The Cocktail Challenge hall of fame | Food & Drink Feature | Chicago Reader

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The Cocktail Challenge hall of fame

Not even pig's blood or stinkbugs daunted our intrepid mixologists.


1 comment
  • Ryan Segedi

Throughout the long run of Cocktail Challenge we've been continually impressed by the ingenuity of the bartenders who, challenged to create a cocktail with ingredients that have no place in a decent drink, come up with something clever, beautiful, and often even delicious. Here are a few of our favorites.

Rachael Smith, sardines, "Chum Guzzler"

Smith wasn't satisfied with one form of fish in her cocktail—tequila infused with sardines and cayenne—so she garnished it with a fish head and fin (whiting).

Nandini Khaund, pig's blood, Reign in Blood

Khaund discovered that the taste of pig's blood was stronger than she'd expected: "At first it just tasted like blood. Then the finish started kicking in . . . by the end it just tasted like this iron death. It was really intense, and it went for like a half hour."

  • Julia Thiel

Kristin Wolfel, catnip, "Careless Whiskers"

Tasked with an ingredient more commonly enjoyed by cats than humans, Wolfel opted to create a drink for her own cat, Stella, "so I don't have to drink alone on Friday nights anymore," she said.

  • Julia Thiel
Peter Kim, stinkbugs, "Betelgeuse"

"Of the many times I tried them, I gagged about two-thirds of the time," Kim says. "They come with their little feet attached, and they fall off and get stuck in between your teeth. That's not the most pleasant thing."

Anthony Mitchell, celery salt, "Hey Ernie, Let's Drink Two"

Celery salt calls to mind two things: Chicago-style hot dogs and Bloody Marys. So Mitchell made a hot-dog-inspired martini with a celery salt reduction, garnished with a mini Chicago dog: a cocktail wiener on a tiny poppy-seed bun with all the fixin's—including celery salt, of course.

Sammy Faze, squid ink, "Ten Thousand Leagues"

The finished cocktail is viscous and nearly black, and, Faze says, "you kind of feel like you're at the bottom of the ocean."

Christopher Marty, matzo, "Thank You, Janice"

  • Julia Thiel
Inspired by his grandmother's matzo ball soup, Marty made a broth with several types of alcohol (along with celery, carrot, and parsley), then soaked matzo balls in it. "The broth itself has almost no alcohol left in it," Marty says. "The matzo balls will get you drunk."

Adam Kamin, lobster tomalley, Tamale-Spiced Tomalley

Kamin's ingredient was lobster guts, but he wanted to use all parts of the lobster in his cocktail, so he pureed the meat with its poaching liquid and saffron, then froze it into ice cubes—each with a lobster claw sticking out. v

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