by Mike Sula
I've long neglected writing about one of my favorite bartenders, Benjamin Schiller, who during his 15-month tenure at Andersonville's In Fine Spirits almost completely rehauled the lounge's approach from the sort of place that sold $12 Cosmos to an oasis for quality drinking, something sorely needed at that particular latitude. He was a worthy libational foil for chef Marianne Sundquist, and I can't count the number of eye-opening potions he's put together (maybe because I can't remember). For instance, I'd thought I'd sworn off mint juleps, finding most too syrupy for my increasingly bitter, jaded palate, but his Run for the Roses, made with Old Weller bourbon and Koval rose-hip liqueur made me feel barely legal again.
Alas, on Sunday Ben mixed his last drink at IFS. The good news is he's taking command of the bar at Boka, and eventually expanding his influence to the other restaurants in the Boka group—Landmark, Perennial, and Stephanie Izard's forthcoming Drunken Goat. (Schiller incidentally replaces Daniel De Oliveira, no slouch himself, who's signing on to open Mercadito with a veritable supergroup of bartenders including Daniel Love of the Sofitel, Drinks Over Dearborn's Kyle McHugh, and Jennifer Contraveos, among others.)
Schiller's range is something to behold. Last week he mixed something a little more seasonally appropriate than a julep; a real "old man's drink," with a slightly nutty finish.
2 oz Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon
1/2 oz Aperol
2 bar spoons Nux Alpina walnut liqueur
10 drops Angostura bitters
swath of orange zest
Stir over ice. Squeeze the zest over the drink. Enjoy.