Know your bartender: Thomas Mooneyham at The Gage
Six questions for the lead bartender at the Gage, who just wants you to have a good time at his bar.
The Gage may be a 300-seat restaurant across from Millennium Park, but the restaurant doesn't shy away from offering thoughtful, nuanced cuisine for the masses. The same thought goes into the drinks—while the Gage is known for its whiskey list and flights, the bar also has an outstanding cocktail and beer program.
"We are increasingly being known as a place where you can get a solid cocktail, chat about an obscure liquor or enjoy a rare whiskey," explains Gage lead bartender Thomas Mooneyham. "I want you to feel comfortable, whether you're ordering a shot and a beer or a cocktail. I just want you to have a good time."
We sat down with Mooneyham recently to ask him about his cocktail making style and sample his fall cocktail menu.
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What is your approach to cocktails?
Respect the classics. Know them. It's quite hard to reinvent the wheel. While you may be using some rare liqueur, over-the-top garnish or house-made soda water, you are probably basing that drink off of a classic build. Think outside the box, utilize the awesome community Chicago bartenders have, and have fun.
What's your cocktail making style in 3 words?
Classic gets weird.
What is the most important skill a bartender should have?
Humility. Bartenders are currently earning and demanding more respect than in years past. The whole "mixology" phenomenon took off, and some people have begun to idolize their favorite bartenders. While it's a fun thing to be a part of, you are still polishing glasses at the end of the night after an 11-hour shift.
What's a drink you made that didn't catch on?
This one was a lesson in humility. The drink was called Greeley's Feast, and it was made of Laird's Applejack, Luxardo Amaro, Punt e Mes Italian vermouth and chocolate bitters with a splash of soda. It tasted like chocolate Coke and I was stoked. We sold maybe 4.
What’s a drink on your menu that people should try now?
The Wreck Of The Eastland. This is a really fun, super seasonal drink that is a perfect amount of spicy, sour and sweet. It’s a combination of Domaine DuPont Calvados, Averna Amaro, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram and lemon juice. It tastes like fall.
Complete this sentence. Malort is...
for the strong.