cat food tastes like? Has he been dining with his pets?
8- Ariane should definitely win Top Chef Obvious – skate wing with brown butter…dude, Escoffier was making that (granted without pineapple)
9- I’m officially printing a “Team Stefan” t-shirt, he’s the most arrogant bastard I’ve ever loved.
10- Colicchio doesn’t like raw garlic in gremolata…I thought that was the classic preparation…either way I love the raw spiciness myself…maybe that’s why I’m not a judge on Top Chef.
11- I bet Toby and the French judge dude Jean Christophe (Jeff Goldblum’s lost twin brother) or whatever would make sweet sweet love together
12- I think most of the judges are acting on prejudice rather than reality regarding the daikon with tomato basil. Daikon is so mild, I’m pretty sure it could be a base for anything.
13- Melissa and Eugene, they gone.
14- Oh, and this has nothing to do with Top Chef, but Oprah just came on, and I know she’s complaining about letting herself become a fatty again, but I think she looks pretty good.


Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits

If Jose Cuervo is the patron saint of bad judgment and horrid hangovers, then Ron Cooper, purveyor of Del Maguey Mezcal, is the angel of discretion and good taste. Though sometimes his is a case of “Do as say, not as I do.” On the morning I interview Cooper, he chain-smokes and squints in the morning light falling over Oak Street near the Newberry Library, his eyes rimmed by puffy bags. As a spirits professional, Cooper has no shortage of drinking buddies, and a few of them kept him out late after a tasting at Binny’s South Loop the night before. More »


Booze King

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits, Profiles in Food: Interviews

Peter Vestinos is Iron Chef Liquor. In October, Vestinos, head barkeep at Sepia (123 North Jefferson), beat out a host of local luminaries, including Adam Seger of Nacional 27, in an Iron Bar Chef competition. More »


Grace in Bubbles

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits, Grape Pun: All Things Wine

While most men of my generation rocked Kurt Cobain and “Pulp Fiction” posters in their college dorm rooms, I had a vintage poster of a Grace Kelly Taittinger champagne ad mounted above my bed at the University of Michigan. At that time, my cinematic interests were mostly of the “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” genre, but on the advice of a stoner/aspiring screenwriter I worked with, I started checking out the Hitchcock canon in my free time. More »


Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits, Food History

There are few other phrases that so quickly conjure images of pirates riotously celebrating another Caribbean conquest as that hearty “yo ho ho.” But why rum? Quite simple, really—because, beginning in the 1600s, the Caribbean (or West Indies, as the region was then known) was all about sugar, and what better thing to create from sugar by-products than rum? But rum was more than just a nice way to blind oneself at the end of a successful day of pillaging. For a few hundred years, it was a surprisingly important part of international economics, politics, and events. More »


Get Your Gastrotail Before it’s Gone

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits

I’ve got such an affinity for funky fungus, that I’m pretty certain one my ancestors may have been a truffle pig. Unfortunately, I’m also related to a lot of lazy folk, and due to my procrastination about writing this, you only have 3 more days if you want a shot at one of my favorite, and maybe only, truffle based cocktails of the year.

Adam Seger, one of Chicago’s top mixologists has just released a line of seasonally based gastrotails, so named because they feature savory aromatics, vodka infusions, and wine based simple syrups to stimulate your appetite, at Osteria Via Stato (620 N. State St.). More »


Getting Fresh with a Cocktail

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits, Recipes

margaritaI’ve given cocktails short shrift. I’m a descriminating gourmand, who’ll travel a thousand miles just to eat a local specialty, but when it comes to the bar, I’m more likely to amble a couple of blocks, and ask for my old standby of bourbon and Coke.

Lately though I’ve been spending some time with bartenders who pursue mixology with the same dedication as top chefs. These guys are focused on seasonal ingredient driven cocktails filled with chopped farm fresh fruits and vegetables.

I don’t know why it took me so long to have an epiphany. Whenever possible I’m looking for farm grown heirloom tomatoes for caprese salads or local creameries for my milk, and yet I think nothing of using mixes full of corn syrup, sodium benzoate, shelf stable gums, and artificial colorings for my drinks. More »


Browne’s Ale - The Craftsman of Libertyville

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits

belgian beer

This article first appeared in Newcity Chicago.

Libertyville is a beer-geek mecca. Aficionados from California, and occasionally Europe, belly up to Mickey Finn’s, a brewpub nestled between a collection of turn-of-the-century Georgian painted ladies with ornate hand-carved wooden crowned roofs. They come to this North Shore community, forty miles outside of Chicago, to taste the biscuity carmel-flavored Maibocks and the banana-perfumed Hefeweizen’s, the signature craft-brewed beers of Greg Browne. More »



Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits

Demolition BeerFor me, the taste of spring is a smooth citrusy ale.

Last week as I was picking up a six pack of my spring standby, Bell’s Oberon, I chanced upon a stark black and white labeled brew from Chicago’s Goose Island craft brewery. I had never seen it before, but it turns out that’s because Goose Island only does a limited batch run every year in May, and this brew isn’t widely distributed. According to the label:

“Back in the early ’90’s, our landlord went bankrupt and they tore down the mall surrounding the original Goose Island Brewpub. Sure, we were still open, but who would know it with all the demolition going on. We had giant wrecking balls careening around, the walls were shaking… it was tough. We lost a good part of our business for a year, and if not for the most loyal of our customers, Goose Island would have closed. To honor those brave souls, we brewed a strong, golden ale called Demolition. It was so good and so popular, we’ve brewed it every year since (I even served it at my wedding!)” -Brewmaster Greg Hall

It’s brewed with Saaz and Styrian hops. Saaz hops are “noble” hops, which means they’re high in aroma, but low in bitterness, while Styrian hops tend to lend spiciness and earthy grassy flavor. Both of these characteristics come out in the Goose Island Demolition. It’s a balanced beer, with orangey notes, a brighter citrus taste than the compareable Oberon, but with a nice spicy palate zinging spicy finish.

I found it at Trader Joes here in Chicago. If you don’t live in Chicago, check with your specialty beer retailer. The beer is aptly named, because if you don’t go out and buy some now, the supply will probably be demolished until next spring.


Drinking, Always in Season

Bartender, Pour me a Drink: Alcohol and Spirits

green drink

Drunken Chef that I am, I like to invent cocktails in my spare time. I’m always looking for something to suit the weather or the season. Here are four of my favorites to carry you through the next year. As always, use moderation, or at least stop drinking when you forget where you are. More »

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