Cocktail Challenge

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A peaches-and-cream cocktail goes best with Jell-O shots

Posted By on 06.01.17 at 07:37 PM

"When I was growing up, all I would eat with cottage cheese were these really syrupy, densely packed peaches," says Kiel Schelich, bar manager at Eight Bar (the previously nameless bar/restaurant downstairs from Maple & Ash). But when Steve Gleich of Luxbar challenged Schelich to use cottage cheese in a cocktail, his mind didn't immediately go there. Schelich's first thought was to make a drink modeled after a cement-mixer shot, where lime juice is added to Bailey's to curdle it. He quickly rejected that idea and moved on to scotch because, he says, it pairs well with cheese. "For like three days, I was doing scotches, trying to make a sophisticated cocktail with it," he says. "Then I was like, 'It's fucking cheese curds. Why am I overthinking this?'"

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Uh-oh, a SpaghettiOs cocktail!

Posted By on 05.03.17 at 05:17 PM

Making a cocktail with the canned kid-pleaser SpaghettiOs "sounds like a nightmare," says Luxbar bar manager Steve Gleich. But when Nicole Brudd of the Revel Room challenged him to do just that, Gleich got to work. His first idea was a Bloody Mary, which evolved into a Bloody Maria and then sangrita, a drink that's typically sipped alongside tequila. Though sangrita originally consisted of just fruit juice and chile powder, today it often includes tomato juice as well, which is the route that Gleich went with it.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

How to make a beer cocktail

Posted By on 03.31.17 at 03:43 PM

"I'm a big beer dork, so I've had my fair share of Troublesome," says Nicole Brudd, a bartender at Wicker Park's Revel Room. She's referring to Off Color Brewing's Troublesome, the beer with which Paul "PK" Kim of Cafe Marie-Jeanne challenged her to create a cocktail. "Troublesome is a gose, so it's a salted wheat beer with lactobacillus—you get a lot of lemon, sourness, saltiness," she says.

Brudd made a simple syrup with the beer, reducing it over heat to concentrate the flavor before adding sugar and water. She imagined pairing the syrup with tequila and celery bitters for a simple, savory cocktail, and experimented with the combination several ways: stirred, shaken, and up. "I was really confident, but [the drinks] were garbage," she says.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

All hail the #NotMyPresident, a Trump-tinted cocktail made with powdered cheese

Posted By on 03.08.17 at 02:00 PM

Cabot Cheddar Shake is "a dehydrated cheese product made of the finest northeastern cheddar cheese," says Paul "PK" Kim, a bartender at Cafe Marie-Jeanne. He'd never heard of the cheese powder before Jacob Huelster of Watershed challenged him to create a cocktail with it. "But I wanted to show respect to it, because I know it's an ingredient that's near and dear to Jacob's heart," he says.

Kim describes the powdered cheese as salty, delicious, and perfect for popcorn. "Everything's better with cheese," he says. Well—maybe not absolutely everything. Getting Cheddar Shake into a form that Kim could incorporate into a cocktail was difficult, he says. He first tried mixing the cheese powder with room-temperature water. "It looked pretty gross," he says. "I found it clumped up."

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Monday, January 30, 2017

How to make a Nutella cocktail

Posted By on 01.30.17 at 04:36 PM

For a product that enjoys a reputation as a cult favorite, Nutella is surprisingly ubiquitous: it's sold in 75 countries at a rate of one jar every 2.5 seconds worldwide and its maker, Ferrero, buys a quarter of the world's hazelnut supply, producing enough jars of Nutella each year to cover the Great Wall of China eight times over. Plus World Nutella Day—which is essentially just an excuse to eat the chocolate-hazelnut spread—is coming up on February 5.

Not surprisingly, Watershed bartender Jacob Huelster was already quite familiar with Nutella when David McCabe of Osteria Langhe challenged him to create a cocktail with it. "At first I was a little worried," Huelster says. "It seemed a bit pedestrian. But when I started working with it, I found that it's actually pretty difficult." Huelster first consulted the book The Flavor Bible to see what it recommends pairing with hazelnut. Garlic was one suggestion. "Garlic does go well with hazelnuts, and it does not go great with chocolate, I found out. That was a dead end," Huelster says.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Osteria Langhe’s David McCabe utilizes snails to put a new spin on the Bloody Mary

Posted By on 01.09.17 at 02:27 PM

Osteria Langhe, the Piemontese restaurant in Logan Square where David McCabe tends bar, has been serving snails in pastry shells with beurre blanc since it opened in 2014. Until recently, though, McCabe had little to do with the gastropods, leaving them to the restaurant's chefs. But when Christopher Marty of Best Intentions challenged him to create a cocktail with escargot (or lumache, as they're called in Italian), McCabe had some planning to do.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Learn to make a matzo ball that will get you drunk

Posted By on 11.29.16 at 02:46 PM

"It was not a fun developmental process," Best Intentions bartender and co-owner Christopher Marty says of his experiments with matzo. Pito Rodriguez, a bartender at Sable Kitchen & Bar, had challenged him to create a cocktail with the unleavened bread traditionally eaten at Passover. "He just chose the first Jewish thing he could think of, I imagine," Marty says. "He's trolling me, obviously."

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Watch a Sable bartender turn his aunt’s mojo sauce into a Puerto Rican cocktail

Posted By on 09.29.16 at 04:41 PM

While the sauce called mojo originated in the Canary Islands, varying forms of it are popular in Cuba, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. But for Sable Kitchen & Bar bartender Pito Rodriguez, the truest form is made in Puerto Rico by his aunt Titi. Rodriguez says that Matthew Jannotta, the Soho House Chicago bartender who challenged him to make a cocktail with mojo, visited Puerto Rico with him a couple years ago and got a chance to try his aunt's mojo, which consists simply of cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and salt.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Sour Patch Kids cocktail and more boozy nostalgia from the Reader’s Cocktail Challenge event

Posted By on 09.22.16 at 05:00 PM

Last week's Cocktail Challenge event at Salvage One—inspired by the Reader series of the same name—saw nearly 20 local bartenders creating cocktails around the theme "nostalgia." Some looked back to childhood with drinks based on watermelon Sour Patch Kids or ginger peach lollipops, while others thought of a slightly different period of life: college. The Betty's Melissa Pinkerton served a take on Jungle Juice and had a table set up for beer pong.

Dan Rook of South Water Kitchen made a drink modeled on his Grandma Mary's zucchini bread (and served with zucchini bread), William Duncan of Money Gun expressed his nostalgia for baseball games through a Crackerjack rum old-fashioned served with peanuts and a beer chaser, and Bob Begandy of Punch House recalled going to the movies with a cocktail that involved Coke syrup and smoked popcorn.

Toasting marshmallows for Luxbar's S'more Cutty, Captain? - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • Toasting marshmallows for Luxbar's S'more Cutty, Captain?

Autumn was a popular theme; Brett Lichnerowicz of Luxbar made a s'mores cocktail with Cutty Sark Prohibition Era Whiskey infused with graham cracker and cocoa, served with a roasted juniper marshmallow. Jennifer Knot of 312 Chicago won the audience vote for best cocktail with Mama I'm Coming Home, a warm apple cider spiced with cinnamon and cloves and spiked with Cutty Sark Prohibition, infused with roasted pecans and Fonseca Bin 27 Port, garnished with a soft caramel candy you could stir into the drink.

The Betty's Jungle Juice - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • The Betty's Jungle Juice

The panel of judges—Dejorn Huffman, a spirits portfolio manager at Tenzing Wine; Al Klopper, a bartender at Slippery Slope; and me—had the task of determining the winners of the critic's choice award and the best cocktail made with whiskey from event sponsor Cutty Sark. Since our favorite cocktail, a take on milk punch from Jessica Lambert of Boleo, involved Cutty, it took both prizes. Called Rosy Retrospection, the drink was based on sweet potato pie and involved brandy, rum, sweet potato reduction, and black tea, topped with cranberry marshmallow cream and garnished with a sage leaf.

Rosy Retrospection from Boleo - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • Rosy Retrospection from Boleo

The recipes for both are below. If you want to make the Rosy Retrospection, all I can say is good luck, and I hope you have a lot of spare time: it has 22 ingredients and nearly as many steps. Also, if you're not planning to serve several hundred people you may want to scale the recipe down a bit.

312 Chicago's Mama I'm Coming Home - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • 312 Chicago's Mama I'm Coming Home

Mama I’m Coming Home (312 Chicago)
2 cups apple cider
1 ½ cups pecan-infused Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whiskey (or regular whiskey)
¾ cup Fonseca Bin 27 Port
¾ cup honey syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
7 cloves
Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let mull for an hour. Double strain the cinnamon sticks and cloves from the hot cider. Pour into an Irish coffee mug and garnish with a soft caramel candy. Makes ten four-ounce portions.

Mony Bunni of Boleo pipes marshmallow cream onto the cocktails - CHRIS HURD
  • Chris Hurd
  • Mony Bunni of Boleo pipes marshmallow cream onto the cocktails
Rosy Retrospection ‘A Milk Punch’ (Boleo)

4 gallons of milk
Cold steep overnight with:
3 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons nutmeg
7 cinnamon sticks, toasted and broken
1 tablespoon cloves

Sweet potato water:
7 sweet potatoes
Roast whole in oven until soft and caramelized, then remove skin.
Cover sweet potatoes with four liters of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Refrigerate overnight. Strain off sweet potato. Set seasoned water aside.

Brew a strong tea of:
50 grams hojicha tea
25 grams caramel pu-erh tea
6 liters hot water
Brew for ten minutes. Strain off tea.
Combine tea water with sweet potato water. Add one liter of honey. Stir to combine.

2250 grams lemon juice
1125 grams orange juice

Other ingredients:
225 grams lactic acid
2250 g Smith + Cross Jamaican Rum
2250 g Lustau Brandy de Jerez
2000 g Cutty Sark Pro
1125 g Neisson Rhum Agricole

Batching and clarifying the punch:
It is important to follow the order of steps to ensure that the milk fats shatter and begin to curdle. It is imperative for clarification.
In a large container combine while whisking slowly:
1. Seasoned milk
2. Lactic acid
3. Lemon juice
4. Orange juice
5. Tea and sweet potato water
6. Spirits
Slowly add whiskey to incorporate.
Let sit for one hour to fully shatter and for the whey proteins to separate. Strain through a fine strainer. Strain a second time through a coffee filter.

Cranberry marshmallow cream
4 quarts heavy whipping cream
1 (10 oz) bag frozen cranberries
1 (10 oz) bag marshmallows
119 grams granulated sugar
20 g gelatin starter, melted

In a container, add three quarts heavy cream and cranberries. Let steep overnight. In a separate container, add marshmallows and one quart of heavy cream. Let steep overnight. Strain off solids.

In a stand mixer:
Combine infused creams, granulated sugar, and gelatin starter. Whip until thickened. Add to pastry bag, and set aside.

Serve punch over ice, top with cranberry marshmallow cream, garnish with a piece of fresh sage.


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Monday, September 12, 2016

Drink in the nostalgia at the Reader’s Cocktail Challenge event on September 15

Posted By on 09.12.16 at 03:31 PM

The Reader's Cocktail Challenge event series returns Thursday, this time with the theme "nostalgia." Based on the ongoing column in which bartenders challenge each other to make a drink with a chosen ingredient, the evening at Salvage One will feature nearly 20 professionals competing to create cocktails that evoke childhood (or another period of life about which they're nostalgic); there'll be drinks inspired by s'mores, Sour Patch Kids, ginger peach lollipops, and Jungle Juice, among others. The competitors include Erin Hayes of Lost Lake, Will Duncan of Moneygun, Melissa Pinkerton of the Betty, and Michael Jones of Sable Kitchen & Bar. (As far as I know, no one will be using Big League Chew, which Michael Tsirtsis of the late Oak + Char was tasked with incorporating into a cocktail back in April.)
Nandini Khaund's spooky cocktails at the Reader's 2015 fall Cocktail Challenge event - KATIE HOVLAND
  • Katie Hovland
  • Nandini Khaund's spooky cocktails at the Reader's 2015 fall Cocktail Challenge event

In addition to tasting all the cocktails, attendees can vote for their favorites; one of the two winners will be determined by an audience vote, while the other will be chosen by a panel of judges. Tickets also include drinks from Schlafly Beer or City Winery and appetizers from Fig Catering. 

Thu 9/15, 7-10 PM (6 PM for early-bird ticket holders), Salvage One, 1840 W. Hubbard, purchase tickets here.

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