Slideshow: First Look: Cocktails at Billy Sunday, Chicago

Negroni ($10)
Negroni ($10)
Bachman explained that while Billy Sunday's Negroni adheres to the standard build of the classic drink, "we're just taking liberties with the ingredients we choose to use." It features Ransom Old Tom Gin, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and Gran Classico Bitter from Tempus Fugit Spirits. This stirred drink is finished with a flamed orange peel. "I'm deeply infatuated with that product," Bachman said of Gran Classico. "Not to sound judgmental, but that is what Campari once was, in my opinion. It has more body. To me, [today's] Campari is more linear and one-dimensional." These divergences from the conventional ingredients lends this Negroni a softer edge and more nuanced bitterness.
Cocktail ($10)
Cocktail ($10)
Before it became a general term for all mixed drinks, a cocktail was something specific. "We're trying to abide by the original," Bachman said of Billy Sunday's cocktail, "when it actually meant something: spirit, sugar, water, bitters." In this case they're featuring McKenzie Rye Whiskey from upstate New York's Finger Lakes Distilling, which includes a high concentration of in-house-malted barley. "I'm really a big fan of malted spirits, whether it be Scotch or genever or things that have that heavy presence," Bachman said. "And I think it's fair to say that it's definitely a style of spirit that may be coming back around. It's been a tad forgotten about. So we really wanted to push that to the forefront." With its 80/20 rye/malted barley mashbill and "cereal, creamy" profile, McKenzie recalls the now-marginalized New England style of rye whiskey. "If you want to talk about what rye originally was in this country, it was that." Spanish brandy, water, North Bay bitters, and ambergris-laced palm sugar round out the cocktail.
Plank Road ($10)
Plank Road ($10)
Herencia reposado tequila and Hacienda De Chihuahua Sotol form the spirit base of the Plank Road. "I personally find tequila to be a very delicate spirit and something that is commonly misunderstood," Bachman said. "I think a lot of people associate it with shaken drinks—the margarita, of course—a lot of ice, citrus. Those are great cocktails, but I think it shows a lot better in a stirred format." Housemade sassafras bitters and an ingredient Bachman has dubbed "refined agave" complete this drink. The latter is essentially an agave-sweetened tea made from black walnut leaves, myrrh, barley, quassia, and vanilla bean. "It should be fat and round," he said of this cocktail, "and then it finishes dry and not cloying."
Son of the Crusta ($10)
Son of the Crusta ($10)
This shaken number is built with Armagnac Dartigalongue XO, Palo Cortado sherry, Tempus Fugit Kina, lemon, housemade Abbott’s bitters, and Welsh nectar, "a very old, old sweetening agent used for cooking down raisins with lemon peel," Bachman said. The drink is loosely based on the Crusta, a classic cocktail that's undergone numerous manipulations over the years. "The original build, when Jerry Thomas wrote about it, was really nothing more than brandy, lemon juice, orange curaçao, and a little bit of simple syrup." Like the passionfruit in the daiquiri, using a dry sherry is a means to build acidity without relying on citrus. "So it's probably going to be full-bodied up front, with the Welsh nectar and the brandy, but on the back end—and this is 30- to 35-second experience—it should finish with sherry and shouldn't come off tasting like a Sidecar."