The best drinks we had in 2009
ARRIGO PARK | the Whistler
In this take on a Manhattan, mixologist Paul McGee introduces notes of vanilla (via Italian vermouth) and artichoke (Cynar bitters) into Rittenhouse rye whiskey, then lightens the drink with a round of fresh cucumber. It’s strong, clean, simple and, ultimately, beguiling.
BARCELONA HOT CHOCOLATE | XOCO
Each of Rick Bayless’s bean-to-bar hot chocolates has a complex, intriguing flavor, but only the Barcelona can express that not-too-sweet earthiness and depth while reaching absurd levels of thickness and richness.
BEATEN BLACK SEAL | Simone’s Bar
Go ahead. Make fun of us for sipping a hot toddy. But when winter really kicks in and you’re waiting for your face to thaw while swigging that PBR, we’ll be warm and cozy with this mug of buttery spiced rum.
BEER SAMBATINI | Sushisamba Rio
Beer-based cocktails popped up all over this year, but none was as tasty as this Kirin Ichiban concoction. St-Germain elderflower liqueur and cilantro give it a one-two herbal punch, lime juice and tequila echo the flavors of the food menu, and muddled avocado makes it smooth as silk.
EL REY MARGARITA | Fuego Mexican Grill
Everything about this place screams chain, but there’s nothing mass-produced going into its surprisingly good margaritas. There’s a mind-boggling number to choose from, but we’re partial to this combo of woody, triple-distilled Corralejo reposado tequila, Cointreau and fresh lime juice with a splash of Grand Marnier.
GAGE COCKTAIL | the Gage
Bartender Mark Yanga’s light touch turns the gastropub’s signature cocktail into a delicate balance of elderflower and pear, with just the right amount of sweetness.
GIN AND TONIC | Custom House
Is it a crime to drink anything other than a gin martini at a steak-centric restaurant? Most of the time. But here the tonic is housemade, so it’s purer, cleaner and more botanical than that Schweppes stuff (and with an intriguing orange color, to boot). So in this case, the crime is to drink gin without it.
MOLOKO MILK STOUT | Three Floyds Brewing
Alex and his “droogs” may have been on to something when they requested moloko from the Korova Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange. If it tasted anything like this sweet, malty, chocolatey stout from Three Floyds, we’d have been Korova regulars, too.
RED EYE PORTER | Two Brothers Brewing Company
Want to wake up while getting tipsy? Leave the Sparks to the Juggalo crowd and go for this coffee beer instead. Illinois boys the Ebel brothers add freshly roasted, fair-trade, organic coffee beans to an Imperial Baltic–style porter to deliver a double dose of buzz.
SAKE-LADA | Murasaki
We expected to walk into this hidden Japanese lounge and find an impressive sake list. We did, but, happily, we also found a clever bartender who concocted this tropical, refreshing cocktail built around coconut- and lemongrass-infused sake, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon juice and a splash of tonic.
SIDECAR | Tiny Lounge
The difference between Tiny Lounge’s version of the sidecar and almost every other bar’s? The bartenders at Tiny take the time to get it right.
SOFIE | Goose Island
If your beer-geek friends turn up their noses at mid-size domestic breweries like Goose Island, pour them this incredibly good saison and make up some story about how it’s from a tiny farmhouse in Belgium that rests the beer in oak barrels with organic orange peel. The story is partially true (save that Belgian farmhouse bit), and if you ditch the bottle no one will be the wiser.