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
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