Rum & Kola Smash ($12)
Acadia's head bartender, Michael Simon, had in mind to do a spin on the Filmograph, a drink made of brandy, lemon, and tonic made from kola syrup. "Kola syrup is derived from kola nuts," Simon says. "It's very herbaceous and tasty." The first smashes were made with brandy, so why not try a Filmograph-esque smash? Simon was thrilled by how his own housemade kola tonic turned out, but it wasn't meshing with the citrus as well as he hoped. Soon he was experimenting with English Harbour 5-year aged Antigua rum and birch-forward Root liqueur—which has proven a winning combination. For now Simon is using Luxardo maraschino cherries and a dash of their juice for this drink, but once cherry season arrives to the Midwest later this year, he plans to make his own cocktail cherries in-house.
The Amnesiac ($12)
"In the past few years I have really become fascinated with local amari, vermouths, aperitif wines—in a pragmatic way of, say, sipping on something before dinner, or when you're full after a meal or whatever. I saw an opportunity to make a more aperitif-centric drink." Using the recipe for a Brain Duster (Italian vermouth, rye, and absinthe) as a springboard, Simon explored the concept of serving spirit-flavored ice cubes to help alter the drink's personality over time. His absinthe ice cubes, at left, triple up on the anise notes with absinthe, fennel fronds, and fennel stems. He also ditched the rye in favor of The Bitter Truth's E.X.R. amaro alongside Yellow Chartreuse and Carpano Antica red vermouth. To balance the viscous Carpano, Simon adds a fluttering housemade soda derived from osmanthus (akin to orange flower) tea procured from Rare Tea Cellar.
Cognac Dreamsicle ($12)
Simon has a penchant for doubling and sometimes tripling the appearances of ingredients in his cocktails, a technique which can intensify the flavors of that ingredient exponentially. The Cognac Dreamsicle features fresh orange and vanilla bean flavors present in its "Acadia" Marnier—Simon's homemade take on Grand Marnier—a measure of Benedictine, and the drink's whipped-to-order vanilla bean froth. "It's not loaded with unnecessary sugar," Simon says of the Cognac Dreamsicle. "That's such a deceptive way of serving drinks. If you load something with sugar, at first glance it can taste good, but it has no real flavor complexity."
Hanky Panky ($12)
This cocktail was inspired by a drink of Ada Coleman's. She was the head bartender at the Savoy cocktail bar in London who preceded Harry Craddock. Simon updated her recipe of gin, red vermouth, and Fernet Branca by employing Hayman's Old Tom gin, Dolin Rouge red vermouth, Fernet Branca, and Zucca Rabarbaro amaro. "The Zucca is very amicable, very slutty and viscous—the yin to the yang of Fernet. It just made that drink more complete."
Mezcal Old Fashioned ($12)
"Here, we're thinking, if it grows together, it goes together," Simon says of the ingredients in the Mezcal Old Fashioned. He again doubles up on the base spirit, using Sombra Joven (unaged) mezcal, and a 5-month aged reposado mezcal from Ilegal. He combines them with mole bitters, a slightly savory tomatillo agave syrup he makes in-house with toasted allspice berries, allspice liqueur, and dill and coconut ice cubes. "It's a really beautiful syrup," he says of the tomatillo agave. "It sounds kind of funky at first, but it's really balanced." The ice cubes—made with coconut palm sugar, coconut water, fresh dill, and grapefruit segments—are a nod to the unique flavors imparted by American oak barrels that are used to age mezcal.
Corn Flakes Flip ($12)
This drink blends two kinds of whiskey, Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey and F.E.W. Spirits' white whiskey (which has corn in its mash). F.E.W, out of Evanston, Illinois, is one of a handful of locally sourced products behind Simon's bar at Acadia. "A flip, by the classical definition, will have a whole egg in it," Simon explains. To play off the corn-based spirits, Simon adds his own cereal-infused rice milk, riffing on a technique popularized by New York's Momofuku Milk Bar. Simon toasts corn flakes, then adds them while still hot to a mixture of cold rice milk, honey, and a small amount of kosher salt. The rice milk steeps like tea, quickly absorbing the toasted-cereal flavor. "What you get is that perfect, bowl-of-cereal milk," he adds.
Juniper Sazerac ($12)
Simon first invented this drink while working at Chicago's Graham Elliot and has been refining it since. In thinking about the flavor profile of a traditional Sazerac, he realized, "You could stick juniper right in there, and it would be totally simpatico with everything else." He toasts juniper berries, and adds them to a bit of St. George absinthe from California and Demerara sugar to make a juniper syrup. Instead of using Peychaud's bitters, he opts for The Bitter Truth Creole bitters, which is an homage to Peychaud's "on steroids," Simon says. For the spirits, he uses Templeton rye and a half-ounce of Cognac.
The Aviator ($12)
"All in wanted to do, initially, was do an Aviation Fizz," Simon says. "I always liked Aviations, but I always felt there was something missing, or that the lemon was just a bit overpowering." His goal was to expand on the complexity of the lemon elements and make the drink more texturally rich for wintertime. He uses Farmer's Gin from Minnesota, which offers prominent botanical notes. To that he adds maraschino liqueur, The Bitter Truth violet liqueur, egg, a homemade Meyer lemon-based syrup, and a lemon soda he makes from Rare Tea Cellar's lemon meritage tea, lemon bitters and extract, bay leaves, and some more of the Farmer's gin—again, doubling up on ingredients to help explore their complexity.