Here's What to Look out for on Chicago's Drink Scene This Season

By Amber Gibson and J.P. Anderson | May 3, 2018 | Food & Drink

From a cocktail conference to the latest tippling trend, all the Windy City news that's fit to drink.


Photo courtesy of Gage Hospitality Group

The Main Event
The inaugural Chicago Style is a cocktail conference with a serious twist. Three female founders—Lost Lake’s Shelby Allison, Ace Hotel’s Caitlin Laman and The 86 Company’s Sharon Bronstein—aim to foster discussions about inclusion, equity and sustainability along with the usual parties, tastings and bartending competitions. Bar Fight Club kicks off the festivities directly following the James Beard Awards Monday night, and is sure to draw a crowd of nationally acclaimed cocktail luminaries. Cheer on the top female bartenders in the country at Speed Rack’s national finale, with round-robin-style timed challenges and proceeds donated to breast cancer charities. Following seminars about topics ranging from the art of menu design to the history of black bartenders in America, industry tastemakers and media will host intimate dinner parties across the city. May 7-10 –AG

Ultimate Alfresco
Weekends at Camp Dawson will bring back nostalgic memories of summer camp—well, summer camp plus booze. Beginning Sundays in June, servers and bartenders at River West hot spot The Dawson will double as camp counselors serving sloppy Joes, housemade hot dogs, grilled cheese and more campfire-style fare plus “bug juice” bottled cocktails and drinks inspired by the cult classic film Wet Hot American Summer. For dessert, roast your own adult s’mores (boozy marshmallows, anyone?) on the patio while listening to the monthly talent show of local bands. 730 W. Grand Ave., 312.243.8955 –AG

Waste Not, Want Not
Americans waste some 60 million tons of produce each year, and more and more bartenders are stepping up to make a difference by embracing a waste-reduction philosophy that goes by the catchy moniker “trash tiki”—e.g., creating cocktails with sustainability in mind. At Kimpton Gray Hotel hot spot Boleo (122 W. Monroe St., 312.750.9007, ), head bartender Jess Lambert’s “Drink Like You Give A...” menu section boasts cocktails like the Japanese highball-esque One More Chance, which uses toasted day-old bread from the hotel kitchen; Broken Shaker (19 E. Ohio St., 312.940.3699) in River North makes use of leftover ginger to infuse tequila in its Diablo Cobbler; and at tiki fave Lost Lake (3154 W. Diversey Ave., 773.293.6048), Paul McGee and Shelby Allison soak spent lime hulls in water to add to the bar’s frozen concoction, the Tic Tac Taxi. –JPA

One To Watch
Order stirred cocktails by the ounce at Ludlow Liquors, from undiluted ounce pours to full-size cocktails with specialty garnishes and ice. Avondale’s new neighborhood tavern is run by the team behind industry favorite Sportsman’s Club. There’s draft punch, cheap beer and the “best whiskey sours in the city,” with atomized angostura and housemade sour blend. “It’s a simple drink that doesn’t hide mistakes,” co-owner Jeff Donahue says. “As it sits and warms, it loses its frothy texture and settles into an eggy head. Our recipe is a bit smaller, so quick consumption is encouraged.” Chef Nick Jirasek complements the strong sips with creative Chicago comfort food at Old Habits, run independently within the bar. Think smoked rib tips with curry butter, Filipino egg rolls, and pig head and beef cheek mostaccioli. French fries with warm beef gravy and cold malted vanilla gelato harken back to Wendy’s Frosty and fries. Something else to look forward to: The team promises epic back garden patio parties this summer. 2959 N. California Ave., 773.754.7492 –AG

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