Monday, January 3, 2011
A Visit to Blackbird
Lynn House, previously of the Drawing Room and Graham Elliot, became the chief mixologist at Blackbird six months ago. The Chicago restaurant is a decade old and has long had a good reputation, but House's arrival has raised the profile of its drink program. She brought a farm-to-table approach to the bar that matched the one in the kitchen, and quickly attracted the attention of diners and critics. The owners had her begin with a four-cocktail menu. It sold so well—handily outselling even the desserts— that the number was quickly doubled.
House changes the cocktail menu seasonally, and used locally made liquors like Koval Rye, a white whiskey made in Chicago that, in its creamy profile, reminded me of the wheat whiskey Death's Door makes in neighboring Wisconsin. The bar is also stocked with the works of North Shore Distillery, which makes a vodka, gin, and absinthe, as well as an aquavit that House particularly likes. (I tried it; she is right to like it. It's an aquavit where the caraway does not take over.)
House made me a couple of her signature creations. First came the Oz (above), made of Pierre Ferrand Ambre, plum wine, apple cider syrup and sparkling wine. The syrup is actually derived from a mixture that includes vinegar. This gives a necessary tangy zip to a drinking that is otherwise smooth, soothing, lovely and peaceful-making. It's a beautiful drink that goes down easily.
The same can be said of the Blackbird Orange, one of Blackbird's most popular cocktails. It used Koval Rye as its base, blended with it housemade cayenne pepper-spiced honey, orange juice and Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters. The peppery honey serves the same purpose in the Orange as the cider syrup did in the Oz, provided an underground tremor under a pleasingly placid ocean of flavor. Nice presentation on this drink to, served as it is in a low, bulb-shaped rocks glass.
Based on my limited sampling, House's drinks has a elegant composition and subdued glamour. They're not simple, but neither are they too flashy. And they well match the hushed, sophisticated atmosphere at Blackbird. Other drinks on the menu include:
London Calling Plymouth, Pimms, Apple Butter, Cucumber Soda
Tequila Mockingbird Tejano Repesado, Original Pear Cider, Sage, Lemon
The Cranberries Barsol Pisco, Cranberry Sauce, Thai Basil
Starry Night Ron Zacapa, Jans, Coffee, Angostura Cream, Vanilla Sugar
Labels: Lynn House