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Shawn has the privilege of hanging with one of the most innovative cocktail minds in the country, Micah Melton of The Aviary. They'll mix some old school Chicago with some cutting edge kitchen magic to capture a real taste of Chicago.

Green Juice


  • Pinch tarragon

  • Fresh parsley

  • Chive flower

  • 1 bunch sorrel

  • 1 Spring onion

  • 1 Fresh garlic

  • 1 large handful of sugar snap peas

  • 1/2 chili pepper

  • 1/2 jalapeno

  • 1/2 green pepper


  1. Add all ingredients in blender

  2. Add water to cover vegetables and blend

  3. Strain through cheesecloth

Green Juice

Giardiniera-infused Grey Goose Vodka


  • Oil from the Giardiniera

  • Grey Goose Vodka


  1. Combine 50/50 Oil from the Giardiniera / Grey Goose Vodka and let steep

  2. Strain the oil and vodka

Giardiniera-infused Grey Goose Vodka

The Graziano


  • 1.5 ounces of Grey Goose Vodka

  • .5 ounces giardiniera-infused Grey Goose Vodka

  • 2 ounces fino sherry

  • .5 ounces lime juice

  • .5 ounces green chartreuse

  • 1 ounce clarified green juice


  1. Add all ingredients in a glass

  2. Add ice and stir and strain

  3. Serve up

The Graziano




Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox


- I'm Shawn Thomas, and this is Local Flight. Join me as we travel across the country to discover extraordinary bartenders and purveyors. We'll share their stories as they work together to create innovative cocktails using unique, local ingredients. In this episode of Local Flight, we're bringing a tried and true Chicago tradition to one of the most cutting edge cocktail kitchens in the country. 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 palette. 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. - I'm 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 notice the contrast between the two spaces. Upstairs, sleek, stylish, and open. This seems like more warm and inviting. The kind of 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 straight forward, but some fun twists on both sides. - You've 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. - Sure, well, I'd love to ask you more, but to be honest with you, I'm very exciting to try one of your drinks. - A cool way to see the actual difference between the two bars. - Yeah? - Is taste the drink upstairs first. - Okay. - Later on we can come back down and have a drink down here. - That sounds great. - Alright, so welcome to the Aviary. - This does not look like a bar. This looks like a kitchen. - It's essentially all designed to run exactly like a kitchen. You should see one of our more popular service pieces. We call it the Port Hole. 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 going to 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 honey bush. Honey bush is similar to a rooibos tea if you've ever had it. - Hm. - A pinch of saffron as well. This will change the color, and obviously add a ton of that saffron flavor. This is dried chrysanthemum. - [Shawn] Is that almost like chamomile? - Very similar. Yeah, that kind of light yellow flower flavor. A little lemon twist. Then 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 port hole on a submarine. - Wow! - So, you're looking out into the ocean, you're seeing all the plants, the seaweed. - That is so cool! - So, then just pour the basin. White whiskey from Tennessee. Very, very high corn profile. A little bit of ginger liquor, and verjus, which is a like a grape juice before it ferments and turns into wine. So, this is 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 going to 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 pour the basin, there's a a little yellow-- - [Shawn] Already! - From the saffron. - Yeah, wow! - And, the honey bush. - Cheers, thank you. - Cheers. - Wow, that's incredible. And the only sweetening agent comes from the ginger liquor? - Yeah, there's a ginger liquor. - Wow, really, really nice. I get the corn whiskey. It's dry, very balanced. The botanicals, just a whole other level. There's so much going on. - As it sits, it's going to pull in more of the flavor, and transform from what you're tasting now, into something much more infused, much more steeped. - Certainly, and I imagine every sip is going to be different. 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 influence cocktail. - Awesome, 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. Any ideas? - I've a couple ideas, some places in the neighborhood that have been around for years and years and years, and does great flavor compositions, very similar to the way we do it in the Port Hole. - Well, what do you say we go and get that ingredient? - Let's do it. - Alright. - [Shawn] 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, giardiniera. - [Shawn] Shawn. - Jim. - [Shawn] Jim? - Nice to meet you. - Nice to meet you. - [Micah] 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. My great-grandfather moved into this location in 1937. Next month, we'll be here 78 years. - Congratulations! - Thank you very much. Specifically on the giardiniera, like a rough cut vegetables, pickled and then packed in olive oil or vegetable oil, is very Chicago unique. It's something that I had when I was a kid, so it was very important to me. And, important to me to bring that traditional product back into the store. - That's great. - You guys want to try some? - I'd love to. - So, there's a hot and a mild version. - Thank you. - So, the base recipe is celery, carrots, red bell pepper, cauliflower, that's packed in vegetable oil after it's pickled. And then, the hot has everything that the mild does with the addition of serrano peppers. - That's so good! - I think it goes well on any sandwich. If you're letting me call the shot, I would do a classic Italian with the hot giardiniera. Very straight forward. Very basic. I like to say it's so you know we know what we're doing. And we can do the mild giardiniera on the Mr. G. - That sounds delicious. - Alright, we'll do them right now. - Yeah, alright, cool, thanks! - [Jim] Giardiniera, the name itself in Italian, would be "from the garden." This is something that they would start pulling in spring and through summer. And then, to get through the winter, instead of it going bad, they find a way to jar it and pickle it. So, it was really out of necessity that it all started. And a lot of good textures, it's important for us that the vegetables stay nice and crunchy, especially when we get it on a sandwich, it adds another dimension of texture to the sandwich. I'll split these two up for you guys, so you can each try it out. So, you've got the Mr. G on your left. - Okay. - And the Italians are on your right. - Buon appetito. - That's a good sandwich. - The whole thing, the texture-- - Mm-hmm. - The flavor, the bread's really nice. You ready for the Mr. G? - There's a truffle vinaigrette, the fresh basil on the Mr. G as well, that kind of will pop up in a flavor marinated artichokes. It was important to me to find my proprietary sub. It has a special place in my heart as well, it's named after my father. - Well, if that sandwich is supposed to prove that you guys know what you're doing, you guys know what you're doing here at J.P. Graziano's. - Good to hear. - The giardiniera works great in a sandwich. How are you going to take some of the flavors that we're enjoying right now, and incorporate it into a cocktail? - The Mr. G gives me 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 will be a main flavor-- - It will be in the forefront? - For sure. - Alright, this is some delicious inspiration if I do say so myself. Jim, pleasure to meet you. - Absolutely, guys. - Yeah. - Thanks so much for coming by. Gratzi, take care my friend. Enjoy guys. - [Shawn] Graziano's giardiniera 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 I thought it would be good to stop through Green City Market. - [Shawn] Okay. - [Micah] Let's see what they've got going on. Maybe start with some herbs. - So, I remember in the giardiniera there was those dry Italian herbs. So you think that's what we'll go for here? - They have, there's some parsley right there. - Oh, cool, alright. - We're going to want to use it right away, so we're going to want the larger plants. - Okay. - Whereas if you're growing it, something smaller like this that's just flowering. - Do you think this is enough here? - That's plenty, yeah. - Smells good. - [Micah] There's some tarragon. - [Tom] Tarragon. - Nice and soft, it's a great spring herb because it's super fresh. It kind of freshens up all the things that are in season right around spring. - I think we're off to a good start. - Here's some spring garlic, spring onions. - I know these onions. Last time I was in Chicago, actually, we did a drink with these onions. - Chicago is like the onion capital of the world. Ramps go crazy this time of year. So, I think maybe for the giardiniera if we grab some green garlic. - [Shawn] Okay, can you use the greens as well? - [Micah] Yeah. - [Shawn] Awesome. - [Micah] Then, spring onions. - Okay, now spring because it's a little early still? - Yeah. - So, it's smaller, probably a little bit more acidic. - Right, and the greens are actually delicious as well, because they're still nice and soft and tender. - Take that. - Let's see what else. - Are we looking for anything in particular? We've got our herbs, we have some greens. - Anything with acidity to kind of mimic the flavor of the acid. - [Shawn] Okay, sorrel. - [Micah] Sorrel, yeah, sorrel will be great. - Tell me about sorrel. I don't actually know anything about it. - So, kind of green in flavor, but nice acidity, like this nice, fresh, lemon flavor on the finish. - Oh, yeah! - Be good for the acidity of the giardiniera. - Hmm. Okay. So, we're doing pretty good here. How many more ingredients do you think we need for this giardiniera? - Well, I think we need something that's not just green. - These beautiful looking things, they match my shirt. - Oh yeah, chive. - Smells pretty good, do you want to-- take a sniff? - That smells great. - You've got to stop to smell the flowers sometimes. So, where do you guys grow these chives? - We grow them in Chicago Heights. - Okay. Not too far from here. - It's like 35 miles south. Pretty close. - Okay, right on. We'll take them. - 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. - [Shawn] Armed with our bounty of locally grown herbs, we're ready to head back to the kitchen at the Aviary. And, then on to the Office to see if we can reinvent a Chicago tradition. - The flavor of the giardiniera, the traditional flavor, just like in the Mr. G, is going to come from the oil. So, I think what I'm going to 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 giardiniera, 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 going to do about 50-50. And then, just the nice vodka as the base. So, a little Grey Goose. 50% that as well. As you can see, the two aren't going to mix, so you'll get all the flavor pulling out of the oil of giardiniera that will come through into the vodka. - Great. - And then, for the flavor of the produce, what I want to do is essentially blend all of this and make a big batch of bright-green produce spring, and then clarify it. So, I'll make a base syrup for our cocktail. Give this a blend with some simple syrup. You smell all the swirl, all the herbs. -Yeah. - If you want to grab that. - Sure. - I'll grab the giardiniera infused Grey Goose and the Grey Goose. - Alright, fantastic. - Let's make a drink. - [Shawn] To the Office! - Alright, so first step of the drink is we're going to pour that over some cheese cloth to catch all of the solids. - [Shawn] Done. - Perfect, alright. So, this just needs to drain, so I'll just put this aside temporarily. So we have the regular Grey Goose, the giardiniera infused Grey Goose which you should take a-- - I would love to. So you just took it out of that plastic bag, strained it? - Strained it off, and kept the oil aside, and now we just have the vodka with a little hint. - It smells exactly like that giardiniera does. - All the spices, a little bit of the oil flavor, but not the texture. - And the salt, mm. That's really great. - Let's make a cocktail with it. So, we'll start with the Grey Goose, one and a half 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 want a little subtle nuance from the giardiniera. We don't want it to clobber you over the head. So, a half an ounce of the giardiniera infused Grey Goose. Some fino sherry, this is going to dry out the snap pea and vegetable syrup. A little lime juice just for the acidity as well. Kind of mimics some of the vinegar in the giardiniera. A little herbal liquor from France, just to up the herb and spice profile. Now, I'm going to grab a little bit of the clarification. - Gotcha, so all the vegetables that we blended. - Exactly. - Look at that! - One ounce. You can see the clarity compared to the chunkiness that we had before. - [Shawn] I can. - Right, there's a lot of savory flavor, a lot of spice, a lot of vegetable - Fancy. - So the more classic presentation of the glassware as well down here. - I can't believe how translucent it is, given the amount of vegetables and herbs that we blended into there. It's impressive. - [Micah] Let's see what you think. - Cheers, sir. Thank you. - Of course. First impressions, what are you thinking? - First impression, I'm surprised, I get none of the veggies on the nose whatsoever. They're all in the backend. I almost want to put it in a dirty dry martini category. The citrus and all of those flavors working together dries it out and almost gives this umami effect with the salt and the oil. - Right. - Just says how balanced the cocktail actually is. It allows for so much to come forward, gives this big, long, luscious drink on the palette. Well done, well done. - Thank you. - Alright, last order of business is we have to name this cocktail. - I feel like it would be fitting to name a cocktail with their giardiniera after the family. - I agree. - What do you think about the Graziano? - Graziano, I love it. You guys are definitely raising the bar here. The way that you bring your culinary background and all the complexities, the presentations, and the concepts of the drinks. You guys are doing some really cool things. - Very cool, thanks for coming to Chicago. - The pleasure was all mine. Sincerely. Cheers! - Cheers.