Drink barbecued haggis and roly-poly pudding at Drumbar

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The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society
  • The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society
When Drumbar, the rooftop bar at the top of the Gold Coast's Raffaello Hotel, opened last summer, it didn't make much of an impact among locals at all—much less serious drinkers. That's probably because the hotel's Miami-based ownership placed more of an emphasis on clubby, see-and-be-seen South Beach-style hoo-ha than bringing in regulars who could sustain such a lofty spot in the dead of winter.

That's really too bad, because not only is the rooftop a gorgeous spot, but the interior of the bar is pretty swell too: dark, comfortable, and clubby in another sort of way—kind of like the Office, the exclusive, subterranean hideaway below the Aviary. So it was rather apt when former Aviary jefe Craig Schoettler took over in November and embarked on a slow but steady rehaul of the beverage program. Things look very promising so far. He's developed a cocktail list of classic, specialty, and "progressive" Aviary-style cocktails (those are only available Tuesdays and Wednesdays). But what's even more exciting is the ever-growing depth of the spirits list, which includes some 20 tequilas, 19 gins, 45 bourbons and ryes, and 43 scotches, all available by the glass. Vodka isn't acknowledged.

On the last three pages of the menu there's a list of 14 whimsically titled pours like "Glazed Cashews and Lemon Lollies," "Tar, Tea Chests, and Engine Oil," and "Chestnut Puree and New Hiking Boots," priced between $22 and $45 per glass. These are bottlings offered by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society*, an organization that selects and bottles single-cask scotches from distilleries all over Scotland. The SMWS doesn't directly identify the distilleries, believing that the characteristics of each individual cask are historically unique, unlikely to be duplicated, and not necessarily reflective of terroir. Instead they assign each full-strength bottling a number for the distillery and cask, and a select panel of lucky dobbers who spend their days drinking some of the best scotch in the world writes tasting notes for each, texts of occasionally silly, purple prose.

Unless you have your own SMWS membership, Drumbar is one of just three bars in the States where you can taste these rare scotches. And I was told as I sipped a sample pour of "Old Fashioned Tea Chest and Maple Candy" that one needn't strictly adhere to the bar's "strictly enforced" dress code anymore to enjoy them.

Drumbar, 201 E. Delaware, top floor, 312-924-2531

*in Scotland there's no 'e' in whisky.

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