3 Top Chicago Mixologists Share Summer Cocktail Recipes
Chicago has no shortage of great watering holes and every neighborhood has its share of corner bars. It’s arguable that these local spots serve as meeting places for neighbors and whether that’s your corner dive or a swank spot serving up handcrafted cocktails, you can make one your own.
We recently spent some time at three of what we think are the best bars in Logan Square, Wicker Park and River North — Billy Sunday, Mott St. and The Drifter, respectively. Each has its own personality, but one thing that stands out among all three people we spoke with for our new video series, @properties Presents: The Local, is how much they love the neighborhood. From the restaurants to the shops to the locals who come by for drinks, they each had a lot to say about their ‘hoods. Each made a signature cocktail they’re excited to shake up this summer and, as a bonus, shared their recipes with us so you can make their creations at home.
LOGAN SQUARE: Billy Sunday
As a longtime resident of Logan Square, Billy Sunday bartender Lee Zaremba has seen the neighborhood change — and for the better, in his opinion. Zaremba, who has been with Billy Sunday since it opened, loves that older places like Lula Café helped anchor the area while new spots like Reno and Analogue continue to bring new energy into the neighborhood.
Zaremba loves working behind the bar at Billy Sunday, not only because he appreciates the history of cocktailing and their approach to making drinks, but also that he gets to meet and befriend many locals who have become regulars. Check out his refreshing rum-based cocktail, Nevada, a perfect drink for summer.
Lee Zaremba’s Nevada
- 2oz Aged Rhum Agricole
- .75oz Tropical Castor Sugar
- .75oz Grapefruit Juice
- .75oz Lime Juice
- 6 dashes Fennel Cocoa Bitters
- Add all ingredients to a shaker.
- Add ice, hard shake for about 20 seconds.
- Strain into large coupe glass and enjoy!
WICKER PARK: Mott St.
When we stopped by Mott St., the second restaurant from the acclaimed team behind West Town’s Ruxbin, partner Nate Chung told us great stories about how this Asian-inspired street food restaurant came to be. They took over a rough corner and brought some much-needed love to the area. Wicker Park has seen sweeping changes over the last decade and the area where Mott St. sits keeps evolving. The neighborhood continues to see new retail, restaurants and cafes inching closer toward the intersection at Ashland-Milwaukee-Division, creating a bridge to Noble Square.
Chung, who oversees the bar program, asked one of his bartenders, Davis Cox, to prepare one of his new creations, The Wright Flyer. The drink, which is a take on two classic gin cocktails — The Aviation and The South Side — has layers of flavors with two base spirits, local Letherbee gin and Chinaco Blanco tequila. With flecks of mint floating atop the drink that also contains lemon juice, you’ll find yourself making (or ordering!)ds a second before you even get to the bottom of the first.
Davis Cox’s The Wright Flyer
- 1 oz. Letherbee Gin
- 0.5 oz. Chinaco Blanco Tequila
- 0.5 oz. Benedictine
- 0.5 oz. Lemon Juice
- Dash of Creme de Violette
- 2 Mint Leaves
- Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
- Shake, strain and serve in a coupe glass.
RIVER NORTH: The Drifter
River North has no shortage of bars. Just walk down Hubbard, Clark or Kinzie streets on any given night and you’ll see people filing into (and pouring out of) places like Paris Club, Moe’s Cantina and Bub City. But when you’re looking for a truly authentic — and historic — drinking experience, you need to head a little farther west. Hidden away beneath the Green Door Tavern, one of Chicago’s oldest bars, is a super cool bar called the Drifter.
Partner Liz Pearce explained that it operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition and we also learned that many of Chicago’s biggest gangsters like Al Capone, Johnny Torrio and Dean O’Banion all hung out there. The place oozes history as many of the bottles, tapestries and signs are all original from almost 100 years ago. Fortunately Pearce makes her delicious, and often beautiful, cocktails with fresh ingredients. For the Red Rum, she pureed red peppers and infused that into El Dorado 3-year rum to create a sweet (but not too sweet) base for the drink, which also includes egg white to give it a nice froth. The best part was watching her add “art” to the froth and top it with a beautiful edible flower.
Liz Pearce’s Red Rum
- 2 oz. red pepper-infused El Dorado 3 Year
- .25 oz. Ruby Port
- .75 oz. pomegranate grenadine
- .75 oz. lime juice
- Pinch salt
- Egg white
- Angostura bitters and edible flower for garnish
- Add all ingredients into a shaker.
- Shake hard over ice and double strain into a coupe.
- Garnish with an edible flower and Angostura bitters.