The Lunatic, the Lover & the Poet – A Planned wine bar for 736 W Randolph Street



Hmm. More wine drinking options in the West Loop are always good…

Thomas Powers, a sommelier, former director of Chicago-based KDK Restaurants Inc. (Jerry Kleiner’s defunct company) and the onetime owner of long-closed Harvest on Huron, plans to open a wine bar focused on American vintages on Randolph Street’s restaurant row.

Mr. Powers has signed a lease at 736 W. Randolph St. to open the Lunatic, the Lover & the Poet. It will sit across the street from Haymarket Pub & Brewery and Au Cheval, adding yet another element to the increasingly popular West Loop nightlife scene. Expected opening is late 2014.

Mr. Powers and his business partner, who declined to be named, have raised half of their needed $2 million investment from a group of about 40 individual investors. They have not yet hired a chef but have secured a beverage director, whom Mr. Powers declined to name.

He’s looking for a chef to build out a mostly small-plates menu featuring salumi, cheeses, oysters and a few entrees.

The 6,900-square-foot, two-story former warehouse is raw space. Mr. Powers’ plan is to build out the 1,700-square-foot first floor with 40 to 50 seats, 20 bar seats and 10 seats in a lounge.


(click here to continue reading Former Kleiner associate planning wine bar for Randolph Street – Crain’s dining blog – Crain’s Chicago Business .)

‘Whiskey Crisis’ Looms Over America’s Drinking Culture

Buffalo Trace Bourbon - cocktail with muddled  mint, orange bitters, Bonal Gentiane Quina
Buffalo Trace Bourbon – cocktail with muddled mint, orange bitters, Bonal Gentiane Quina

Just like the craft beer explosion before it, this is boom times for spirits. So many interesting variants available that were not around 20 years ago. But whiskey takes a while to go from still to bottle, and thus the supply of quality whiskey is dwindling. Better stock up, boyos…

The surge of interest in whiskey has been a boon for distillers, but it has also led to a shortage of many brands and varietals that has been dubbed a “whiskey crisis” by the media.

Over the past year, bourbon sales increased 5 percent overall, but premium brands experienced a 20 percent rise in growth, according to the Frankfort, Kentucky.-based Buffalo Trace Distillery. And over the past six years, sales of premium whiskeys costing more than $15 per bottle at wholesale have grown by 97 percent, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. That has led to a series of distilleries reporting that they have been unable to produce enough whiskey to fulfill consumers’ growing desire for the brown liquor.

The increase in demand has driven prices of many premium whiskeys upward, and some have gone through the roof.

Fred Minnick, a Louisville whiskey expert and author of the book “Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey,” says that the whiskey industry is unique because it takes several years to distill good whiskey, and that makes it difficult for companies to keep up with demand spikes.

“The whiskey shortage is very real. The demand is so strong that they can’t meet it. Why is that? The reason is because this whiskey that they’re bottling and putting on the shelves today was conceived at a time when demand wasn’t that high. It was coming off the still in about 2005,” Minnick said. “It’s very difficult for distillers to forecast — in the case of Maker’s Mark, six years out, or Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old, back in 2002 — what the demand will be when it comes out of the barrel. “
A number of other distilleries have made decisions over the past couple of years to raise prices, reduce proofs — water down their product, that is — or remove age labels from bottles in an attempt to make up for the growing appetite for bourbon and other whiskeys.

The whiskey shortage was back in the news again this month, when Buffalo Trace announced that the company has had trouble keeping up with a “recent surge in demand” for its bourbon.

“We’re making more bourbon every day. In fact, we’re distilling more than we have in [the] last 40 years,” Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace’s master distiller, said. “Still, it’s hard to keep up. Although we have more bourbon than last year when we first announced the rolling blackouts, we’re still short and there is no way to predict when supply will catch up with demand.”

(click here to continue reading ‘Whiskey Crisis’ Looms Over America’s Drinking Culture.)

This article used a photo of mine for illustrative purposes, by the way, though for some reason they didn’t choose a photo of Buffalo Trace.

Rowan's Creek Bourbon - Manhattan
Rowan’s Creek Bourbon – Manhattan

Vieux Carré with Armagnac and Few Rye
Vieux Carré with Armagnac and Few Rye

Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey
Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey

So called
So called “Perfect” Manhattan with Bulleit 95 Rye

Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey
Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey

Lion's Pride Organic Rye Whiskey
Lion’s Pride Organic Rye Whiskey

Afternoon reading
Afternoon reading

Templeton Rye
Templeton Rye

Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon
Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon

Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey
Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey

The Scofflaw Cocktail
The Scofflaw Cocktail

Uhh, because it’s national Margarita day? was uploaded to Flickr

As good a reason as any after a busy Saturday…

embiggen by clicking

I took Uhh, because it’s national Margarita day? on February 22, 2014 at 04:14PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on February 22, 2014 at 10:16PM

Rock and Rye

The Good Stuff - Templeton Rye
The Good Stuff – Templeton Rye

I’ve never actually tasted rock and rye, though I’ve heard many, many songs mention it. Charlie Spand, Grateful Dead, Wood Guthrie, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and others come to mind.

Rock and Rye has always been seen as distinctively American—it was one of the few domestic liquors presented at the American pavilion of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. When sociologist Edward Alsworth Ross wrote about immigrants in his 1914 text “The Old World and the New,” the drink was the very symbol of assimilation: “In the Italian home the bottle of ‘rock and rye’ is seen with increasing frequency by the side of the bottle of Chianti.”

As befits a rock-solid piece of Americana, the drink found its way into a succession of popular songs. There was a “Rock and Rye Rag,” a “Rock and Rye Polka,” and barrelhouse piano man Charlie Spand belted out a blues in praise of “Rock and Rye,” marveling that “You got good stuff/ I can’t drink enough.” Blind Lemon Jefferson, in the “Big Night Blues,” hollered “Wild women like their liquor/their gin and their Rock and Rye.”

The most demonstrative ode to the pleasures of Rock and Rye came in the 1948 ditty of that name sung by Tex Ritter: “When there’s worry on your mind, here’s what you should try/Go to bed and rest your head and take some Rock and Rye.” Soon old Tex is slurring the drink’s praises, and in-between giddy hiccups there comes the declarative clank of ice in a glass, followed by the satisfying gurgle of liquor being poured.

But the greatest musical tribute to the sugared whiskey concoction came in 1934 when Earl Hines and his Orchestra recorded a hard-charging dance chart called “Rock and Rye,” penned by arranger Jimmy Mundy. It was the sort of swing anthem that would soon catapult Benny Goodman and his band to fame. That’s because, in 1935, Goodman hired Mundy away from Hines, and the killer-diller Mundy style on display in “Rock and Rye” would distinguish many of Goodman’s biggest hits, including the definitive Swing Era epic, “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

(click here to continue reading How’s Your Drink? Eric Felten on the Rock and Rye –

Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey
Michter’s Original Sour Mash Whiskey

Here’s a recipe, if you are feeling adventurous. Have you ever tried a sip? or to make it? I’m not quite sure what horehound is, but according to Robert Johnson, it might already be on your trail…

Rock and Rye

Adapted from LeNell Smothers

  • 1 bottle rye whiskey 
  • 3-5 tbsp rock candy 
  • 2 slices orange 
  • 2 slices lemon 
  • 2 pieces dried apricot 
  • 1 slice pineapple 
  • 1 tea bag full of dried horehound 

Combine whiskey and sugar in a jar or decanter. All other ingredients optional. 

Allow all—except for horehound tea bag—to steep for a day or two or more. Leave horehound in for no more than two hours. When sugar is finally dissolved, strain and bottle. 

Cough a few times and clutch your chest in distress. Then serve the Rock and Rye on the rocks.

Sazerac Cocktail

Sazerac Cocktail

Sazerac Cocktail

Here’s how I made this.

  1. Ran cold water over a martini glass and put it in the freezer.
  2. Took an ice cube out of the freezer. I use ginormous ice cubes, in general, so they make drinks cold quicker, without diluting the spirits. You might need to use three normal ice cubes instead.
  3. Spoonful of sugar1 placed in tall glass.
  4. Add Peychaud’s Bitters2, and mash with a muddler. Toss in a few ounces of Rye Whiskey, and continue muddling. Add ice cube, and stir vigorously.
  5. Take martini glass out of the freezer, and add a drop of Absinthe to it. Swirl the Absinthe around the glass, and discard the rest.
  6. Decant the whiskey mixture into the martini glass.
  7. Slice a bit of lemon skin, express the juice of it on the edge of the glass, and drop it in the mixture.
  8. Drink, enjoy.

If I made this again, I would serve it in an old fashioned glass with ice – this would help dilute the whiskey a bit more. As it was, the whiskey had a bit of a bite still. Quite delicious, especially if you have a taste for rye whiskey.

  1. I couldn’t find my sugar cubes, so estimated []
  2. about 5 dashes, adjust for taste []

Dog and Duck Pub

The Dog and Duck
The Dog and Duck, London

I saw this place in London, and wondered if it was related to one of my favorite Austin drinking establishments. Apparently so…

Dog and Duck might have opened as a British Pub, but it has evolved into something more. We have 42 beer taps, of various Texas, American, and International Brews. A Kitchen which has recently been voted Austin’s Best Pub Grub, and has everything from fish ‘n’ chips to Falafel, and almost anything else you could want. We even have some food that is healthy.

It would be nice to tell you that Dog and Duck is a long established Austin business that people have been going to for generations, but truthfully, it’s not even old enough to drink. Dog and Duck opened up in May of 1990 in it’s current location, it’s well known tin ceilings, slanted wood floor, and fireplace already there. The Building had been around for a long time, and was a restaurant called Mrs. Robinson’s in the 1970’s. In 1991, Dog and Duck sistered with one of The Dog and Duck pubs in London.

(click here to continue reading Dog and Duck Pub.)

Only took me 2 years to check.

Drinking in Colonial America

Whiskey Helmet - Koval's First Distillery
Whiskey Helmet – Koval’s First Distillery

In response to some complaining about the debauchery of St. Paddy’s Day in Chicago, I tweeted:

Undergraduate history class was a long time ago, so I started looking on the internet for some facts, and found this bit of fun:

Colonial Americans, at least many of them, believed alcohol could cure the sick, strengthen the weak, enliven the aged, and generally make the world a better place. They tippled, toasted, sipped, slurped, quaffed, and guzzled from dawn to dark.

Many started the day with a pick-me-up and ended it with a put-me-down. Between those liquid milestones, they also might enjoy a midmorning whistle wetter, a luncheon libation, an afternoon accompaniment, and a supper snort. If circumstances allowed, they could ease the day with several rounds at a tavern.

Alcohol lubricated such social events as christenings, weddings, funerals, trials, and election-day gatherings, where aspiring candidates tempted voters with free drinks. Craftsmen drank at work, as did hired hands in the fields, shoppers in stores, sailors at sea, and soldiers in camp. Then, as now, college students enjoyed malted beverages, which explains why Harvard had its own brewery. In 1639, when the school did not supply sufficient beer, President Nathaniel Eaton lost his job.

Like students and workers, the Founding Fathers enjoyed a glass or two. John Adams began his days with a draft of hard cider. Thomas Jefferson imported fine libations from France. At one time, Samuel Adams managed his father’s brewery. John Hancock was accused of smuggling wine. Patrick Henry worked as a bartender and, as Virginia’s wartime governor, served home brew to guests.

The age of the cocktail lay far in the future. Colonists, nevertheless, enjoyed alcoholic beverages with such names as Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip. If they indulged too much, then they had dozens of words to describe drunkenness. Benjamin Franklin collected more than 200 such terms, including addled, afflicted, biggy, boozy, busky, buzzey, cherubimical, cracked, and “halfway to Concord.”

(click here to continue reading Drinking in Colonial America: Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip : The Colonial Williamsburg Official History Site.)

Abstraction in Green
Abstraction in Green

Oh, and for the record, the website Paddy Not Patty amused and informed me. You do know that it is correctly called St. Paddy’s Day and never, ever called St. Patty’s Day, right?

Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig, hence those mysterious, emerald double-Ds.

Patty is the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella.

There’s not a sinner in Ireland that would call a Patrick, “Patty”. It’s insulting. It’s really as simple as that.

Paul Carr: My Secret to Getting Sober

Palm Beach Special
Palm Beach Special

I’m self-aware enough to realize I drink more than some, yet I don’t consider myself an alcoholic. There are days when I don’t drink, there are days when I drink one beer with dinner and then stop, but there are also days I drink enough to blur the edges.

Paul Carr writes about his decision to stop drinking without resorting to the pieties of Alcoholics Anonymous:

For years I’d told myself I wasn’t an alcoholic. I never drank alone. I didn’t wake up with fierce cravings, and sometimes I went for one or two days without drinking. A need to drink all day, every day, was never my problem.
My problem was that once I had a drink—whether it was at 7 p.m. or 9 a.m.—I couldn’t stop until my body shut down and I passed out in a pile on the floor. I still had plenty of friends and still managed to hold down a job, but my relationship with alcohol was very obviously different from most people’s. I was an alcoholic.

For one thing, I didn’t go to Alcoholics Anonymous. Not a single meeting. I have several friends who attend AA and have found it to be a highly effective way to quit. I have plenty of other friends who attend AA meetings every morning and are blind drunk every night. I almost attended a meeting at the suggestion of a friend, but first I decided to read the organization’s Twelve Steps, the program that members must follow. The first step was enough to confirm that this form of sobriety wasn’t for me:
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Please. You may be weak against alcohol, or seriously addicted to it, but powerless? No. If a drinker were truly powerless, then AA would be useless to him; nothing short of death could stop him from drinking.

(click here to continue reading My Secret to Getting Sober –

Truth Drug
Truth Drug

and I especially liked this caveat:

Recovery culture has set the bar for being an alcoholic very, very low. I happen to think that alcoholism is in the liver of the beholder. If you can have one or two drinks and then go back to your day, you’re almost certainly not an alcoholic. If you have a couple of beers and then switch to soft drinks, you’re almost certainly not an alcoholic. If none of your friends has ever taken you aside and suggested that your life would be hugely improved by quitting drinking, you’re probably not an alcoholic (unless all your friends are alcoholics, too).

Enjoying alcohol doesn’t make you an alcoholic any more than enjoying sex makes you a nymphomaniac. Getting drunk can be fun. If you can drink without ruining your life, don’t let me—or anyone else—stop you.

The Caipirinha – New Favorite Summer Drink

The Caipirinha is my new favorite summer drink, replacing my old standby, a gin and tonic.

Wikipedia defines it thus:

Caipirinha (Portuguese pronunciation: [kajpiˈɾiɲɐ]) is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça (pronounced [kaˈʃasɐ]) (sugar cane rum), sugar and lime. Cachaça is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage. While both rum and cachaça are made from sugarcane-derived products, most rum is made from molasses. Specifically with cachaça, the alcohol results from the fermentation of sugarcane juice that is afterwards distilled.

I made it for the first time for a small Rapture party, though I’ve had a caipirinha a couple of times at restaurants. A Flickr pal posted instructions on making this drink a few years ago, I loosely followed his instructions. His photos are better, so take a look if you need additional instructions.

I can see why they are such popular cocktails – fairly easy to make, very thirst quenching, and also easy to imbibe. Also easy to slurp down several before you realize it, so be careful. Luckily I have an Irish, green liver, and don’t feel any ill effects this morning.

Finally Bought a Bottle of Cachaça

The Cachaça itself: Velho Barreiro brand, which is briefly barrel aged.1 I bought it at Whole Foods of all places, but any liquor store worth visiting will have several varieties to choose from.

Limes, sliced

I took one lime, washed it, cut off the ends, and quartered it, twice. The juiciest lime will work the best of course, so don’t get those pale excuses for limes that litter produce sections.

Limes, Muddled with sugar

In a big and sturdy enough container, I added two sugar cubes to the lime bits, and muddled2 thoroughly. If I make caipirinhas on a regular basis, I might need a longer muddler, the one I own is a little too short to work well in my martini shaker. I ended up using the above pictured pyrex dish.

Crushed Ice For A Caipirinha

Threw a few ice cubes in the blender, and crushed them up.


Add about 2 oz of  Cachaça to your blend, drop in the glass, stir (I guess you could do all this in your martini shaker too, I was still figuring out proper portions, so used the glass as the final arbiter)

Caipirinha is too quickly gone

Drink! And repeat until you are doing the samba, bossa nova, or even the forró…

Postscript: I tried making a drink sans the sugar cubes, and while it was drinkable, it wasn’t as good. Cachaça is pretty strong, and the limes weren’t potent enough a mixer by themselves. But two sugar cubes3 are 20 calories worth of sugar, not a whole lot.

  1. I’d link to Velho Barreiro’s web site, but it seems to be only Adobe Flash files, with auto-playing music that can’t be turned off. So, no. []
  2. mashed, but with a muddler. I have one made by OXO, but there are other kinds []
  3. or if you get fancy, homemade powdered sugar – don’t use regular powdered sugar because it has additives like cornstarch – instead take some regular pure sugar and grind it up in  coffee grinder or similar []

Drink it before the ice melts

Drink it before the ice melts
Drink it before the ice melts, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

My favorite drinking game.

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Pistil
Flash: Off


If I’m motivated, can drink three drinks with the same ice cubes (i.e., before they melt). Personally, love good whiskey-with-an-E best when the ice has melted maybe 10%. Enough cold water to blend, but not too much to dilute it.

Anyway, I think it’s time for me to pour today’s cocktail, as I’m too tired to work on anything important today.

Reading Around on March 13th through March 15th

A few interesting links collected March 13th through March 15th:

  • Deep Discounts on Maria Pinto, Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic – Frugalista – Photo by swanksalot, used via Creative Commons license.
  • Busy Soccer Scene Despite Looming Strike – LAist – Photo by swanksalot

    Major League Soccer made history this past week, but for all the wrong reasons. Frustrated by the lack of progress towards a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between themselves and the league, MLS players overwhelmingly voted in favor of a strike. Through their vote, players have essentially told MLS that if an agreement is not reached by March 25th, clubs shouldn’t expect to see them in their respective locker room

  • 449 – “Great Party Place, Wisconsin”, or: America’s Beer Belly « Strange Maps

    – This map represents localised references in the Google Maps directory to either grocery stores or bars. Yellow shading indicates that there are more references to grocery stores than bars at that particular location. Red indicates more references to bars.
    Yellow is generally prevalent in most of the US; one can assume that there are more grocery stores than drinking establishments in those areas. But red dots, where bars outnumber grocery stores, are dominant in a few very particular regions:
    The aforementioned party state, Wisconsin. The dotting corresponds quite closely with the Wisconsin state line, turning yellow again where northwestern Wisconsin transforms into Michigan’s northern peninsula.
    North Dakota is also heavily bar-oriented, as are significant parts of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas and – ironically – Iowa.
    Illinois is also a mainly ‘red’ state, with the notable exception of Chicagoland, on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

Reading Around on February 25th through March 1st

A few interesting links collected February 25th through March 1st:

  • Two is better than one

  • Where is The Best Bloody Mary in DC? « brunch and the city – image by swanksalot on Flickr
  • R.J. Cutler: What I Learned From Anna Wintour – Lesson 1: Keep Meetings ShortI work in the film business, where schmoozing is an art form, lunch hour lasts from 12:30 until 3, and every meeting takes an hour whether there’s an hour’s worth of business or not. Not so at Vogue, where meetings are long if they go more than seven minutes and everyone knows to show up on time, prepared and ready to dive in. In Anna’s world, meetings often start a few minutes before they’re scheduled. If you arrive five minutes late, chances are you’ll have missed it entirely. Imagine the hours of time that are saved every day by not wasting so much of it in meetings. It’s not by accident that during the final scene of The September Issue, Anna Wintour is in her office alone, waiting for a meeting to begin, and we hear her voice call out, “Is anyone coming to this run-through except for me?”
  • Haymarket Pub & Brewery Opening this Summer in the West Loop — Grub Street Chicago – Once Extra Virgin, then Bar Louie, now Haymarket Brewery Photo: swanksalot/Flickr

Reading Around on December 1st through December 3rd

A few interesting links collected December 1st through December 3rd: