Drink of the week:
A 610 cocktail at J Bar
, 610 N. Rush Street, on a Tuesday night.
The damage: $14.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? Senior year of college, I drove from Chicago to Miami to cheer on the Hawkeye football team in the Orange Bowl (their fate I won't recall). As much as I love the pigskin, I have to admit that what really lured me to the big game was spending New Year's Eve in South Beach. Despite the fact that this particular weekend, Midwesterners outnumbered models two to one, I became enraptured with the city's Latin flair. So when I heard that James Hotel's J Bar serves a cocktail honoring Miami's Cuban population, I knew I could sip my way back to that sunny place.
How it went down: J Bar manager Jim Koklas does his research before designing a set of new cocktails for every season. In the case of the 610, a spring/summer drink that launched in April, Koklas had help from a David Burke Primehouse (the bar's sister restaurant) chef, Jason Miller, a former Miami resident who recalled guava and cheese as a popular Cuban snack. Inspired by this combo, Koklas poured a mix of coconut milk (a substitute for the cheese), guava juice and a generous amount of the dark 10 Cane Rum into a martini glass and garnished it with a sugar cane stick. The creamy milk weakened the rum's bite and made for a highly drinkable concoction (which isn't always easy when the rum content is this high). As I drank the perfectly tropical blend, I imagined myself slathering on suntan lotion ocean-side.
Would I want to become a regular? If you equate drinking at a downtown hotel bar with eating dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, get over it. Sure, the drinks at J Bar are pricey, but you won't find many tourists here. The sleek banquettes, white stools and mirror-lined walls lend a swanky, unpretentious setting that's welcoming to locals. Plus, with 11 other globally-inspired drinks, J Bar has only seen the beginning of my reminiscing by the bar.
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.