Five Things Sipped and Heard Lately

Even though I’m nursing a margarita seaside in Puerto Vallarta while you read this (destination weddings, don’t you love ’em?), I’ve got Chicago nightlife on the brain. The Chaser first, people. Here’s the lowdown on the latest trends, openings, closings, and general intrigue…

The Pump Room at the Ambassador East hotel
Pick up a piece of history at the Pump Room’s tag sale.

Even though I’m nursing a margarita seaside in Puerto Vallarta while you read this (destination weddings, don’t you love ’em?), I’ve got Chicago nightlife on the brain. The Chaser first, people. Here’s the lowdown on the latest trends, openings, closings, and general intrigue:

1. Remember the bacon fad? Bacon gum, bacon cupcakes, bacon perfume? Well, oink. It lives on. Lillie’s Q in Bucktown just debuted its house-brewed Moon Swine, made by infusing Benjamin Prichard’s Lincoln County Lightning (a small-batch, 90-percent-proof white corn whiskey) with smoked bacon, brown sugar simple syrup, black pepper, and other unspecified spices in a mason jar for 48 hours. Try a nip for $8.

2. Ever find yourself in desperate need of a cocktail after an afternoon at Navy Pier? Skip the bar at Bubba Gump’s and take the creepy, wind tunnel-y elevator up to Cité, at the top of Lake Point Tower. I stepped foot in the place for the first time two weeks ago for a friend’s birthday party in the restaurant’s bar and was pleased to find a view that rivals the Hancock’s Signature Lounge at the 96th. Both spots are cruising on their eye-candy panoramas, which allows them to get away with—let’s just say it—less than groundbreaking menus and outdated interiors. But Cité’s cozy bar is separate from the main dining room, with a piano player who plays the songs you’d expect, just when you want to hear them. The bar offers the best view in the house—one of the best in the city, in fact—with no wait.

3. Last week I went to a dinner at The Drawing Room to celebrate the launch of a new gin from the makers of Ketel One vodka, called Nolet’s. There was a lot of PR-speak about how fantastic Nolet’s is (actually, it is pretty tasty), but the real treat was the cocktail pairing menu from mixologist Charles Joly. Sleeves rolled up and Chicago-flag tattoo flexing, he warmed up our 7-degree night with some tips and tricks: “When tasting spirits, don’t shove your nose in the glass,” he advised (too late—my nostrils were already burning). “Always taste twice. You’ll notice so much more about the flavor profile the second time.” Finally, he told us to watch out for a gin revolution: “There are more gin profiles on the market than ever before.” Noted. If America’s Next Top Bartender is saying it, then gin is officially the booze of the moment.

4. The Creative Director went out the other night without me. He was meeting with a potential client, and they ended up at the new West Town tavern Frontier. So far the spot is mostly famous for its “whole animal” shtick, which involves having an entire pig (or goat or boar) delivered to your table. I’ll be back to thoroughly vet the pub element of this gastropub soon, but TCD’s initial reaction: “The draft beer list is run of the mill: all your typical microbreweries. No surprises except Ommegang. Decor is turn-of-the-last-century vintage chic, made egregious with the use of woodcut clip art on the menus. There’s a nice treatment on the staircase, made of wood beams cut to varying depths. Wish they had been more true to that look throughout.” TCD is a good scout, don’t you think?

5. Friday kicks off a once in a lifetime chance to own a piece of history from the Ambassador East hotel’s legendary Pump Room, where everyone from Bette Davis to Mick Jagger knocked back a few before the Gold Coast spot closed about a month ago. The 11-day sale (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through February 28th) includes thousands of items, from art to chairs to the baby grand that accompanied the likes of Judy Garland and Sinatra. Other than a few big-ticket items available by silent auction (the famed booth number 1), pretty much everything else is tagged for carryout. Why not pick up a glass for your home bar—who knows whose famous lips touched that highball?

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