One Sip: Ada St.'s velvety, surprising Fistful of Dollars

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The Bourbon Smash
  • Courtesy of Ada St.
  • The Bourbon Smash
Ada St., the latest project from David Morton and Michael Kornick, is secluded in the same industrial corner off Elston as the Hideout. That hasn't hurt the popularity of this year-old spot, though: on a recent Tuesday evening the place was packed at prime dining time, and last spring Chicago magazine included it in its list of the area's 20 best new restaurants. Chef Zoe Schor's food has been highly praised since the beginning, but when "spiritual adviser" Tim Lacey left not long after the restaurant opened, the future of its cocktail program looked uncertain.

Lacey was never replaced; there's no one person in charge of cocktails at Ada St. right now, the publicist tells me. But the place has clearly been focusing on drinks lately, and last month expanded the cocktail menu to 40 specialties, more than twice the number it had before. There's an intriguing-sounding barrel-aged manhattan, but it was out of stock (to be more precise, the current batch was still aging), so we started out with the Ward 8 and Bourbon Smash. Both were excellent in very different ways: the first—made with Old Overholt rye, orange, lemon, grenadine, and bitters and served up—was fruity and boozy; the second—Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon, sugar, rosemary, and mint served over two large ice cubes—bright and not too sweet, the rosemary adding a nice scent.

It was the Fistful of Dollars that really stood out, however: Old Heaven Hill bourbon, Luxardo Amaro, mole bitters, mezcal mist, and orange flower water. It's served chilled in a stemless wine glass, a shape that helps concentrate the intense scent; I sat there just smelling it for a minute or two, trying to sort out everything that was going on. A little smokiness comes through from the mezcal mist, some cocoa from the mole bitters. It tastes a lot like it smells, but more so; I kept being reminded of Mexican hot chocolate, and could swear I detected a little cinnamon (but maybe I just associate that with the other flavors). The drink was velvety—a texture as much as a taste—but not sweet, the chocolate flavor subtle but somehow omnipresent, developing more as the drink warmed up. It's one of the most unusual cocktails I've had in a while, and I mean that entirely in a good way.

Ada St., 1664 N. Ada, 773-697-7069

Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.

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