Drink of the week:
Where you can find it: Simon's Tavern.
The damage: $4.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? Between my ever-growing collection of Christmas movies and my addiction to cheesy holiday tunes, I fear I'm only a season away from becoming one of those people with a closet full of cardigans adorned with applique snowmen and reindeer. I just can't help myself this time of the year. But for all the festivities I pack into the month of December, not one of them involves—at its core, at least—booze. My gag reflex kicks into full gear when I attempt to choke back eggnog, and I'm not one to top off my cocoa with a bit of Bailey's. Nope, drinks were always just an afterthought to my celebratory activities; until I ventured to Simon's Tavern in Andersonville last week for a tipple of toasty glogg.
How it went down: The Scandinavian version of mulled wine, glogg has traditionally helped the Swedes and their neighbors stay warm through long winters. It's different from other mulled wines because it gets kicked up a notch, alcohol-content wise, though the assortment of spices remains. Simon's take adds brandy and grain alcohol to port wine; an orange peel, cinnamon stick and other spices steep in the liquid to add an earthy, festive flavor. The bartender pours the warm—but not scalding hot—brew into a shrunken glass mug with golden raisins and slivered almonds resting in the bottom, and delivers it over with a handful of pepparkakor, Swedish gingersnaps, stacked on a napkin.
My nose tingled when I took a whiff, and the intoxicating blend went straight to my head, warming my belly with each sip. It had just enough seasoning to make it memorable, but not such an intense flavor that it took away from the stiffness of the port. The raisins plumped up as they soaked up all the spicy goodness, leaving them as the perfect post-drink snack to add to my buzz.
Would I want to become a regular? Though Simon's doesn't deck out its digs for the holidays like many area bars do, something about the interior feels so snug and fitting for the season. Maybe it's the friendliness of the staff, the snappy soul music or the jolly hodge-podge decor, with red and white carnations adorning tile-topped tables and blue-and-yellow chairs that look straight out of a lunchroom in the '70s. You won't find flat-screens looping sporting events here; just a worn bar and wallpaper fit for a hunting lodge, with its images of deer and elk—or, with a little imagination, reindeer.
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.