By Kate Bernot, @redeyeeatdrink
9:03 AM PST, January 16, 2013
Though it was the food menu from Charlie Trotter alum Matthias Merges that first grabbed headlines when Yusho opened in Avondale in 2012, beverage director Alex Bachman's cocktails soon earned praise of their own.
With the opening of cocktail bar Billy Sunday (3143 W. Logan Boulevard) on January 24 at 5 P.M., the spotlight will shine squarely on Bachman's drinks.
The 50-seat bar will serve approximately 14 cocktails ($8-$10), with two tonics on a draft system similar to that of Yusho.
Though that means quick pours, these are labor-intensive recipes. In addition to making his own bitters, Bachman also plans to make his own tonics (for unexpected drinks like a tequila and tonic or rye and tonic) as well as custom ice cubes. Reinterpreted classics, such as daiquiris and negronis, also are on deck.
But true cocktail nerds will want to turn their attention to the back bar. There, Bachman will showcase his collection of rare and defunct spirits that he's been gathering for nearly five years. From out-of-production rum, vintage amaros and chartreuse to a group of 38 defunct scotches, the back bar was one of the major reasons that Bachman and Merges sought to open Billy Sunday.
To soak up all these drinks, former G.E.B. chef John Vermiglio has created a menu of what they're calling "Midwest Sunday supper" fare, including a bread and butter program with five or six accompanying spreads, as well as a handful of other dishes.
While Chicagoans are generally always excited about the opening of a new cocktail bar, Billy Sunday's namesake might not be as enthusiastic. The early 20th-century Evangelical preacher (and former White Sox player) was a staunch supporter of the temperance movement to prohibit the consumption of alcohol.
Seems an odd name for a bar, no?
"He was a guy that was unflinchingly commited to what he believed in," said Bachman. "We respect his commitment to what he did and believed in. Obviously, we’re very different from that, but we have a similar commitment to the cocktails."
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