The Aviary (Chicago, IL) is a lounge that specializes in molecular gastronomy to prepare and serve its cocktails and other drinks. The result ends up being a fun and unique experience that tickles the senses. I had no idea that the restaurant belonged to the famous chef, Grant Achatz, until I went home and read about the lounge’s history. To be honest, I’m not a fan of cocktails, so I was more looking forward to the presentation and innovation of the drinks. As interesting as some of the cocktails were, my favorite drink of the night ended up being the Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Bourbon. My friend, who is much more of a spirit connoisseur than I’ll ever be, told me that the bourbon is extremely hard to acquire. I went into The Aviary with high hopes but left with mixed feelings. This place is a must visit for cocktail lovers and mixologists. It’s better to go with a large group of friends so that you can order more drinks and share. Food wasn’t the focus of our visit. We just wanted to try as many drinks as we could before keeling over. A well deserved high five is in store for one of my friends who had 9 cocktails. He’s a mixologist so I’m sure he was just doing “research.” By the end of the night, the 6 of us racked up a bill totaling over $400.00. Which was actually very close to one of my other friend’s initial estimates. Be sure to book weeks in advance, if not, be prepared to be turned away from the door.
The In the Rocks cocktail. The alcohol is contained in a sphere of ice and the drinker uses a sling shot-like contraption to break the ice.
The Thai Mountain – The cocktail is served hot. Before that happens, a small Bunsen burner heats up the liquid, causing a vacuum. The Reposado Tequila mix is sucked up into the upper chamber where the alcohol is flash infused with Rooibos tea, orange peel, and mint. The server then stirs the mixture with a stalk of lemongrass and the infusion is sent back to the bottom flask.
The Cranberry. The drink changes color and flavor as the ingredients’ flavors slowly diffuse into the alcohol. The drink is poured into a small glasse, so as you finish the first drink, the second drink becomes more flavorful, and so on. We had to resist the urge of drinking it directly through the spout.
The 15-Year Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon. This was my favorite drink of the night. My friend said it’s a life changer. I don’t think I’ll go that far, but it has definitely opened my eyes to the world of good bourbon.