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Drink Fri Oct 25 2013

Deconstructing Fall's Best Cocktails: Billy Sunday Edition

Chicago's top mixologists show you how to make their favorite fall drinks

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Food writing takes some hard-hitting journalistic research, and there's no assignment I'd dive into with more gusto than reviewing Chicago's best fall cocktails. Now, I love my fancy cocktails, but I'm also sensitive to pretension when it comes to my drinks. And as I've noted before, just because it's fall doesn't mean everything needs to taste like pumpkin pie.

Lucky for me, Billy Sunday gets it just right--they obviously put a lot of craft into their craft cocktails, but drinks are served playfully in such a laid back, charming spot that you can concentrate on happily drinking your drink instead of dissecting what's in it. That said, for the sake of journalism, head bartender Alex Bachman dissected two of his signature fall cocktails and gave us a glimpse of the labor and precision that goes into each glass.

Full.jpgThe Box Lunch is what I'd describe as "booze horchata"-- creamy, spiced, and lightly sweet, but worlds apart from the kind you'd drink out of a Styrofoam cup with a burrito. Bachmann starts by steeping tangy goat's milk with oats to draw out the starchy flavors, then straining it and adding spices and brown sugar to create something akin to cereal milk. He adds Genepy, a relative of green chartreuse, and a dash of sherry and shakes it all with ice into a frosted mini milk jug.

It goes down just like a glass of ice cold milk, albeit a strangely delicious and boozy one with just the right hints of sugar and spice. At the first sip, I imagined taking a pint of this to bed with a big brownie and watching a John Hughes movie in my pajamas. Go ahead, call me crazy, but have this drink yourself and then tell me that's not exactly what you'd do, too.

_DSC1170.jpgBefore you get too drowsy and satisfied with milk-based cocktails, Alex will make you a tart, stiff Know Your Magi. The base of this drink is cognac and Cappelleti--an Italian aperitif in the Campari family. But what makes the drink special is a homemade infusion of honey, almonds, and myrrh (that's right, as in frankincense and myrrh, Three Kings-style) that adds a concentrated nutty, sweet, pine flavor. These are shaken with lemon juice for acidity and an egg white to give the drink a little texture. Finally, homemade apple bitters give an extra fall kick that isnt' too sweet.

Oh, did you think we were done? For the final kicker, Bachman sticks a macerated raisin on the end of a dried pine needle, creating an Etsy-worthy seasonal stirrer. This little touch left me wondering, why don't I use more pine needles in my drinks? What have I been doing all these years? And for that matter, why haven't I been using myrrh in everything, or drinking oat-goat-milk daily?

Before you get too down on yourself, too, you can try making both these recipes at home. And if your version of home mixology doesn't go beyond a bottle opener, you can get these made expertly for you at Billy Sunday.

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The Box Lunch:

3 oz Goats Milk (seasoned with oats, mace, vanilla and cinnamon)
1 oz Genepy
.5 oz Palo Cortado Sherry

Add all items to tin and ice and stir for 10-15 seconds. Single strain into milk jug or glass.


Know Your Magi:

1 egg white
1 oz cognac
.75 oz Cappelletti
.75 oz Almond and Myrrh honey
.75 oz Lemon Juice
cider bitters

Add all items to shaker, except cider bitters, and dry shake for 10 seconds. Add ice and shake again for 10 seconds. Single strain into glass and top with cider bitters.

Photo credits to Brad Snyder

 
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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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