Drink of the week:
Organic lemon and crystallized ginger-infused martini at Uncommon Ground
, 3800 N. Clark St., on a Thursday night.
The damage: $5 for any infused-vodka martini, half off from the usual price of $10. Flavors and number of picks change frequently, but my infusion hangs around.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? Living without cable television tests your creativity. You find yourself scrapbooking photos from the tenth grade and reading back issues of Time. Occasionally, between an amateur video of a Polish night club and cheesy Masterpiece Theater episodes, one of your eight channels plays a quality program. My favorite: Check, Please!, the popular restaurant review show that makes foodies flock to restaurants that were charming in the first place because of their under-discovered quality.
When I heard that Uncommon Ground wowed the Check, Please! critics, I hailed a cab to Wrigleyville. When I learned that its ginger-infused martini, along with a few other vodka-infused martinis, costs only $5 on Thursdays, I kept going back.
How it went down: Behind the triangularly-shaped bar etched with a leaf pattern sits large glass jugs that look they should line the shelves of antique stores. Inside, organic Rain vodka soaks up flavors from sour cherries, sage tea, a trio of peppers and other unexpected fruits and herbs. To become infused, the vodka rests for two weeks until it's shaken and poured into your martini glass.
Unlike most vodka, originating from Russia and distilled from potatoes and rye, Rain vodka owes its nutty flavor to Indiana corn. The crystallized ginger highlighted in my selection is simply ginger simmered with sugar and water. It makes for a pungent, almost piney, flavor that tastes a bit sweet and strong. Coupled with the tart acidic lemon juice, the mix's contrasting flavors merge into a seamless refreshing drink. Two speared pieces of chewy crystallized ginger top it off.
Would I want to become a regular? Even if UC had the unpleasant traits of many Wrigleyville spots—the smell of stale beer or ex-frat boys armed with pick-up lines—the unpretentious yet elegant food alone would set it apart (the pulled-pork nachos are the classiest nachos I've ever devoured).
The clientele of young professionals, families and middle-aged locals, probably frequent Uncommon Ground for different reasons. The place offers something for everyone: the music lover, the foodie, the caffeine addict and the boozer. With drink specials Sunday through Thursday, including deals on whiskey, wine and pepper-infused vodka bloody marys, it's the drinks, and the lack of TV shows to keep me home at night, that maintain my interest.
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.