With a return to pre-prohibition era speakeasys in New York, San Francisco, and more recently, Chicago, the emphasis lately has been on handcrafted cocktails, made with great care, using the finest ingredients. So it's only natural that two new businesses here focus on stocking your bar, teaching you how to make a proper drink, even cocktail catering.
It's a weeknight in a Wicker Park studio, and Tim Williams is teaching class. The former bartender at Province now runs the Pour Souls Mixology company, and he's already in the midst of a busy season, teaching aspiring cocktail enthusiasts some of the finer points.
"And really have a takeaway so that when you're at home, you're having friends over, you can put together some nice cocktails for them. It's not always just beer and wine," said Williams.
Williams also does cocktail catering - a new category for Chicago's entertaining scene, which takes the bar to a new level.
"Cater your event, and talk to someone about what you're gonna want, what you're guests are gonna want, flavor profiles that you're comfortable with. Culinary isn't just the kitchen anymore. It's a full scope of things people are tasting and enjoying," he said.
On the second floor of a River North flower shop, Revae Schneider is also a new entrepreneur. Her business, Femme Du Coupe, covers everything from bar setup, to cocktail consultant.
"Having done personal shopping before, and then shopping for the bar, which not everybody knows about, just makes perfect sense," said Schneider.
Her classes cover much more than just drink recipes. Schneider really focuses on every element: starting with the right tools, then choosing a base spirit, using freshly-squeezed juices, homemade simple syrup and of course, choosing the proper bitters.
"I really want people to understand why they're going into a cocktail and that bitters are like salt to a chef. I've done corporate team building, I've done different in-home events, and then large scale events such as weddings...designing cocktails for all of that," she said.
The classes are obviously meant to be fun, although you might want to have someone else drive home. Schneider says it took a few decades, but the time for a cocktail renaissance has finally arrived.
"We're kind of recovering what prohibition took away from us and people are really getting interested again in a well-crafted drink versus something that somebody just slapped in front of them," she said.
Classes cost between $30 and $40 per person, which usually includes three cocktails.
Femme Du Coupe
715 N. Franklin St.
Recipes courtesy Revae Schneider at Femme du Coupe:
1.5 Bacardi Superior
1.5 Pumpkin syrup
2 dash Regans orange bitters
1 dash Angostura
Pour Bacardi Superior, Pumpkin syrup, fresh squeezed lemon, Benedictine, and bitters into an empty pint glass. Add ice to metal side of the shaker about halfway full. Pour mixture onto ice, shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into the glass.
Star of Bombay
1.5 Bombay Sapphire
1.0 Saffron Vanilla Syrup
.5 Domaine de Canton
1 dropper Bittercube Cherry Bar
Pour Bombay Sapphire, Saffron Vanilla Syrup, fresh squeezed lemon, and Domaine de Canton into an empty pint glass. Add ice to metal side of the shaker about halfway full. Pour mixture onto ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Stir in Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters with a straw and strain cocktail into a glass.
1.5 Grey Goose
1.0 Plum Cinnamon Syrup
.75 Thatcher's Blood Orange
1 dropper Angostura
Pour Grey Goose Vodka, Plum Cinnamon syrup, fresh squeezed lemon, Thatcher's Blood Orange Liqueur, and Angostura bitters into an empty pint glass. Add ice to metal side of the shaker about halfway full. Pour mixture onto ice, shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into the glass.