Opening a bar in Chicago contains a slew of to-do’s, plus up’s & down’s you wouldn’t believe. But cutting through the red tape wasn’t nearly important to us as really nailing our opening cocktail list.
The process was driven by our head bartender, Aaron Minnes, with input from everyone we know not barred by the courts from imbibing spirits. The entire staff at Drinkingbird participated in the process. “Three weeks prior to opening, we gathered everyone for our first taste test,” says Minnes. “The original list was about 35 cocktails long. We definitely had to narrow that down. We put together a nice mix of the potent and the sedate, but we couldn’t include all of them.
“One thing I learned during my research is that people liked their cocktails STRONG. But, it was even more delightful to realize they could be that, but also balanced and refreshing. It seems obvious to say this now, but classics are classics for a reason,” says Minnes. Still, they have evolved into their own thing here at Drinkingbird. We’ve just been more and more pleased with the results. The entire staff is as excited about our cocktails as we are, and everyone here is part of the program. Their knowledgeable questions and comments, along with the same from our customers, has been a catalyst for growth throughout our first year in business and we’re grateful for that.
“It was all incredibly daunting at first,” says Minnes. “Sure, I didn’t create these recipes, but I chose them to represent our establishment and there is always the fear that people won’t respond positively,” says Minnes. “It took less than three days to assuage those trepidations as our clientele took to the list with a mix of enthusiasm and curiosity. It was that response that has driven our cocktail program ever since. Personally, I am never satisfied with what I do and I constantly push and tweak things in an effort to make them better. There is nothing more satisfying than someone coming in and asking me to make something off-menu. If they are willing to try new things and expand their palates, why shouldn’t we?”
Right now, as we approach our one-year anniversary, we’re working on our third and hopefully best cocktail list. As the staff has grown and developed with our customers, we came to realize the classics will always be just that, and there is still an exciting world of flavor profiles out there just waiting to be combined and tasted. This has been a growing experience for us, which makes it all exciting.
So, that’s the update on that. We’ll be getting you more details about the anniversary, and thanks for helping us keep bringing the good times your way, Chicago!