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Wednesday, November 13

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Event Thu Oct 10 2013

Fall was in the Air @ The Reader's Cocktail Challenge

rsz_1rsz_1cocktail_challenge.jpgI attended last Friday's (Oct. 4) Reader Cocktail Challenge, which was a genius idea for a drink event if there ever was one. For only $40, this was the opportunity to see and taste the imaginings of 20 of Chicago's outstanding mixologists. Restaurants and bars represented ranged from Mindy's Hot Chocolate to RM Champagne Salon to The Bristol.

Echoing The Reader's "Cocktail Challenge" column, participating mixologists were tasked with creating a fall drink, with a winner selected by judges Mike Sula of The Reader, cocktail consultant Todd Appel, and Catherine De Orio, the new host of "Check, Please!" (Spoiler: Jessica Tessendorf of The Barrelhouse Flat won for her sherry/aromatized wines cocktail, Spousal Privilege).


I made it out of theWit Hotel (201 N. State) without tripping all over myself largely because I finished only a handful of the 2-ounce drinks, though I sampled all of them. I deliberately didn't grab any of the complimentary Virtue Cider or the red and white wines by City Winery though I was so, so tempted. But I was either keeping to cocktails or barfing on the train on the way home. I chose the former. Turns out, there wasn't much time for cider or wine anyway. It took almost the whole two-and-a-half hours of the event to get to all twenty mixologists, a feat I managed because my dear, patient friend kept us focused and moving more-or-less in order. Otherwise, I would have quickly lost patience at the site of those occasional traffic jams (Three Dots and a Dash was a major culprit) and skipped around and missed a few.

Fall was on display everywhere: apple, pear, fig, spice. And whiskey, lots of whiskey between tables of rum or tequila-based drinks. I was delighted to discover The Dawson's Annemarie Sagoi's Death's Door gin and apple brandy cocktail Carillon Cup. It looked like lemonade, and the lightness of the drink in its weight and intensity on the palate, plus the sage, was a refreshing relief. It struck me more as a sunny day in the orchard rather than the cool, wet hike of the heavier and warming burnt orange and brown whiskey-based cocktails.

All in all, there were only a few cocktails I didn't care for, others that I enjoyed the taste of but can't see myself ordering, and a select group I definitely want to try again.

Highlights:

Tip of the Cap by Reid Caraher of Red Door with Nolet's Dry Gin-- with shaved apple, this was the most aromatic and refreshing and much needed after all that whiskey

For Cane and Country by Mike Ryan of Sable with Cana Brava Rum-- the additions of cashews and pumpkin made this one a weird surprise I'd serve at a party for how smooth and easy-drinking it was

The Nutty Mangover by Tony Potempa of American Junkie with Ciroc Coconut-- light and indeed nutty, this felt like a cool day on a beach

American Matidor by Nahm Kim of Sunda with whiskey-- an inventive use of truffle oil made this cocktail the most savory and earthy of the bunch

The Quincessential by Karl Fernandez of Old Town Pour House with Buleitt whiskey-- with cinnamon and nutmeg, this cocktail was the most elegant pairing of "fall" ingredients.

 
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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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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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