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Sean visits a historic Chicago bar, and one on the cutting edge of modern mixology, to uncover interesting drinks made with unique Chicago ingredients.

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Transcript

- I'm Shawn Thomas and this is Local Flight, a show where I travel around to some of the best bars in the country to meet amazing mixologists and challenge them to create innovative cocktails using unique local ingredients. I'm in Chicago, a city known for its incredible street food and an impressive list of top bars and restaurants. There are over 200 neighborhoods here with so many diverse offerings. Today I'm headed to Dusek's, a bar and restaurant located in historic Thalia Hall. There, I'll be meeting bartender Will Duncan. I'm Shawn. - Nice to meet you Shawn, welcome. - Nice to meet you. So word on these Chicago streets is you guys are doing some pretty interesting things here at this bar. - Dusek's Board and Beer is a beer focused restaurant, so our cocktails are beer inspired, we like to say. - Oh, wow. - Yeah, so many of them contain beer, if they don't contain beer they're made with, brewing materials, beer making products. - I'd love to try an example of what you're talking about. - Why don't I show you something? - [Shawn] Great! - We're gonna start with our Malted Grapefruit Cobbler. - Sounds great. - [Will] Yeah. - What's a cobbler? - A cobbler is a clasic drink from the late 1800s, right around the time this building was built, actually. They're all based on fortified wines. We're using Italian sweet vermouth in this one. - All right, great. - An ounce and a half. - Perfect. - We're gonna combine that with a little bit of fresh-squeezed and fine-strained grapefruit juice, ounce and a half as well. And here's our sort of beer reference. We use a malt syrup. It's based on barley malt and nice and sweet. - [Shawn] Wow, I'd love to try a little bit of that. How do you make the barley into syrup? - We actually start by bringing in an extract product that's common in the baking world, water it a bit, and then make drinks with it. - Mm, it has the mouthfeel of like a molasses, like a heavy molasses. - Absolutely, yeah. And the grains are really present, right? It smells a little bit like breakfast cereal or beer. - It does, it does. - We're gonna finish this off with a little bit of Chicago darling, Malort liqueur. I'm gonna put a half ounce. - Great. So Malort is in its own category as far as a spirit goes? - Exactly, it's a wormwood liqueur. The word Malort is Swedish for wormwood. - So, like an absinthe in a way. - Indeed, but a good bit more bitter. - Okay. - And then with this drink I dry shake it, 'cause it's gonna be built on crushed ice. Simply pour that shaken cobbler right over the crushed ice like this. - [Shawn] Looks amazing. - And then we're gonna garnish it with fruit and mint, got grapefruit and cherries there. Smack that mint just a little bit. - [Shawn] It's been a very bad mint. - And then like to snake a skinny straw right in by the mint so that the customer kinda has to sniff it when they go in. - I love that. - So this is the Malted Grapefruit Cobbler here at Dusek's, please enjoy. - [Shawn] Thank you very much. - Yeah, my pleasure. - [Shawn] Well done. - [Will] All right, thank you. - Really bright upfront grapefruit juice flavor. I get the Malort just as a highlight. That's a delicious cocktail my friend. - Thank you. - Now, who is John Dusek? - This property, Thalia Hall, where Dusek's is located was built by a bohemian immigrant named John Dusek at the turn of the century. The building was completed in 1892. Where we're standing now is where he operated his family tavern. - It's obvious that you guys pay homage to the local history here. Do you guys work with local ingredients as well? - Oh, as much as possible. We get a lot of inspiration from what the local farmers are offering this time of year. Our chef is always bringing in some produce I never seen before that's only available this time of year. I try to keep up with them and play with those ingredients myself at the bar, ya know? - Is there someone that I could talk to about what they're doing with local ingredients in the kitchen? - You better talk to Chef Hillary, she'll take care of ya. - All right, fantastic, I'll be back. I found Chef Hillary at the restaurant's open-flame brick ovens, where she was in the process of cooking up some of their local specialties. Hi, I'm Shawn. - Hi Shawn, I'm Hillary, nice to meet you. - Hillary, nice to meet you. This is great, what is this? - It's a BrickWood oven, we use oak wood, which is a super neutral wood, it just burns a really, really long time. It's a super intense ambient heat, which not a lot a of places get to work with. Here, I get this opportunity to reach things at like 800 degrees. - Wow. - Charring things is really, really fun. I think people are really afraid to char things. They're afraid to see black on their food, it's delicious. - Sure. - [Hillary] Especially when it's done correctly. - I agree, and you're working with like local farms? - Absolutely, we get the Tropeas from Nichols Farms, which is in Illinois. Tropeas are little red onions, they're originally from Italy. They're, like super duper sweet. Charring, it's a really, really good way to play up the sugars in the onions. The outside skins are pink, but they typically fly off. They're really, really tasty, so I just make sure everything gets on the plate. - [Shawn] Are they on sweeter side or? - [Hillary] Mmhmm, that's why you can make cocktails and stuff out of 'em, do infusions, they have a really, really high sugar content. - [Shawn] That's great. - [Hillary] So this is the English Pea Risotto, it's basically a creamed risotto with an English pea puree with a mixture of Tropea onions, patty pan squashes, and some D'Amico mushrooms. - [Shawn] That looks amazing, thank you so much. - [Hillary] Please enjoy. - Gotta get the perfect bite. It's delicious, the onions are really sweet. It has more sweetness than it does savory. I mean, it's simple for sure, but the ingredients that you're using, and the way you built the dish, is pretty complex. To do simple really well, is not easy. - [Hillary] You're not kiddin', brother. - All right, I'm gonna head back to Will, but before I do, is there any other something that I can bring back to him, just to keep him on his toes? - Yeah. - I feel like besides the Tropea onions, what else can I bring him back? - Let's get him. So, we'll get him with some roasted Clue Farm asparagus, some baby zucchini agrodolce, and some pickled garlic scapes. Let's see what he does with these things. - Great. - Best of luck. - Thanks. - Hillary's risotto gave me a good understanding of the flavor profile of Tropea onions and I was excited to see how they came together in Will's infusion. All right Mr. Duncan, I got some ingredients here and I honestly have no idea what you're gonna do with these guys, but voila! - This definitely came from Chef Hillary. Looks like we're goin' down a savory path. - Savory, okay, sure. - Why don't we make a punch. Oh, you know, actually I've been doin' some savory vodka infusions. - Wow. - I've got charred Tropea onion infused vodka that's I been working on, might make a good base spirit for it. Take a little bit of vodka, rest the charred Tropea onions with the vodka for three days. - Wow. - And it picks up all this color from the char and all this aroma. Every punch we make, we start with, what's called an oleo saccharum. Oleo saccharum is Latin for oily sugar, that is kinda the base for must punch recipes. - Well, I know punch is actually a bastardization of the Hindu word , meaning five. - That's correct, yeah. - I believe it's spirit, sugar, water, lemon, tea or spices. - Nailed it, you've been doing your research bud. - Tink, yeah. - Yeah those five flavors are balanced in every batch of punch, and it's our goal with all of the punches that we serve, to balance those five flavors in kind of a harmonious way. - [Shawn] Sure. - I'm gonna combine these peels here with a little bit of sugar, give it a little bit of a stir and a pound. It's gonna wanna pull these essential oils right outta the lemon peels. This might be a good time to introduce some spice elements. I've got some chili flake and a little bit a celery salt and some horseradish here. - [Shawn] That's a spicy punch. - Normally, you know, this process, I would let it rest for an hour and come back and muddle it every now and again, but what we wanna do to kinda melt the saccharum into the punch base, I got two cups of pipin' hot water in this big boot. I'm gonna strain this mixture, so we can separate the peels and the spices. - [Shawn] I'm just gonna hold this so I feel like I'm helping you. - You are, thank you so much. - [Shawn] You're very welcome. - And set that aside. We're ready to go ahead and assemble the rest of the punch. I have that Tropea onion infused Grey Goose right here. - [Shawn] Wow. - Eight ounces of fresh-squeezed and fine-strained lemon juice. Balance that sweetness, brighten it up. This is a pureed and strained San Marzano tomatoes. - [Shawn] It's starting to resemble a bit of a bloody Mary of sorts. - It is, isn't it, yeah? Let's spice it up just a little further. I've got a little bit of Chef's house-made hot sauce. Little sour note and quite spicy. So, get all that combined. We're gonna weaken it just a little bit more. So, I've got a couple of cups of ice cold water here. Just a little bit of ice to chill it down. Give it a good stir. - [Shawn] Uh huh. - That's gonna be pretty nice. - [Shawn] Oh. - [Will] And I'm thinkin' that those vegetables that you brought over from Chef would be perfect varnish. We're gonna pop that right on the side there, lookin' pretty, look at that - [Shawn] Amazing. - That does look nice. - [Will] Let me know what you think. - I will. Wow, the Tropea onion infusion that you did, almost acts like a Worcestershire's would in a bloody. It has that savory and that salt, the spices shine through. They definitely compliment the vodka in that way, fantastic work. - Beautiful, thank you. - You have to name this. - I think this morning time inspiration, I think we better call it a brunch punch. What do you think about that? - Consider this drink named. Thank you so much. You guys take what you do here seriously, and I appreciate that. - You are welcome anytime. Next time you're in town, come back and see us, we'll take care of ya. - I will, I will for sure. - [Will] Cheers. - Yeah, cheers. Take it easy, Will. Chicago is the epicenter of molecular gastronomy in America. Thanks to Chef Grant Achatz's world-famous eatery, Alinea. The Aviary, it's sister institution, is a cocktail lounge where bartenders are trained as chefs. Inside their bar-kitchen hybrid, extraordinary drinks are invented that delight the eyes and mind as much as the pallette. Right now, I'm heading to The Office, an intimate, invitation-only bar beneath the Aviary, to meet beverage director, Micah Melton. Thank you for inviting me. I understand this is invitation only. - It is. - Surprised they let me in. - Snuck you down. - Okay, Micah, so where am I? - The basement bar of the Aviary, we call it The Office. - Right off the bat, I noticed the contrast between the two spaces. Upstairs, sleek stylish and open, this seems like more warm and inviting. The kinda room I want in my house. - It's exactly supposed to be like that. The modern and the classic, so the juxtaposition of modern technique and modern space and feel, and then classic, leather, fairly straightforward, but some fun twists in both sides. - You definitely have set yourself apart from a lot of the other cocktail establishments around town, so where do you draw your inspiration and what are you set to do here? - A big part of it is just adding another element, beyond just the flavor of the cocktail. Presentation, the look, the feel, the sound, that make you remember something, other than just the taste or just the drink. - Well, I'd love to ask you more, but to be honest with you, I'm very excited to try one of your drinks, so. - A cool way to see the actual difference between the two bars is taste the drink upstairs first, but later on we can come back down and have a drink down here. - That sounds great. - All right, so welcome to the Aviary. - This does not look like a bar. This looks like a kitchen, - Essentially all designed to run exactly like a kitchen. We should see one of our more popular service pieces. We call it the porthole. So the whole idea here is an infusion, so the beginning of the drink tastes completely different than the end of the drink. - That's awesome. - So this is ginger and some fennel bulb. We're gonna put some fennel frond in as well, to add a little more of the fennel flavor, but in a different way. So then the main flavor change in this is honeybush. Honeybush is a similar to rooibos tea, if you've ever had it. A pinch of saffron as well. This'll change the color and obviously add a ton of that saffron flavor. This is dried chrysanthemum. - [Shawn] That almost like camomile? - Very similar, yeah, that kind of light, yellow flower flavor. A little lemon twist, and we just pop the whole thing together. And then once this is all complete, the only thing that we have to do, essentially, when the drink is ordered, is fill it up. So it's designed to look like a porthole in a submarine. - [Shawn] Wow. - So you're looking out into the ocean, you're seeing all the plants, the seaweed. - [Shawn] That is so cool. - So then just pour the base in white whiskey from Tennessee, very, very high corn profile. A little bit of ginger liquor and verjus, which is like a grape juice before it ferments and turns into wine. So this a drink that we call The Hollow. - I've never seen anything like this. This is amazing. It's the first cocktail I've seen that's actually gonna steep like tea. - So what we do, is we recommend pouring out a little bit at a time, and you'll see even just now from where I poured the base in, there's a little yellow-- - [Shawn] Already! - [Micah] From the saffron. - [Shawn] Yeah, wow. - [Micah] See the honeybush? - Cheers, thank you. - [Micah] Cheers. - Wow, that's incredible. And the only sweetening agent comes from the ginger liqueur? - Yeah, there's a-- - [Shawn] Wow. - [ Micah] Ginger liqueur. - Really, really nice. I get the corn whiskey, it's dry, very balanced. The botanicals, it's just a whole other level. It's, I mean, there's so much going on. - As it sits, it's gonna pull in more of the flavor and transform from what you're tasting now into something much more infused, much for steeped. - Certainly, I mean you'll never get bored. - The idea is just to add another element, because that really brings you in and makes you remember a drink. - Such a culinary-influenced cocktail. - Cheers. - So, the point of me being in Chicago is really to draw some inspiration from this city. I'm here to find a Chicago ingredient. I'm excited to see what you think we could bring from Chicago back here, so. - I have a couple ideas, some places in the neighborhood that've been around for years and years and years and does great flavor compositions, very similar to the way we do it in the porthole. - Well, what do you say we go and get that ingredient? - Let's do it. - [Shawn] All right. Chicago has a deep tradition of Italian cuisine. At J.P. Graziano, the oldest Italian market in town, fourth generation owner, Jim Graziano, whips up delicious sandwiches using a staple ingredient little known outside the Windy City. The spicy vegetable relish, jardinera. Shawn. - Jim. - Jim. - Nice to meet ya. - Nice to meet you. - Micah. - What's up buddy? - We came here to get a taste of real, authentic, Chicago cuisine. - Cool, you're in the right spot, my friend. - Awesome. - My great grandpa moved into this location in 1937. Next month, we'll be here 78 years. - Congratulations. - Thank you very much. Specifically, on the jardinera, like a rough cut vegetables, pickled, and then packed in olive oil or vegetable oil is very Chicago unique. It's somethin' that I had when I was a kid, so it was very important to me. You know, important to me to bring that traditional product back into the store. - That's great. - You guys wanna try some? - I'd love to. - So there's a hot and a mild version. - Thank you. - So the base recipe is celery, carrot, red bell pepper, cauliflower. It's packed in vegetable oil after it's pickled and then the hot has everything that the mild does, with the addition of serrano pepper. - That's so good. - I mean, I think it goes well on any sandwich. If you're lettin' me call the shot, I would do a classic Italian, with the hot jardinera. Very straightforward, very basic, I like to say, so you know, we know what we're doing. - That sounds delicious. - All right, we'll do it right now. - [Shawn] All right, cool, thanks. Jardinera, the name itself in Italian, would be from the garden. This is something that, you know, they would start pullin' in spring and through summer, and then to get through the winter, instead of it goin' bad, they find a way that jar it and pickle it. So, it was really out of necessity that it all started. A lot of good textures, ya know, it's important for us that the vegetables stay nice and crunchy, especially when we get it on this sandwich, it adds another dimension of texture to the sandwich. It's a good sandwich. - [Micah] Mmhmm. The whole thing, the texture and the flavor of the bread's really nice. - Well, if that sandwich is supposed to prove that you guys know what you're doin', you guys know what you're doin' here. - Good to hear. - Gotta be honest. The jardinera works great in a sandwich. How are you going to take some of the flavors that we are enjoying right now and incorporate it in a cocktail? - Mr. G a lot of inspiration for just using, just the oil. I think it's a great base. The flavor is so unique and so intense, in a certain way that it'll be a main flavor. - [Shawn] It'll be in the forefront, all right. - For sure. This is some delicious inspiration, if I do say so myself. Jim, pleasure to meet you. - Absolutely guys, thanks so much for comin' in. - That's nice. - Take care, my friend, enjoy guys. - Graziano's jardinera will provide a delicious base for our new cocktail, but to put our own super local spin on it, Micah is taking me to the Lincoln Park Green City market that focuses on vegetables grown in and around Chicago. - Finally getting nice in Chicago so thought it'd be good to stop through Green City market. - [Shawn] Okay. - And see what they got goin' on. Maybe start with some herbs. There's some parsley right there. - [Shawn] Oh, cool, all right. - We're gonna wanna use it right away, so we're gonna want the larger plants, whereas if you're growing it, something smaller like this, that's just flowering. - You think this is enough here? - That's plenty, yeah. - It smells good. - [Micah] Here's some tarragon. - [Shawn] Tarragon? - [Micah] Nice and soft. It's a great spring herb, 'cause it's just super fresh. It kinda freshens up all the things that are in season right around spring. - Think we're off to a good start. - [Micah] So I think maybe for the jardinera, if we grab some green garlic. - [Shawn] Okay, can you use the greens as well? - [Micah] Yeah. - [Shawn] Awesome. - And then, spring onions. Chicago is like the onion capital of the world. Ramps go crazy this time of year. - Now, spring, because their a little, it's a little early still, so they're smaller, probably a little bit more acidic. - Right, and the greens are actually delicious as well 'cause they're still nice and soft and tender. - [Shawn] I'll take that. - [Micah] See what else. - Are we lookin' for anything in particular? I mean, we got our herbs, we have some greens. - [Micah] Anything with acidity, to kinda mimic the flavor of the acid. - [Shawn] Okay, sorrel? - [Micah] Sorrel, yeah, sorrel'd be great. - Tell me about sorrel, I actually don't know anything about it. - So, kind of a green in flavor, but nice acidity, like this nice, fresh lemon flavor on the finish. - Oh yeah. - Really good for the acidity of the jardinera. - Okay, so we're doin' pretty good here. I mean, how many more ingredients do you think we need for this jardinera? - Well, I think we need somethin' that's not just green. - These beautiful lookin' things, they match my shirt. - Oh, yeah, chive. - Smells pretty good, you wanna take a smell? - Smells great. - So where do you guys grow these chives? - We grow them in Chicago Heights, Illinois. - [Shawn] Okay, not too far from here. - It's like 35 miles south. - [Shawn] Okay, cool. - It's pretty close. - Right on, we'll take 'em. - Perfect. - Great. Every time I come to a farmer's market, it feels like a little treasure hunt. I always find things I didn't know I needed. - Or stuff that you didn't actually need. - Exactly, exactly. Armed with our bounty of locally grown herbs, we're ready to head back to the kitchen at the Aviary and then onto The Office to see if we can reinvent a Chicago tradition. - The flavor of the jardinera, the traditional flavor, is gonna come from the oil, but then just to add a little twist and make it our own, we're gonna use some of the Chicago produce that was available at the farmer's market. - [Shawn] Yeah, seasonal. - So I think what I'm gonna do first is a technique called fat washing. So fat washing is essentially taking two liquids that won't mix and pulling flavor from one into the other. So if I just pull the fat from the jardinera, we'll get all the flavor but then later, I can separate it off, because the two will essentially never mix. So if I just pull the oil, I'm gonna do about 50 50, and then just a nice vodka as the base, 50% that as well. As you can see the two aren't gonna mix. So you'll get all the flavor pulling out of the oil, the jardinera, that'll come through into vodka. - [Shawn] Great. - And then the flavor of the produce, what I wanna do is, essentially, blend all this and make a big batch of bright green produce and then clarify it. So a make syrup for our cocktail. Give this a blend with some simple syrup. You smell all the sorrel, all the herbs? If you wanna grab that. - All right, fantastic. - [Micah] Make a drink. - To The Office. - All right, so first step of the drink is, we're gonna pour that over some cheesecloth that catch all the solids. - [Shawn] Done. - Perfect, all right, so this just needs to drain, so I'll just put this aside, temporarily. So we have the regular Grey Goose, the jardinera infused Grey Goose, which you should take a look. - I would love to. So you just took it outta that plastic bag, strained it? - Strained it off and kept the oil aside, and now we just have the vodka with a little tint. - Smells exactly like that jardinera does. - All the spices, a little bit of the oil flavor, but not the texture. - [Shawn] And the salt. Mm, that's really great. - Let's make a cocktail with it. So, we'll start with the Grey Goose, 1 1/2 ounces. We're doing a split of the infused and the straight, just so that we don't overpower too much of the flavors. We wanna little subtle nuance from the jardinera. We don't want it to clobber ya over the head. So a half and ounce of the jardinera infused Grey Goose. Some fino sherry, this is gonna dry out the snap pea and vegetable syrup. A little lime juice, just for the acidity as well. Kinda mimic some of the vinegar in the jardinera. Little herbal liqueur from France, just to up the herb and spice profile. Now, I'm gonna grab a little bit of the clarification. - Gotcha, so all the vegetables that we blended? - [Micah] Exactly. - Look at that. - [Micah] One ounce, can see the clarity, compared to chunkiness that we had before. - [Shawn] I can. - All right, there's a lot of savory flavor, a lot of spice, a lot of vegetable. So, the more classic presentation of the glassware, as well, down here. - [Shawn] I can't believe how translucent it is, given the amount of vegetables and herbs that we blended into there. It's impressive. - [Micah] See what you think. - Cheers, sir, thank you. - Of course. First impressions, what do you think? - First impressions, I'm surprised, I get none of the veggies on the nose, whatsoever, they're all on the backend. I almost wanna put it in a dirty, dry martini category. The citrus and all of those flavors working together dries it out, and almost gives it like this umami effect with the salt and the oil. Just says how balanced the cocktail actually is, it allows for so much to come forward. Well done, well done. - Thank you. - All right, last order of business is we have to name this cocktail. - I feel like it would be fitting to name a cocktail with their jardinera after the family so. - I agree. - What do you think about The Graziano? - Graziano, I love it. You guys are definitely raising the bar here. I mean, the way you bring your culinary background and all of the just the complexities, the presentations, and the concepts of the drinks, you guys are doin' some really cool things. So, I hope other people around the country watch this and draw inspiration from you, 'cause you guys are doin' it right here. - Very cool, thanks for comin' to Chicago. - The pleasure was all mine, cheers. - Cheers.