photo: a scotch flight at Duke
Wine buffs and sake junkies are no strangers to the flight treatment; with their artful presentations and educational opportunities, flights have won over many loyal followers, who have a hedonistic fascination with "having one of each." But now specialty bars have taken note; after all, what good is having the best tequila around if everyone orders Cuervo? Mixologists are met with a similar challenge: Once a signature cocktail gets a glowing review, it's curtains for the rest of the bar menu. The solution: serving up tandem displays of fine libations. You can find them on menus throughout Chicagoland, but these are some of our favorites.
Bloody Mary Flight at Bin Wine Cafe
When it comes to tackling that hangover, this $12 quintet of three-ounce marys is a veritable Fantastic Four of brunch cocktails. Paying homage to the old-school tomato drink, the Bucktown Mary marries horseradish with Tabasco and the time-tested garnish of a celery stick. Featuring aged balsamico, basil and a garnish of shaved parmesan, the Italian Mary will satiate Soprano and Giada fans alike. The Asian Mary mixes things up with pickled ginger and wasabi, while the feisty Consuela Mary packs some heat—and tequila by request.
Tequila Flight at Agave Bar & Grill
Over 150 varieties of tequila are available in full or tasting shots at Agave, but the best way to experience this tequila haven is to trust in the staff. As the name suggests, this bar employs people who know their agave. Custom-designed flights are available, but if you'd prefer the path of least resistance, go for the ready-made kind. Gourmands will delight in the house-infused specials, well-represented in orange-hibiscus, black cherry and caramelized pineapple of the Plata Infused flight ($12). The Viejo Infused ($15) line-up will impress those with a sweeter side; it features coffee-cinnamon, Mexican chocolate and toasted vanilla bean, doubling as dessert.
Nutty but Nice Flight at Fulton Lounge
Let's face it; America's relationship with liqueur has been in a fuzzy holding pattern for years. We love adding the syrupy sweet liquid to coffee, mixing it into cocktails, and drizzling it into desserts—but we don't drink it on it's own. What gives? During the Middle Ages, leaders sipped on liqueurs to mark the signing of treaties. Since then, cultures around the world pay homage by marking the end of dinner with a quick sip. For a crash course, high tail it to Fulton Lounge's trio of snifters; Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur, Dulseda Carmel Liqueur and Disarrono amaretto liqueur are all nutty reasons to rejoice in these potent nectars, and come in sample sizes for only $25.
Signature Martini Flight at Wildfire (Chicago)
Sipping on a martini classes up any act, but sampling more than one will erode that newfound elegance faster than you can say "make it dirty." Good thing Wildfire has arranged a sampling of its finest libations—in modest portions, or course. Sour-fiends will adore the Green Apple (a blend of Absolut Citron, Cointreau, cranberry and lime) and Stormy Night (Effen Black Cherry, Dekuyper Watermelon and Blue Puckers splashed with sour mix). Sweet with just a hint of tart, the Wild Raspberry Cosmo features Stoli Razberi, Dekuyper Triple Sec, cranberry juice and raspberry syrup. A classic Cosmopolitan anchors the whole array.
Full Monty Flight at Duke of Perth
This Scottish pub with Chicago’s largest single-malt selection has prepared a scotch flight menu to reckon with. Those clamoring to display their connoisseurship can order up a Full Monty; the high-end of Perth's flight brigade runs a cool $70. Old-timers like Macallan 25-year, Auchentoshan 21-year and Caol Ila 25-year are represented in "nose glasses," which are basically mini-snifters. Those hoping to spend a little less can opt for one of three $16 flights. All line-ups come with a note card detailing aspects of the nose, body, palate and finish of each one-ounce pour, though actual educational value varies with the amount of scotch consumed.
N27 Flight at Nacional 27
Every media outlet has fawned over Adam Seger's El Corazon cocktail—and with good reason. Rimmed with salt and Tellicherry peppercorns, this pomegranate-passionfruit margarita brings Corzo blanco tequila to the next level. Likewise, it's difficult to pass on his classic mojito, accented by homemade syrup and the bar's trademark bitters. As if the El Corazon and mojito aren't hard enough to choose from, the drinks must contend with Seger's Trinidad Beachcomber, a lemony take on a classic Pimm's cocktail. How on earth do patrons choose between so many? They don't. That's what the N27 flight is for; the $18 survey is the ideal introduction to the critically acclaimed trio.