Drink of the week:
photo: Clifton Henri
; Chaise bartender Shannon Kenyon with the Henry II
Henry II martini at Chaise Lounge, 1840 W. North.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? Going to Miami on a college student's budget is about as smart as hitting up Vegas in debt. But during my senior year of college, my pal Jamie and I decided to celebrate New Year's in South Beach, where instead of sipping mojitos poolside, we slugged Miller Lites in the comfort of our closet-size hotel room, counting our money to see if we had enough left over for a few cocktails at a club. We made the best of our trip by skipping out of the touristy areas for meals, finding incredibly tasty plates of wallet-friendly Cuban food in less-traveled parts of town.
Had I actually experienced a typical South Beach-style vacation, though, I imagine it would've felt a lot like spending a breezy evening at Chaise Lounge. The Bucktown spot channels Miami's glamour with its bevy of outdoor seating (including a roof deck with cabanas), posh cocktails, seafood-focused menu and chic, mostly white decor.
How it went down: I met a friend at Chaise on a fairly warm Wednesday, happy to take advantage of the open-air dining room, with garage doors that run the length of the space. Select bottles of wine were half-off, but we decided to save the vino-drinking for dinner and ordered a pre-dinner cocktail to start.
The drink menu offers a nice balance of classic libations, specialty martinis and even a few frozen concoctions. I landed on the Henry II, a mix of Tanqueray gin, blood-orange puree and ginger ale, while my friend ordered a martini that tasted exactly like strawberry lemonade and not at all like vodka. My drink wasn't as tame. The gin combined with the blood-orange juice resulted in a slightly spicy, almost peppery flavor that reminded me of grapefruit sans sweetener. The citrus notes lingered after each sip, and the tangerine-color cocktail met my number-one requirement for a quality beverage: The flavor of the booze wasn't masked by too-sweet ingredients, but rather complemented by the blood orange's bitterness.
Would I want to become a regular? Our food arrived and appropriately kept the vacation-vibe rolling, the delicate plates exuding a South Beach sexiness with their simple, light flavors. The halibut, served with snappy haricot verts and pearl onions, seems like just the kind of dish a model would pick at it after a long day at the beach. We capped off our meal with fluffy, cranberry-studded semifreddo and gouda baked in a puff pastry. It was a decadent ending—and the perfect reminder to be grateful my broke co-ed days are over.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.