Drinks as American as apple pie

July 1, 2011 (CHICAGO)

What began as a refresher after a round of golf, has evolved into one of America's best-loved drinks. The Arnold Palmer is as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie-- and requires no alcohol. At Sepia, in the West Loop, the drink is prepared as lovingly and meticulously as are the standard cocktails.

"Most bartenders are big supporters of abstaining. We think it's a very important part of our industry to provide non-alcoholic cocktails that are as well balanced and as good as an alcoholic cocktail."

With ice in the glass, Pearson adds simple syrup - that's equal parts sugar and water - then freshly-squeezed lemon juice; a bit of water for balance.. then some freshly-brewed tea.

"You I know I think it's such a huge component of the drink you definitely need the quality tea and we use a really nice earl grey so it has the bergamot orange in there that gives it that nice aromatic quality," said Joshua Pearson, the bartender at Sepia.

A couple of lemon wedges for garnish, and you've got a perfect summertime drink.

"You want sweet, sour, acid, lemon and tea. Above all you want tea in there as well," said Pearson.

In Ukrainian Village, Bar Deville may have a slacker/hipster vibe, but it also has one of the most ambitious cocktail programs in the city. And any discussion of American cocktails must begin with the sazerac.

"Sazerac is essentially an old fashioned variation originated in the early 1800's in New Orleans by a gentleman named Antoine Peychaud.

"The first definition of the word cocktail was spirits of any kind. Sugar, water, bitters and that's essentially what this cocktail is," said Brad Bolt, the owner of Bar DeVille.

Bolt first fills a glass with ice and Herbsaint - an anise-flavored liquor. In another glass, he pours in a few drops of Peychauds bitters.

"They are what we like to call the "salt and pepper" of cocktails. Aromatic bitters are not necessarily bitter....the Peychaud's really nice, a lot of anise," he said.

He then adds some demerara syrup for sweetness.

"Makes for a really nice, rich, flavorful syrup as opposed to using say, simple syrup which is just typical granulated sugar and water," said Bolt.

Then, instead of using cognac - like they did in the 1800s - he uses Templeton rye and a bunch of ice to chill it all down. Bolt stirs vigorously. The Herbsaint and ice are dumped out of the smaller glass, leaving behind just a trace of the spirit; he then strains the drink into the Herbsaint-lined rocks glass, and for a final flourish, twists a lemon rind to release some of its oils onto the top of the cocktail. Bolt says even though French cognac was used in the orginal version, local bourbon and rye allowed America to adapt, and thus, adopt this original creation.

"Rye was kind of the obvious choice," he said.

Even if you're not a fan of rye or whiskey, believe me, brad bolt can easily whip up something else that you'll enjoy.

123 N. Jefferson St.

Bar Deville
701 N. Damen Ave.

Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.