When trying to decide where to go for drinks, we figured we would quiz a guy who helped create a half dozen flavor-tripping cocktails, such as a skinny margarita that turns into a tequila sunrise, at hot spot iNG.
Trevor Rose-Hamblin, brewmaster, co-cocktail creator and part of the management group at iNG, which opened in the West Loop to much food-science-oriented buzz in February, devised the flavor-tripping drink list with chef Homaru Cantu and mixologist Mario Catayong, but he has a reservoir of knowledge on drinks that don't change taste, as well. Originally from Michigan, Rose-Hamblin, 27, who lives in Old Irving Park, has scoured Chicago's drink scene for the past three years for both work and pleasure. Here are his picks and why:
Where he goes for drinks: Twisted Spoke is great. First of all, they're fearless. They have a reserve list of beers and they basically age beers, famous beers like a Three Floyds Dark Lord Imperial Stout. There are vintages from 2007, 2008, even 2010. So I can go in there with my buddies and try aged beers and compare and contrast an aged IPA against aged stouts. It's just a fun thing for beer dorks. But it's really friendly for everyone. Whiskey is really big. On Wednesday, it's half-off whiskey. So you can go and pick top shelf whiskey and have it for half off. Another place I really love, that's kind of a treat for me, is the Map Room. It's all about the beer. You want a bunch of beer experts that know their stuff on beer, this is the quintessential beer place. It's funny because you'll sit down at the bar, and people understand the beer culture. It's not stuffy at all.
Where to go with friends: The Aberdeen Tap is kind of a hidden little gem, and not a lot of people know about it. The food is really good. When I was there last, I had a rabbit sausage with toasted brie...I've had alligator sausage with creole sauce on top. They have one of my favorite beers, the Tripel Karmeliet, and they pour it correctly.
For awesome cocktails: Sable Kitchen & Bar. They do really super classical cocktails, and they're just expertly crafted and perfect. These guys know their stuff. [Head bartender] Mike Ryan, he's really just brilliant at their cocktails. It's the place you go for perfect cocktails. I really like rye whiskey. I usually do a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, once in a while a Negroni.
For a great date place: My girlfriend and I, one place that we really love and talk about a lot is Owen & Engine. First of all, it's beer focused, but they still have a smart wine list. So you sit down, and these guys do really old school food and traditional French food. I went in there recently and had roasted bone marrow with trumpet mushrooms. They make a point to tell you where the food products are coming from...They've got this old British pub feel. And they have the best burger, bar none. I've had every burger in the city, and theirs is the best.
For fantastic service: The people at The Publican are very, very accommodating and super knowledgeable. They let you taste things, if you're curious. They take the time to educate you. With a lot of knowledge, people forget how to be humble. This is not the case there. Every time I have a question there about beer, they're courteous, and they explain.
For a sense of history: If you really want history and want to feel like you're in old-time Chicago ... the original Billy Goat, when I go there, I definitely get the feeling that it's old-time Chicago. You definitely get a sense of place, a sense of belonging.
For wine: Garrett Kern, he's the general manager and beverage director at iNG. He's got his level two sommelier (certification), and we're best friends. We'll go out to The Tasting Room on half-price bottle night (on Tuesdays), and we'll actually do blind taste-testing on each other to find out the region and the varietal. The ambience upstairs, with couches and with it being dimly lit, it's very relaxing and lets you enjoy the wine. The food isn't overcomplicated. Cheese is served at the right temperatures as well as the charcuterie, and it really lets the wine shine through. The list is huge, $20 bottles to $500 bottles, and they also have really great flights. Another place I really enjoy is called In Fine Spirits in Andersonville. They have both a store and a restaurant. Perfect cheese flights and really awesome stuff. They've got pork roulade and duck confit. It's perfect for a big Bordeaux.
For watching sports: The Village Tap. It's an awesome little bar in Roscoe Village, and it's always jam-packed. They don't open 'til 5 p.m. You get their hummus platter, and it's enough to feed four. They also have really good beer, and it's a great place to watch the game. They have a little beer garden in the back and two small flat screens. There's a great patio that's enclosed.
For entertaining drinking: They'll have these events at Pops for Champagne. It might be great music or a great band, and they have guest mixologists. This is a place where you're going to see a lot of chefs. The vibe is really great.
For live music: If I know I'm going to stay out 'til 4 a.m., I'm going to the Kingston Mines in Lincoln Park. This place is old -- my dad used to party here when he was young, and he's almost 70. There are two stages, and they play blues 'til 4 a.m. I'm talking the best blues, not some kind of bullshit blues. You can dance. Mostly everyone does. You can dance, get ribs. The beer list is good. Usually, my jaw is dropped. That's the place to go for music.
Best view: First of all, I am a Kendall College alum, so I might be a little biased. But the Dining Room at Kendall College overlooks Chicago, and you get the whole skyline. They have a $5 corkage fee for wine, but they have their own wine and beer list. The kitchen is encased in glass, and you can watch the students.
Photo of the Map Room by Joselito Tagarao via Flickr.