My favorite cocktails in the Shore area

2013-02-07T00:00:00Z 2013-02-07T12:09:08Z My favorite cocktails in the Shore area
February 07, 2013 12:00 am

My husband and I aren't big drinkers.  I mean to say, we do enjoy a bottle of Montepulciano or a 312 or a good cocktail, but we're not the type to have one every night.

But on occasion, we do like to go out and have a couple.

My regular drink varies according to the mood I'm in. Usually it's a vodka martini, preferably with Chopin or Boru vodka, extra dirty.  But occasionally I prefer to drink straight tequila reposado with a slice of lemon.  Or if I'm feeling very retro, a nice glass of whiskey, straight up.

I try not to stray from this.  I think these three drink selections are reasonably respectable enough for me to have on almost any social occasion without incurring the judgment of those around me.

Or in other words, I do like those three drinks, but I think one of the larger factors that goes into my drink order is the degree of badassery perceived when the order is spoken out loud.

My insecurity notwithstanding, occasionally I can be tempted away from my old standbys, but only if the cocktail sounds really exceptional.

One of our favorite places to take a load off during a Magnificent Mile shopping trip is the Sofitel, the Swiss-based hotel chain on Chestnut and State. We discovered this place when my father-in-law and step-mother-in-law stayed there on a layover from Paris—they are both Air France employees, which seems to be even more glamorous than it sounds, seeing as the airline puts the flight crew up in a $300-a-night hotel on a routine layover.

As we were waiting for their arrival from O'Hare, we decided to kill some time in the bar area of Cafe des Architectes, the in-house restaurant, especially good for breakfast. It seemed like a classy place with a well stocked bar, so I decided to be adventurous and order their take on the Sidecar.

I'd never had a sidecar before, but it was so delicious that I hardly consider ordering anything else while at the Sofitel. It's fruity, yet retro, and not terribly fussy—no muddled mint leaves or vaporized vodka fumes involved. We make it a point to stop by at least a few times a year, or more to the point, any time we make it to the Gold Coast.

Another amazingly retro cocktail we stumbled upon is located in the Wicker Park neighborhood, a well-known hot spot of the adventurous gourmet chef variety. We must have passed at least three absinthe bars during our outing, but I finally convinced my husband to stop in and try one after lunch. He was reticent, remembering some choice experiences he had while indulging on the "green fairy" during his time studying in Spain, but eventually he relented.

We stopped at The Savoy, located on Milwaukee Ave. Not only do they have absinthe, they have classic absinthe, made from the same recipe as they used before the ban on the liqueur went into effect. And on top of that, they have a list of vintage cocktails, if you want to go full Belle Epoch.

I did. So I elected to try the "Corpse Reviver #1," made with Carpano Antica Formula, Cider Cordial, Huber Brandy and Tennyson Absinthe. I knew for a fact that this particular cocktail had been enjoyed by such writers as Oscar Wilde and the entire Montparnasse crowd before the ban. Below the menu listing is a note: "To be taken before 11 AM, or whenever steam and energy are needed."

I don't know that it imparted to me any additional energy, but despite my aversion to anise flavoring, it did give me the most pleasant buzz I've ever experienced. It was like being moderately drunk but without the dizzy, impaired feeling.

For those who don't like the anise flavor either, I'd recommend my husband's choice of drink, which was the "Pimm's Potion #9." The absinthe was pleasantly masked with tart, fruity flavors.

Not long ago, I was invited to meet some friends at a bar in Michigan City. I loved seeing my friends, but my true ulterior motive for showing up was the bloody mary bar at Shoreline Brewery.

Now, I heard the words "Bloody Mary Bar" and came running, but I didn't even expect the variety of choices available to create the ideal cocktail. Although the menu includes several pre-made recipes, there is also a worksheet you can use to make your own. There are FOUR different bloody mary mixes to try and about 200 other customizable options.

I made several attempts to create the perfect mary—one attempt including sausage—but the best one, as always, was the last. Singing Sands Stout Infused mix, Stoli vodka, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, Sriracha sauce, celery, feta-stuffed olives. I highly recommend this combination.

But as far as my old standbys, I have my favorite places for these as well.

My favorite tequila reposado comes from Abuelo's restaurant in Merrillville.  I would usually get the Jimador Reposado, with 2 lemon slices. The tequila comes in a tiny snifter with a small spot of salt on the rim. It's absolutely fantastic to be able to order a tequila that doesn't automatically come in a shot glass, because that is never my intention.

My favorite dirty martini comes from the Silver Creek Event Center bar at Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo. I just discovered this new favorite last weekend at Bev's Second Season Ball, which happily for all guests, had an open bar.

Many times when you order a dirty martini, even ordering extra dirty, the bartender tends to err on the side of less olive juice. Not this time. I indulged in a Grey Goose martini, ordered extra dirty, and the bartenders obliged.  Not only was it sufficiently infused with olive juice, it had tiny flat ice crystals floating on top of the vodka—always my favorite characteristic in a drink.

And finally, I'm sorry to say I can't remember where I had my favorite whiskey. I know it was in Lakeview, and I know it was exquisitely made of Maker's Mark, served in a martini glass with almost the whole top of the drink covered in my favorite flat ice crystals.

I wish I could find this place again, but the only thing I remember is that it was extremely crowded and had outdoor seating. There may have been a Walgreen's in the vicinity, but I'm not entirely sure. Clearly it wasn't my first drink of the evening, but it was by far the best.


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