Chicago Cocktails – GreenRiver

From the folks behind Dead Rabbit, Green River offers impossibly classy company, sweeping views of the Second City, and solid drinks.

 Ambiance: ****1/2

Decor: ****1/2

Service: ****

Cocktails: ****

Overall Rating: 4.25

After a marvelous night at Lost Lake, I did some more asking around for nice cocktail spots in Chicago. I eventually heard about GreenRiver, which has a notable cocktail pedigree coming from the folks who run NYC’s famed Dead Rabbit bar (which I hope to get to in a few weeks). Situated on the 18th floor with a beautiful view of the Sears Towers and the Chicago skyline, GreenRiver is luxurious and sophisticated but not too clubby. We were lucky enough to snag a beautiful spot with a grand view of the city, allowing us to pair the urban splendor with some great drinks.

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I hesitate to call Green River’s mammoth registry of 32 cocktails “a list” – it’s more like a winding narrative replete with folksy descriptions of each drinks origins. I wish more restaurants and bars would take this literary approach, as it lends gravitas and flare to the proceedings. The cocktails themselves were some marvels of creativity, with an adventurous assortment of ingredients and pairings that excite the tastebuds and push boundaries.

I started the tour with the “American Woman” with Dry Gin, Marie Framboise, Cappelletti Aperitivo, Suze Gentiane, Rose Hip, Grapefruit and Cava. This drink was a little challenging for me and too bitter particularly on the front end, but the grapefruit smoothes it out as you move through. Not bad, but the aperitvo and framboise were a little too overwhelming and hard on the taste. Next up was my favorite cocktail of the evening, the “Tommy Gun” with Pisco, Pineapple, Lime, Garam Masala and bitters. This was a superb celebration of citrus, perfectly even and cool and molded perfectly to the pisco so that the taste’s are beautifully intertwined. Just the right measure of strength and easy sweetness, I loved it.

On to the “Hellcat” with Swedish Vodka, Apricot Eau de Vie, Chocolate, Macadamia, Lemon, Grapefruit and Aromatic Bitters. What an interesting flavor, I loved the chocolate and macademia influenced taste that leads to a little overly bitter finish. The lemon and grapefruit also pop nicely in the front and at the middle. A coherent celebration of some diverse ingredients. Then I sipped the “Easy Eddie” Buffalo Trace bourbon, Green Chartreuse, Yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit), Lemon, Banana and Xocolatl Mole Bitters. This was a little bracing and overly sweet on the front, but the banana flavor carries the day, intermingling well with the bourbon and lemon. A fine mix.

Next cocktail was the “Apache” with Aviation Gin, Chocolate, Pear, Lemon, Ginger and Black Cardamom. This was a good rich and sophisticated sipper, with the gin up front and descending through the pear, lemon, and finally the ginger. Didn’t really notice the chocolate but the drink was none the worse for it. One of those drinks to slip slow at first, then finish in a flourish. Then the “Governor of Illinois” with Jamaican Rum, Redbreast 12 Yr. Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, Port Wine, Raspberry, Lime and Orinoco Bitters. Like the all-powerful political figure its named after, this drink is stronger than it looks with an ultra-rum taste that hits hard mid-way. The port and raspberry give it a sweet, dark fruit cut as you sip as well. A nice straight forward sipper.

Next was “Haley’s Comet” with Dry Gin, Avèze Gentiane, Passion Fruit, Lemon, Kaffir Lime Leaf, Decanter Bitters and Cava. The comet was a very easy drink heavy on the passion fruit taste and the gin up front. There was a sweet citrus pop near the end that lifts the whole taste up a bit. Liked it. Then the picturesque and very different “Prima Donna” with Whiskey, Branca Menta, Pomegranate, Lemon, Sumac and Burlesque Bitters. The Prima was a really fascinating flavor, never tasted anything like that rye/pomegranate combination before. That steady cut of whiskey and subtle fruit dominates the drink and edges out the other hints, but its interesting enough on its own.

Our finale was a great standout, the “MacSwiney” with Cognac, Crème de Noyaux, Kirsch, Vanilla, Lemon, Mascarpone Cheese(!) and Burlesque Bitters. A daring and delightful combination, I thought the vanilla was a revelation and propelled this drink. The other flavor that came out of no wear was the dairy hint off the drink, which lends great body and heft to this creamy, boozy affair. A perfect winter drink, this was a hit. Until next time GreenRiver!

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