Schott says he modeled the Parson's Michelada after a regional version of the popular Mexican beer cocktail he tasted on a visit to the Yucatán earlier this year. Not typically a fan of Micheladas, Schott found that its more savory style suited his palate. The housemade sangrita he developed to form the base of this drink leans on ingredients like Maggi seasoning and Worcestershire to create a spicy-savory backbone. Lime, a salt-and-pepper rim, and a topper of Modelo Especial round out the flavor profile with brightness and bubbles.
Margarita Humosa ($8)
In the glass, we have the makings of a smoky, orange-tinged Margarita: El Buho Mescal, Torres Orange Brandy, orange and lime juice, and Maguey Sweet Sap, a sweetener which is similar to agave syrup but has an umami element that makes Schott liken it to "nature's teriyaki sauce." He adds that, "It sweetened, but also added a little depth, to the Margarita." But the real wild card of this drink is clinging to the rim: a housemade mix of malic acid and sugar that mimics the intense taste of Sour Patch Kids. "If you did a smoky Margarita with a salt rim, it wouldn't be much fun, you know?"
"That's one of my favorites," Schott says of the Bitter/Sour, a mix of 90-proof Very Old Barton Bourbon, lemon, simple syrup, and a 3/4-ounce float of straight Angostura Bitters. The first slug of this drink reads like a whiskey sour; but as it's sipped and stirred, the clove and wood notes of the bitters gradually prevail on the flavor profile. Inspiration for this cocktail, Schott says, came from reading about a certain Wisconsin bar that survived Prohibition serving "medicinal" shots of Angostura (clocking in at nearly 90 proof) to customers purportedly seeking a curative for upset stomachs.
Negroni Slushy ($8)
A frozen drink machine sits right at the center of the back bar at Parson's. Its job: dispense the instantly popular Negroni Slushy, a blend of Chicago-made Letherbee Gin, Luxardo Bitter (in lieu of Campari), Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth, a touch of citrus, and finely crushed ice.
Old Spaniard ($6)
This is nearly a standard Gin & Tonic, except that the gin has been replaced by a mix of fruity Montepulciano red wine, brandy, and various baking spices, creating a kind of sangria/G&T hybrid—a low-alcohol highball designed to have enough bite and acid to cut through the menu's copious fried foods. "It's like a mulled wine spritzer," Schott says with a smile.
Pompelmo Americano ($6)
This grapefruit-forward quaff seems specially engineered for cavalier summer day drinking. Letherbee Gin, Cocchi Americano, grapefruit juice, Fee Bros. Grapefruit Bitters, and a measure of salt locate this drink somewhere between a Salty Dog and that classic Italian happy-hour cocktail, the Americano. Schott explains that the addition of salt helps to soften the bite of the cocktail's bitter elements.
Red Hook ($8)
The build of the Red Hook follows that of a classic Martinez, save for a swap of George Dickel Rye Whisky in for the standard Old Tom gin. The 90-proof Tennessee-made rye is tempered by Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and Fee Bros. Old Fashion Bitters, and garnished with a couple of brandied cherries. "For a brown and stirred, it's about as summery as you can get," Schott tells me.
Seasons And... ($6)
The Seasons And... will be a fixture on the Parson's cocktail menu, but the ingredients will change—you guessed it—depending on the season. This drink also serves as a showcase for one of Schott's favorite locally made products: Seasons Soda, a line of all-natural soft drinks. (Chicagoans who frequent the Green City farmers market may have encountered founder Bobby Chang selling the stuff.) The debut Seasons And... combines Starlite Vodka, Raspberry-Mint Seasons Soda from the tap, Dimmi Liquore di Milano, and lime.
Triple Backs ($5 each)
General Manager Max Wolod tells me that the origins of Parson's pair of shot-chaser-and-nibble combinations lie in his days on an Eastern European-heavy construction crew. He says workers would occasionally convene for a tipple on breaks, and they'd take turns contributing some kind of small, salty bite—usually herring—as a customary follow-on. At Parson's the options skew vegetarian; you can choose between (at right) a progression of Very Old Barton, pickle brine, and a pickle chip, or Cabrito Blanco Tequila and herbaceous housemade verdita (pineapple juice, cilantro, mint, jalapeño), followed by a slice of jicama. "It's really refreshing," Charlie Schott says of the verdita. "The heat from the jalapeño and all the other flavors make you forget you did a shot of tequila."