Here's The Jist:

As a Drink Editor I receive a lot of requests for restaurant, bar and nightlife recommendations. So I started a blog to chronicle Chicago's social scene which eventually morphed into New York's drinking and dining scene. After years in Chicago, I'm now a full time resident of NYC, the East Village to be exact. Look forward to sharing the latest and greatest from the wine & spirits world, straight from the Big Apple.

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 2009: Versatile Vodka

Appleton and Avenues at the Peninsula

Exquisite food commands perfectly paired cocktails. And that’s just what I experienced last week at Avenues at the Peninsula. To introduce Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum to the Chicago scene, a group of twelve joined Master Blender, Joy Spence, for a dinner and cocktail pairing featuring the Appleton Estate Reserve Blend. Steve from Chicago cocktail Mecca, The Violet Hour, was on hand to serve up several artfully prepared, delectable drinks that whet our appetite and left us wanting more. Executive Chef, Curtis Duffy (love), was the mastermind behind our multi-course dinner.

To open the palate, we were greeted with a flute of the Royal Aperitif made with Appleton Estate Reserve (a luxurious blend of 20 select aged rums), a half ounce of honey syrup, fresh squeezed lemon juice and a pop of Champagne.

We moved on from the lobby reception to a private room where we were made privy to the exceptional cuisine and culture of Avenues. It must be said that the precision with which the Avenues staff operates is nothing short of extraordinary. Dressed in black, they enter a room from tallest to shortest in perfect stride; they swoop in like silent ninjas to rescue fallen napkins; water glasses are refilled without a droplet being spared.

It’s no surprise that Appleton has chosen Avenues as the venue to showcase their esteemed spirit. It was quite the celebration.

Paired with the the King Crab first course, the Jamaican Cobbler was a refreshing blend of Appleton Estate Reserve, dry sack medium sherry, Massenez Crème de Peche, a sugar cube and garnished with ruby red grapefruit pieces.

We moved onto the second course of Iberico Pork Belly (did you know the rare, black Spanish pigs only eat acorns?) and matched the tender pork with the Bless Up: Appleton Estate Reserve, Carpano Antica (a special, high-end red vermouth), Aperol (a traditional Italian orange liqueur aperitif), a splash of Averna (an herbal liquor) and a dose of white crème de cocoa. All of the ingredients are combined over ice and are stirred until freezing. The contents are then strained in to a chilled cocktail glass and garnished with an orange peel.

The Bless Up was similar to a Manhattan in that the flavor profiles of the rum were sweet like bourbon and left a pleasant after taste that complemented the salty texture of the pork belly.

And with desert came the Perfect Pour, a two ounce taste of Appleton Estate Extra 12-Year-Old served neat. The 12-Year-Old is aged for a minimum of 12 years in oak and exemplifies the divine characteristics that can be achieved through time intensive oak aging.

Jamaican (as in you’re-makin’) me crazy!

Lolla Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel

This Cheeky writer snagged a VIP pass to the Music Lounge at Hard Rock Hotel Chicago and, let me tell you, as a three year veteran of not only the lounge, but Lolla as a whole, this is one of the highlights of the weekend. The Music Lounge is an exclusive three day VIP/Artist retreat where the perks include gifting (by Griffin, Café Bustelo, Blue Mic, Dickies), a tattoo parlor (for reals), training sessions from DavidBartonGym, as well as fab food from China Grill, cocktails and coffee drinks at the Music Lounge Cafe.

Seriously, the Hard Rock Hotel knows how to do it up, rockstar style

Not only is the Music Lounge a to-die-for experience, but Base Bar is just as cool.

Little insider info for ya: it’s called the Base Bar not only because of the obvious music reference, but because the bar is located in the Carbine & Carbon historical building and both elements are bases…interesting.

Pop into Base Bar anytime this weekend and a FREE cocktail. Yep, there is something in life that is free. From 8 to 9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday during the festival, Base Bar is serving FREE Lolla cocktails sponsored by UV Vodka and FECKiN Irish Whiskey, including The Rockstar Special, Killers Cocktail, Lolla Lemonade, Depeche Mode on the Hard Rocks and VIP Spiced Punch.

Or opt for one of these:

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah(s)…I Need a Drink: Stoli Vanilla Vodka, lychee puree, rose water and fresh lime

Sex on Fire: Templeton Rye Whiskey, espresso, Angostura bitters and blood orange vinegar

A Glass of Glasvegas: Tito’s Handcrafted Vodka, muddled cucumber & honeydew melon, fresh squeezed lime and a splash of soda


Jbar at the James Hotel is one of best spots to party post or pre-concert. Kanye popped by last year and hosted his official after party and you never know who may make an appearance. This year they’re celebrating with themed drink specials on Friday and Saturday night. Go for The Vampire Weekend – a specialty drink based on the favorite band made with Tito’s Handmade Vodka (so good!), Chambord, club soda and lime over ice. Still wearing your Lolla wristband? Fab. All Lolla drinks are only $5 for you. Regular price is $12. What’s more, if you need some pre-concert sustenance, the 40 Day Dry Aged burgers from David Burke’s Primehouse are only $5 from 6 - 9 pm on Friday.

How to Inhale a Martini at Red Kiva

The VaporTini

At Moto, a Class 4 laser (usually used for military experiments or eye surgery) and a vanilla bean are used to “caramelaserize” a wineglass. David Burke’s Primehouse has served up a house Manhattan made with sweet vermouth, leather-infused bourbon and a bitters-spiked maraschino puree: a liquid dropped into the drink that will coalesce into a “gumdrop” when it hits the side of the glass.

Adventurous bartenders and master mixologists around the world are employing the techniques of avant-garde cooking to their work behind the bar. On the heels of molecular gastronomy - a culinary discipline pioneered in the 1980s - comes a new breed of innovation: Molecular Mixology. It is with this gastro art form that chemistry and physics determine what makes a brilliant cocktail and scientific techniques that were once only used behind a stove are now being used behind the bar. Part of the challenge to the art of the drink lies in pairing components with a similar genetic makeup that may not have traditionally gone together; the other part is juxtaposing various temperatures and disparate textures to create startling combinations.

Molecular gastronomy combines foods with similar chemical compositions. If one ingredient has a high level of amines or aldehydes then they should be paired with other ingredients with a similar makeup. Molecular mixology pairs alcohols, spirits, spices and aromatics with similar chemical compositions to create a perfectly blended drink.

On a similar note, Red Kiva proprietor, Julie Palmer, is introducing a need breed of the martini: The VaporTini.

The VaporTini consists of flavor-enhanced alcohol vapors served in a glass globe that you inhale by “sipping” through a straw. The glass globe has a custom-made silver metal base and evokes a 1970’s mod, futuristic feel. Red Kiva’s mixologists pour the selected alcohol into the glass globe then heat the liquid to 110 degrees, beginning the vapor process. A glass straw is inserted into the globe and participants “sip”, or inhale, the vapors. They’ve suggested that you inhale the flavored vapors slowly for 20 minutes.

The VaporTini’s creator, Julie Palmer, was inspired to create the”inhale-tail” while in Helsinki, Finland on the shortest day of the year. The local tradition in Helsinki is for people to pour vodka onto hot sauna coals and inhale the vapors. Julie wanted to create a similar experience at Red Kiva. After several prototypes and many different trials with her father, an engineer, the VaporTini was born.

The VaporTini Menu is below, where each cocktail is prepared for $10.

Effen Black Cherry Vanilla vodka with a chocolate-covered cherry garnish

Tanqueray Rangpur with a candied citrus peel garnish

Knob Creek with a griottine garnish

Absolut Raspberri served with raspberry candy and chocolates

VaporTinis are available on Thursday evenings beginning August 6th and table reservations are welcomed for VaporTini service.