There’s a time and a place for cocktail classics, but it’s not here and now in Chicago. Bartenders across the city are pushing boundaries with drinks that successfully employ ingredients ranging from the relatively uncommon to outlandish and borderline questionable. Here’s the scoop on some out-of-the-box concoctions and where to try them...
Make a beeline to this airy rooftop watering hole for the Reanimator, an activated charcoal-infused mocktail. Charcoal is regarded as one of the world’s oldest detox remedies, and as Spirit Guide Nandini Khaund has figured out, it mixes well with blueberry, ginger, demerara, and lime. If you’re in need of a little hair of the dog, order the dark drink spiked with Avua Prata Cachaca. 12 S. Michigan Ave., 312-792-3502
Forget traditional flip cocktails—at this progressive steakhouse, smooth, velvety bone marrow orgeat takes the S&S Flip from tame to anything but. The ingredient elicits a serious shock factor, but is actually quite nuanced in function: it provides a subtle richness that’s rounded out with Brugal rum, dry Curacao, egg white, and lemon for a dose of acidity. 1000 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-9420
Head bartender Julia Momose has a penchant for effortlessly weaving an array of lesser-known ingredients into her cocktail program, and her creative, Japanese whiskey-based Cullerton Street is no exception. The concoction showcases curry, Pineau des Charentes, barley, Verjus Blanc, and the brine of fukujinzuke (pickled Japanese vegetables), which is misted over the drink right before serving. 259 E. Erie, 18th Fl., 312-337-0101
It’s not uncommon to find a Bloody Mary that packs a flavorful punch, but this French gem goes several steps beyond the usual-suspect ingredients with house-made giardiniera and fresh horseradish for a heat factor, pickled ramps for sweetness, and a splash of soy sauce for a hit of umami. The drink is finished with black pepper and lardon vodka, house Bloody Mary mix, and a no-fuss pickled onion and cornichon garnish, and pairs well with hearty brunch dishes like pain perdu and oeuf a la Florentine. 1935 N. Lincoln Park W., 872-829-3971
The fresh, juice-based cocktail lineup at this River North mainstay is nothing short of enticing, but when it comes to ingredients, no cocktail is more interesting than the Goji Berry Blossom made with Tito’s vodka, St. Germain, fresh lemon, and lemonade imbued with goji berry blossom. 519 N. Clark St., 312-284-1377
Celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s latest venture goes the sweet-meets-savory route with a mushroom-infused George Dickel No. 8 whiskey stunner blended with Shaoxing rice wine, brown sugar, and Bolivian cola bitters. The depth of flavor rivals any of the expertly executed Chinese-inspired dishes on the menu. 857 W. Fulton Market, 312-902-3825