Drink of the week: Baby in the Corner martini
Where you can find it: Encore Liquid Lounge, for as long as "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage" is running next door at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
The damage: A surprisingly cheap $8, considering the bar's prime Theater District locale.
Why here? In the year or two following the release of "Dirty Dancing" the movie, I spent countless hours shoving a cassette tape of its soundtrack into a bubble gum-pink boom box and moving my bedroom furniture around so I would have enough room to channel my inner Baby. I would play the entire album over and over again, choreographing smooth moves to "The Time of My Life." As a kid I cared far more about the movie's music and dancing than the plot, which was why I was excited to hear it was being made into a musical. That could only mean more dancing and music, right? Not exactly. Let's just say I was happy to have downed a martini at Encore before having to sit through the performance at Cadillac Palace Theater.
How it went down: My friend Eliza and I had originally decided to stop in at 312 Chicago for a pre-theater drink, but its packed and formal environs turned us off, so we hopped a few doors down to Encore instead. I figured given its location, right next door to the theater, the bar would be filled with tourists and have a forgettable decor and overpriced drinks. Instead, we were pleasantly greeted with a lively post-work crowd and a chic, mostly black-and-white room with bright accents and a huge, circular bar in the center. We pulled up a couple stools and scanned the martini menu.
Encore whips up specialty cocktails for most Cadillac performances, and will offer a handful of "Dirty Dancing"-inspired drinks throughout the musical's run. I had a hard time keeping a straight face while asking for a "Baby in the Corner" but I was too intrigued by Nuvo Sparkling Liqueur to not order it. Nuvo is a fancy new spirit shamelessly marketed to women with its delicate, perfume bottle-like packaging and bright pink hue. It's triple-distilled vodka infused with sparkling French wine. For Baby, Encore mixes Nuvo with Ciroc Vodka and a splash of Cointreau. It tasted super heavy on the vodka with a hint of citrus from the triple sec, but mostly just like a stiff vodka martini. I didn't pick up on the effervescence Nuvo proudly claims to impart, but its color reminded me of the pink dress Baby wore in the notorious final dance scene of the movie.
Would I want to become a regular? If I worked downtown, I would stop by Encore for happy hour, but it's probably not a destination place. It's definitely ideal for theater-goers who don't want to fork over 12 bones for a vodka soda, and while I can't vouch for the food, the menu price point also looks fair. What's not fair: calling the theater version of "Dirty Dancing" a musical. I'm no theater expert, but I will say that I belted out more tunes from my bedroom in 1987 than the actors did on stage. Still, the nostalgia was worth the ticket price, and I can never complain about a reason to meet up for a mid-week martini.
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.