Lighten Up

The aperitivo stars on Sable's new spring menu

For months, Sable's cocktail menu has opened with a wintry sequence titled "In Which the Drinks Are Hot."

As of yesterday, the hot drinks have been banished, replaced by a spring menu that begins with a celebration of the aperitif.

Mixologist Mike Ryan's vermouth- and amaro-heavy aperitif cocktails ($13) are designed with lower-alcohol refreshment in mind, creating easy drinks that lead smoothly into dinner, rather than down a tipsy trail.

Bright, fresh flavors are the focus, as with the Board of Directors, an herbaceous, vibrant blend of Noilly Prat dry vermouth, green Chartreuse, honey and lemon. The Long Road Home holds a similar vermouth-citrus mix, with a splash of mezcal coaxing it in a smoky direction.

Ryan hopes to encourage an appreciation of vermouth with a new by-the-glass list featuring seven varieties. The annotated menu explains a bit of the drink's culture and history, and offers each either on the rocks or with soda ($8), or with Prosecco, Campari or Aperol ($10).

Vermouth is merely a starting point. Ryan's aim is no less than the Europeanization of American's drinking habits. To that end, he hopes to school drinkers on grappa and eaux de vie, with lively cocktails as a gateway to drinking them straight.

Sable Kitchen & Bar, 505 N. State St.; 312-755-9704 or sablechicago.com