The age-old technique of smoking— scotch, that is—is heating up in finer restaurants, bars and lounges around Chicago. For an aroma-infused departure from the usual neat scotch or sweet cocktail, inhale one of these smoke-inspired libations.
CHICAGO FIRE EXTINGUISHER
At Arbella, a hip loft-like lounge serving unique globally inspired cocktails, the Chicago Fire Extinguisher is aptly named and especially fitting for this issue of ChicagoMOD, featuring NBC’s Chicago Fire star Taylor Kinney on the cover.
Head bartender Eric Trousdale says, “The Fire Extinguisher draws inspiration from the seemingly primitive firefighting method of days past and the realization that stone fruit, amaro and hickory smoke play so nicely together.”
Trousdale starts with a cocktail of BenRiach Heart of Speyside, Luxardo Amaro Abano and smoked Angostura bitters, then infuses it with hickory smoke. “Using an un-peated blended scotch is key to this concoction, as what’s normally confused for smoke in scotch is typically peat. Instead, we add the smoky element with actual smoke from our smoke box behind the bar,” says Trousdale. “This is done in part for presentation, but more so to round out and expose the flavors within. the guest lets it sit in the corked bottle, the more pronounced the smoke flavors will be.” Be prepared to sound the alarm!
The longer Michael Fawthrop, beverage manager of Conrad Hotels, created a fun and interactive aroma-driven technique for Baptiste & Bottle, the recently opened restaurant and whiskey bar on the 20th floor of the Conrad Chicago. Fawthrop says he was motivated to add an extra layer of flavor to cocktails. And, in this case, he says, “The smoke transports guests back to the campfire while adding finesse to the presentation and serving.”
“First, we build the cocktail, using Glenfiddich, a bourbon-barreled 14-year scotch, Giffard Apricot du Roussillion liqueur, Punt e Mes vermouth and Angostura bitters. Swirl the cocktail for 25 seconds over ice. Then, we fill a decanter with smoke—using a smoke gun infused with hickory wood and roobios red herbal tea—add the cocktail and swirl the smoke around for a few seconds before serving.”
The Huntsman is available at the bar and also is one of the specialty cocktails on the drink cart satellite bar served tableside. As for the drink’s name, Fawthrop explains, “It is a personification of a character who hunts with a smoking gun, and fitting because the drink has its own bold personality.” Just like a huntsman.
THE POINT TAKEN
Rebar, the chic, sophisticated lounge at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, takes a progressive approach to food and drink. The Point Taken cocktail is a case in point, pardon the pun.
The inspiration behind the cocktail, says Rebar manager Blake Fehlhaber, came from bartender Joshua Williams, who grew up in Michigan with the memory of bonfires around a black walnut tree in his backyard. “We decided to incorporate those elements into a dark spirit cocktail, and once we tasted it, we immediately thought that it would pair nicely with a cigar,” says Fehlhaber. “We added the cinnamon stick to represent the smoking cigar.”
They created the cocktail with a blend of rye bourbon, Punt e Mes vermouth, maraschino liqueur and walnut bitters. For added flavor, a smoking gun with cherry wood is used to smoke the cocktail before serving in a snifter with a smoking cinnamon stick.
The cocktail’s name is based on the ingredient Punt e Mes used in the drink. This Italian vermouth’s meaning translates to “point and a half,” described as one point of sweetness and half a point of bitterness, which sums up the flavor of the cocktail. Hence, the Point Taken. There is also an immediate bonfire aroma that fills the room and intrigues other guests into ordering one for themselves. Count us in.