Molecular mixology at The Aviary in Chicago
I love a good cocktail, and even though molecular gastronomy is not really my thing, the experience at The Aviary was pretty spectacular…that is, if you’re willing to burn a small hole in your wallet.
That’s because drinks at The Aviary ain’t cheap. It is, after all, the cocktail bar akin to Michelin-starred Alinea. This means three things: whimsical fare, excellent service, and hefty price tags.
My friends and I came here on a Friday night after our two dinners at Avec and Blackbird. We’d bought tickets a week ahead of time and could only snag a 10 PM slot for our party of five. (To reserve a table, you go online and pay a $20 deposit per person, which fully counts towards your tab for the night. This is how Alinea works, too.)
The fancy bar/lounge is dimly lit and jumping with imbibers gathered around colorful, smoky beverages. We chose not to do any of the prix fixe cocktail flights or tastings (which range from $65 to $195 per person and may or may not include food pairings) and went a la carte instead. Drinks are extremely elaborate—think ice art, thoughtful edible accompaniments, showy presentation—so each drink will run you more or less $20.
I thoroughly enjoyed my O’Doyle Rules, a cocktail made with cognac, rum, clarified banana, curry (!), and cilantro. I dislike bananas in the raw, but I love banana-flavored foods (in fact, that was my favorite Gerber baby food growing up), and cilantro is my favorite herb, so I just had to try the O’Doyle Rules. To my surprise, the cocktail was mild in spite of its list of bold-tasting ingredients. It came with some fried banana which was divine and the best part of the drink.
Another notable bar bite was the foie gras Snickers. Yes, that’s right. Think an elevated Snickers bar with foie gras as filling. You can bet you eat that with a fork and knife a la George Costanza.
The guys in our group couldn’t resist the cocktail served in a ship bottle called Loaded to the Gunwales and ordered one to share. A glass ship sits inside a bottle, “floating” on your spiced cocktail, which is poured and enjoyed alongside a snuffed candle for smoky aroma. Hoaky? Yes. But entertaining it also is.
And that’s the attitude you have to adopt going in to one of these molecular places. It’s all about having fun, like an amusement park for your senses.
955 W. Fulton Market (at Morgan St.)
Chicago, IL 60607
Ph. +1 312 226-0868