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Taking Flight

Aviary offers cocktails from a chef's perspective
Photo: Christian Seel

It's a foregone conclusion that Aviary, the Alinea team's new Chicago cocktail concept, will do drinks a bit differently than your neighborhood watering hole when it opens later this month.

Indeed, the place abandons the trappings of a bar, in both ethos and design: In the absence of a physical bar, drinks are fashioned in an open kitchen and delivered to drinkers by waitstaff.

This is fitting, since chefs--not bartenders--are behind the menu: Heading up the project is former Alinea cook Craig Schloetter. To learn the cocktail ropes, he swapped lessons with a bartender from cocktail bar The Violet Hour on his nights off from Alinea. "I'd teach him how to make roast chicken and he'd show me a proper Manhattan," Schloetter says.

His menu features about five classics and a roster of expectedly off-the-wall Aviary creations. For the Two in One, a gin-based White Lady arrives with a small bottle of carbonated Negroni--adding the latter to the former results in a layered, juniper-rich wonder.

Hot chocolate comprises a velvety base spiked with tequila and Fernet-Branca; in lieu of whipped cream, tobacco-smoked foam imparts a smoky muster. We procured the recipe for daredevils looking to try it at home (click to see our slideshow).

Just don't ask for an off-the-menu creation; such requests are only permitted in the invite-only basement area, known as "The Office," which offers an entirely different menu of drinks inspired by pre-Prohibition stylings and early medicinal cocktails--and yes, it has an actual bar.

Aviary, 955 W. Fulton Market, Chicago

  • Aviary's Hot Chocolate

    At Aviary, hot chocolate comprises a velvety base spiked with tequila and Fernet-Branca; in lieu of whipped cream, tobacco-smoked foam imparts a smoky flavor. Click through for instructions to make it at home.

  • Aviary's Hot Chocolate

    Make the foam: Combine 4 cups whole milk, 3½ ounces sugar and a pinch of salt in a small container. Place the dish inside a larger metal container and move it to one side. Split a cigar lengthwise and place it inside the larger container, next to the milk.

  • Aviary's Hot Chocolate

    Using a blowtorch, ignite the cigar.

  • Aviary's Hot Chocolate

    Working quickly, blow out any flames so that the cigar is smoking, and cover the entire pan tightly with two layers of foil. Let sit, covered, for 30 minutes.

  • Aviary's Hot Chocolate

    Make the chocolate base: In a large measuring cup, combine 4 ounces platinum tequila and 1 ounce Fernet-Branca and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups whole milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add 3½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, stirring until completely melted.

  • Aviary's Hot Chocolate

    Measure out 14 ounces of the chocolate mixture and divide between 2 heatproof glasses. Add 2 ounces of the tequila mixture to each glass and stir to combine.

  • Aviary's Hot Chocolate

    Uncover the dish with the smoked milk and discard the cigar ash. Strain the milk into a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to 185°. Using an immersion blender, froth the milk until foamy. Top each drink with some of the foam and serve immediately. (Click here to download the recipe.)

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Aviary 955 W. Fulton Market Chicago IL 60607

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