The Drinks of Summer
Just like every summer needs an anthemic song, there also needs to be a signature drink. What "Crazy in Love" was to 2002, the Negroni slushie at Parson's Chicken & Fish was to 2013. See how that works? These are standout drinks that capture the essence of the season. They must be refreshing, vibrant, and unique. With summer around the corner, here are a few predictions on contenders for this year's drinks of summer 2015.
Right out of the gate, the drink with the most potential to become this year's icon is the boozy mango lassi at the brand new Pub Royale. This new Anglo-Indian pub in the former SmallBar Division space comes courtesy of Heisler Hospitality, the masterminds behind such spots as Sportsman's Club, Revel Room, Trenchermen, and Bar DeVille. With their latest concept, they brought on chef Jason Vaughan to spearhead a menu of British-inspired Indian food. To match, the bar program echoes with some Indian-accented cocktails, a realm largely unexplored in Chicago. The king of said cocktails is the boozy mango lassi, a genius idea that I can't believe hasn't taken off sooner than this, considering the obsession-level refreshment of a well made mango lassi in and of itself. Here, the bar ups the ante on the mango-yogurt libation by adding Bacardi and a generous dusting of paprika for a bit of heat. The drink tastes like a beachy vacation, wholly transportive and deeply enriching. This is what a summertime drink is all about.
Another drool-inducing player in the race for summer supremacy this year is the avocado shake at Bar Takito. The name seems like a bit of a misnomer, though, in that it's not actually an avocado milkshake, but rather a shaken avocado cocktail infused with some seriously novel ingredients. This thing is at once elegant and decadent, made with tequila, aloe vera liqueur, avocado, yogurt, cilantro, and coriander. Again we see yogurt as a cocktail ingredient, suggesting this year may very well be the year of the yogurt cocktail. I don't hate that. In this case, it's a lot less thick and smoothie-like than Pub Royale's lassi. The tequila and floral aloe vera liqueur serve to thin this thing out and add some verdant freshness. The avocado is rather muted, added here primarily for a smooth textural element, as well as lend some green eye candy. A hint of coriander rounds this thing out quite nicely and aromatically.
When it comes to summer refreshments, few drinks capture the guilty pleasure crown quite like a wine cooler. The wine-splashed cocktails, fruity and absurdly sweet, are like juice boxes for adults. But what happens when a bar takes the idea of a wine cooler and runs with it, turning it into something innovative, mature, and wonderful. The new fortified cocktails at The Promontory is what happens. This crafty Hyde Park destination is making their own "house White Zinfandel," by infusing wine into liquor and the results are glorious. Although it looks and tastes like a rosy white Zin, the new drink bursts with berry flavor. It's fun, it's quirky, and it's just what summertime happy hour needs.
- Matt Kirouac