Bolster your mixology game with pointers from the pros at Z Bar.
With the debut of Z Bar, The Peninsula Chicago’s new tippling spot overlooking the Mag Mile, Chicago's list of must-visit rooftops grows even longer. Evincing a relaxed-but-refined atmosphere in a cool indoor-outdoor space, the buzzy hotspot touts a can’t-miss mixology program helmed by Vlad Novikov, Director of Cocktails and Culture, whose inventive menu boasts original riffs on staples that are ideal for al fresco imbibing. Here, Novikov dishes on his favorite seasonal sips, the mixology trends catching his attention and more.
What are some of your favorite cocktails to make? My two favorite cocktails are a classic daiquiri or a blanc vermouth and soda. In fact, we have variations on both of these on the current Z Bar menu.
The “Sunday Spritz” at Z Bar is a creative twist on a classic blanc vermouth and soda. (Photo: Francis Son)
What is a good, simple cocktail people can make at home? The simplest and most pleasurable go-to I have is a blanc vermouth on the rocks with a small measure of soda, and the peel of a lemon expressed over the top, or a lemon wedge squeezed and dropped into the glass.
Some of my favorites are Yzaguirre and Tempus Fugit Alessio, but my go-to is Dolin blanc—I always have a chilled bottle in my refrigerator with a few bottles of sparkling mineral water in case guests come over.
If you have a cocktail shaker, a classic daiquiri is also simple and delicious:
2 oz. rum—any high-quality brand works; personally, I love Caña Brava Rum and Neisson Rhum Agricole
¾ oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup (this can also be made with cane sugar or demerara sugar)
Cocktails at Z Bar include the Dynasty, made with vodka, raspberry, aperol, lime and ginger (Photo: Jess Paro)
What food and drink pairings are you fond of? I love pairing light and citrusy cold fish dishes, such as tuna tartare and ceviche, with my vermouth and soda or a dry French rosé.
Worldly flavors like this Japanese Ceviche are crafted to pair beautifully with the carefully curated cocktail menu at Z Bar. (Photo: Grant Kessler)
Are there any popular drink trends that you’re noticing? I’ve been very happy and excited to see more fortified wines, such as vermouth and sherry, along with spritzes made with Amari and sparkling wine, on menus. The Sherry Cobbler is an incredibly tasty and refreshing classic cocktail, so it’s exciting to see more of these fortified wines being used. When spending a long day under the sun, using lower proof ingredients like this provides a better overall experience for guests.
Set above Chicago’s iconic Michigan Avenue, Z Bar is the perfect place to experience Chicago’s wonders. (Photo: Neil John Burger)
What can Z Bar visitors look forward to from the mixology program? Our menu is seasonally inspired, so there are lots of very refreshing cocktails, including the Sunday Spritz, The Z, The Ba-Daq Attack, the Dynasty and the New York Smash. We’ll also have a caipirinha and mojito cart on Sundays when guests can enjoy bespoke cocktails muddled to order.
Made-to-order caipirinhas and mojitos will be served tableside on Sundays at Z Bar (Photo: Jess Paro)