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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, November 27

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Event Tue Mar 13 2012

Club Lucky Wins Mixology Bragging Rights and Why I Love Wicker Park

I was happy I had stuck out trying to find a parking spot on Milwaukee Avenue at 6:30 on a Thursday night as I opened the door to the Jackson Junge Gallery for the Wicker Park Mixologist Mash Up event, a mixology contest hosted by the Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce. The scene was hip and I was met with DJ beats and stylishly dressed people bumping elbows with cute little solo sized cups of cocktails that made a Thursday night Chamber of Commerce event look like a Saturday soiree. If this is what all art gallery and Chamber of Commerce events were like, I thought, I needed to go to more.

Participating bars Pint, The Boundary, Wicker Park Tavern, Subterranean, and Club Lucky were already busy deucing it out to top drink. I checked in, got my voting ticket, and immediately headed towards the food. In past experiences, vodka mixed with sugar on an empty stomach never quite went down right.

Rick Ortiz from Antique Taco, a unique new taco/cocktail/antique store slated to open in May across the street from the gallery was serving up a kale, cranberry and queso fresco taco salad as well as fish tacos with a sriracha tarter sauce and braised red cabbage. The food was simple yet good and the concept and attention to detail (little matchsticks labeled Fish on my taco, how cute) and use of kale makes me feel that this won't be your typical taco joint. Judging by the attention to details, they got their hands on a good designer as well. I'm curious to see what this storefront with look like.

I decided to go in typical grade school fashion with Pint, the first one in line. Amanda Yos was busy muddling away on "The Wicker Press"-- Rebel Dragonfruit Vodka, muddled strawberries and blueberries, sour mix, soda, and a Sprite floater. It was refreshing, easy to drink, and I appreciated the muddling. Next in line - The Bounday where Jennifer, "Sarge" Seargent was mixing up the "Triple D" - Rebel Dragonfruit vodka, (if you didn't already catch it, Rebel sponsored the event) peach schnapps, a zesty simple syrup (which I learned later was made zesty by infusing nutmeg and ginger - genius) and a champagne floater. I immediately liked it just for the kick it gave with the champagne giving it a nice effervescent finish. And the fact that she infused simple syrup with nutmeg and ginger moved this one to the top of my list. On to Wicker Park Tavern.

Hilary Jursa was mixing up "Rosemary's Baby" - vodka, muddled pineapple and tangerine, St. Germain, soda, and a rosemary simple syrup. Another cleverly crafted simple syrup coming out of bars I didn't really deem as impressive. It was refreshing, just sweet enough to not make the crossover into the sweet fruity drink category, and it had St. Germain in it - which I know is so 2010 - but still, Wicker Park Tavern won my respect for that one. At this point, being the only person towing around my little notebook taking notes (I take my journalism seriously, yo') I got approached by someone whom I would later learn wrote for the Tribune. "Are you a writer or are you just taking copious notes for voting?" When you're the only person carrying around a drink in hand with a notepad and pen in the other, you look like that girl. I breathed a sigh of relief, "I know right?" We swapped stories and then I moved onto Subterranean where Kate Zara was shaking up a martini sample of "4 Rebels in Paradise" - Vodka, hibiscus tea, vanilla simple syrup and lemon juice. I wanted to like this one because of the hibiscus tea and maybe I would've in a martini glass but after two sips and feeling like I had just downed my first tablespoon of cough syrup I had to move along. I just wasn't rebel enough I guess.

Last but not least, I made my way to the busy scene at Club Lucky where Lori Haarman was making the "Six Corner Fizz". The mixology science lab madness going on with some sort of make your own hand art display was a show in itself. I'd list all the ingredients but there were 12 so let's just say it was a vodka meets prosecco meets egg white meets crème de violet pearls kind of drink. The flyer that they were distributing along with it defined it as "allegorically representing the WPB history by utilizing products that connect the Polish and Hispanic cultures that call Wicker Park home". Deep. This was going to be interesting. After watching the detail put into making my perfect mini-solo cup version of vodka goodness and the academic thesis behind it I had high expectations. It was fizzy, slightly sweet, slightly refreshing but also slightly bitter. I found myself saying it was missing something but it had 12 ingredients in it! I kept going in for the next sip thinking, maybe it will develop like a glass of wine but in the end I found myself chewing on the "pearls". "I'm not sure how I feel about chewing my drink," I said to someone watching me fish out pieces of leftover from my drink. She looked intrigued yet confused. The vodka was kicking in I guess. I narrowed my choices down to The Boundary and Wicker Park Tavern and went in for seconds to confirm my vote.

At this point I ran into the same girl again to compare notes and as it is in Chicago, learned that I knew her friends from a former life. (This would later turn into a nightcap and Lamb flatbread at Bangers and Lace and a debate around the movie Shame, one-night stands, and bartender snobbery. Wicker Park, I love you). In the end I cast my vote for Wicker Park Tavern's Rosemary's Baby, but Club Lucky took the mixology prize and the Six Corner Fizz grabbed the title for the drink of Wicker Park. Sometimes I guess presentation takes the cake.


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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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