The Chicago Reader’s Cocktail Challenge probably stands as my favorite on-going series in the Chicago booze world. A bartender that recently completed the challenge picks an almost certainly bizarre ingredient, and then challenges another bartender in the city to whip up something imbibe-able. Recipes get included too, so adventurous at-home bartenders can play a long. I almost want a new bartending gig just to convince some friend who gets called for this to tag me in the challenge.
Jill Anderson of The Drifter (my favorite bar underneath another bar) challenged Sarah Syman of Otto Mezzo with kimchi! Nevermind the irony of a bartender from an italian-centric cocktail joint having to bring Korean flavors to the table, kimchi’s pungent chile and garlic meets pickled cabbage and radish kick seems at home on sandwiches and in bowls of rice. Balancing that for a cocktail pushes things into one of the more frontier areas of cocktail development – savory and umami-focused cocktails. Check out Sarah’s video and the cocktail piece here: https://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2017/08/18/drink-your-vegetables-with-this-kimchi-cocktail
Also be sure to visit both spots! The Drifter’s array of cocktail choices changes daily, with the menu presented to guests in the form of Tarot cards (think speakeasy meets occult basement meet-up). Otto Mezzo is a late-night italian cocktail bar with a beautiful art-deco aesthetic and deep menu of italian spirits and cocktails, italian wine, and probably the most unique Italian beer list in Chicago.