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All posts in Cocktails

The Force Awakens – Time to celebrate!

Fans have been awaiting 10 years for the next Star Wars movie, though ask any die-hard fan and they’ll tell you the wait has been more like 32 years since the prequels don’t count.  With The Force Awakens crushing all box office records ($247 million domestic and counting) the folks at Disney, LucasFilm, and Bad Robot have reason to celebrate.  If you were lucky enough to witness the rekindled magic on the big screen it’s time to raise a glass with one of these cocktails inspired from a long time ago…. Read more…


Happy Halloween From VODA Magazine

Halloween cocktails and recipes

                     The Zak-O-Latern Cocktail by Zachary Blair, Lead Mixologist at                                             Whiteface Lodge (Lake Placid, New York)







2 oz spiced rum

1oz hickory syrup

Splash of lemon

Bar spoon of pumpkin purée



·         Shake ingredients

·         Pour in high ball with club soda

·         Garnish with a cinnamon stick



What We’re Crushing on Now – Atlanta Food & Wine Festival May 28-31

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

In its 5th year the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will once again take midtown Atlanta by storm – in a good way – Thursday, May 28 – Sunday, May 31. Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love are the dynamic duo responsible for the growing success of this four-day, exquisite and delicious event. Chefs, sommeliers, and those, in the wine and food know, from all over the South will come together to present seminars, Champagne Brunch, exclusive dinners, and a collaborative experience of the Tasting Tent event. Here guests can sample and sip their way through the South while chatting it up with fellow foodies, wine and distillery peeps, and top-tier chefs.

SPIT: Eric Crane of Empire Distributors says he won’t stop till he’s a Master Sommelier POUR, SABER AND SWIRL: (clockwise from left) Five Atlantans dedicate their lives to becoming Master Sommeliers  There are 211 Master Sommeliers in the world. Eric Crane, Matt Bradford, Marie Ballard, Justin Amick, and Joon Lim are vying for spots on that exclusive list.

Eric Crane of Empire Distributors Photo courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

VODA Magazine had a chance to catch up with Atlanta local, Eric Crane, advanced sommelier and Director of Training and Business Development for Empire Distributors. Crane will be presenting two seminars within the wine industry. He shares what he’s most excited about, how the festival has grown, and professional tips on how to make the most of your Atlanta Food & Wine Festival experience. Hint it involves always having a “party pal.”

In the Festival’s 5th year Crane enthusiastically says, “They’ve made it this far, there’s more synergy. It puts a nice spotlight on Atlanta and the Festival allows you to eat and drink your way through the South.” Another one of the Festival’s highlights are the Tasting Tents. Crane’s recommendation is the fried chicken section. He says, “There’s nothing better on the planet but that, usually.” He refers to festival Sunday as “Lazy, Southern Sunday.” “By that time everyone’s had too much fun during Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.” There’s a Champagne Brunch on Sunday that I’m personally looking forward to. For me bubbles are always welcomed. To get the most out of your festival experience, Crane advices to stay hydrated and pace yourself. Lastly he adds, “Always have a drinking partner, a party pal. There’s less errors.” Eric will be co-presenting on Friday, May 29 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM American Oak in All Its Glory seminar. Then on Saturday, May 30 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM is the Acid is Your Friend seminar. For more information and for tickets visit, www.atlfoodandwinefestival.com



Chicago 2015: The Resolution of Giving

Now that the new year is underway, everyone is looking to get a start on their resolutions.  The gyms across town are packed every night, for now.  Sales of healthy food at the supermarket is going up, for now.  You are probably even getting to work early every day, for now.  (just speculating)

If your resolution is to do some good in the world, the task of truly giving back can seem daunting.  The thing to remember is it is ok to start small, the little things add up.  The other thing to remember is that you don’t have to go it alone.  There following are just a few products/places that will donate proceeds of sales to charitable organizations both in town and across the world.  Who says you can’t enjoy a night out while making the world a better place?


Ronald_McDonald_HouseBIG Bar & Brasserie at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, (151 East Upper Wacker Drive) is donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of their “Home Sweet Home” cocktail (Absolut Mango, St. Germain, Mango Puree and sour mix) to the Ronald McDonald House near the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.   The Ronald McDonald House  provides families a place to stay while their children are getting medical treatment.  You get a delicious cocktail and keep a family together at a time of need.  Cheers to that.


purple-asparagusDMK Burger Bar with locations downtown and in the suburbs is a mainstay of quality burgers and through their “365 Days of Giving” program, are also known for their big hearts.  Each month the DMK Burger Bar teams up with a different local non-profit organizations every month to help raise funds and awareness. In January they partner with Purple Asparagus,whose mission is to educate Chicago children, families, and communities about eating what is good for the body and the planet by bringing nutritious hands-on adventures to schools, community organizations, and farmers’ markets throughout Chicagoland.


lurie-childrens-hospitalLevel Two restaurant & lounge located on the second floor of the Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile offers guest a chance to donate to the Lurie Children’s Hospital through their is running Change for Hope campaign.   Nothing complicated about this one, guests are simply encourged to round up the change on their bill at the end of the meal.  All extra “Change for Hope” is collected and donated directly to Lurie Children’s Hospital across the street from the restaurant as a greater Room for Hope hotel-wide campaign to support Lurie patients and their families.


World_Wildlife_FundBranded Spirits’ Ice Fox Vodka  profits from the sale go in part to the World Wildlife Fund protecting the shrinking population of Artic Foxes that inspired the product.  Founded in 1961, the WWF is now the largest conservation organizations in the world, working on the restoration and preservation of endangered species and the environment.  The next time you are sitting back and enjoying a glass of this triple distilled premium all-american vodka, know you had a hand in saving a species from extinction. Definitely worth raising a glass to that.



Coral_Reef_AllianceBranded Spirits’ Motu Rum is donating a portion of profits from its sale  to the Coral Reef Alliance to help preserve the pristine coral reefs of the South Pacific.   The Coral Reef Alliance started in 1994 in Berkeley California to get the diving community involved in coral reef conservation.  Since then it has grown to a  premiere global non-profit conservation organization with initiative in reef communities around the world.  With every purchase of Motu Rum you are helping preserve this delicate ecosystem that urgently needs our help.

These are only some of the ways you can begin 2015 as your year of giving.  Even if it is limited to ordering a cocktail or picking up a bottle at the store, you are making a difference.  You shouldn’t dismiss these as trivial because again, the little things really can add up to something wonderful.  Knowing you had a hand in helping a local family stay close to their loved one at a difficult time, help keep the school kids healthy, or prevented a species in another part of the world from becoming a footnote in history, should warm your heart.  A step no matter how small makes you a part of the solution and a better tomorrow.


The 12 Cocktails of Christmas at Level Two


Hyatt Christmas Cocktails

The holidays are in full swing and many places are introducing seasonal flavors to their cocktail menu.  Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile Level Two restaurant and lounge has brought good tidings of holiday cheer by offering us for a limited time the “12 Cocktails of Christmas”. Read more…


Amarula – The Spirit of Africa


Debuting in South Africa back in 1983 it is currently available in over 100 countries, second only to Baileys in global cream liqueurs sales.  Wildly popular throughout the rest of the world and yet many here in the United States are only beginning to hear about it.  So what is Amarula? Read more…


The Aviary Chicago – Designer Drinks Not for the Birds

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

If you’re looking for birds, you might want to redirect your evening plans to Lincoln Park Zoo unless your version of bird watching is designer drinks. The Aviary—located on West Fulton Market near Randolph Street’s restaurant row—is a bar that prides itself on highbrow drinks, attention to detail, and presentation. According to The Aviary’s website, bartenders are trained as chefs by famed owners Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, the focus of each drink is on the flavor of the spirit and not the name or branding.

“Leave your preconceived favorite drinks or disliked spirits that you drank too much of in college at home,” Chef Micah Melton says. “Trust us, the tequila drink won’t make you feel the same way the shots of Jose Cuervo did in college. The Aviary doesn’t have a rum and coke or vodka soda on our menu, so trust us and select a drink based on flavors that you like.”

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Owner of an America’s Top 50 Restaurant Alinea and restaurant to The Aviary and speakeasy bar The Office, Next, Achatz holds the credentials to back his restaurant’s reputation. Open only Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 6 p.m. reserve the single chef’s table located in the kitchen of The Aviary or select a table in the main dining area, which provides a lounge atmosphere with low booth seating and small tables just big enough for the selection of drinks you’re about to order. Walk-ins are also welcome.

The menu provides an array of drinks available for order or you may reserve a ticket for their “prix fixe” menu, which can include 5-10 drinks that will not disappoint in taste or awe factor.

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Zombie Panda

Served as a refreshing starter, the Zombie Panda features a blend of lemon, raspberry liquor, lychee, and pisco. Brought to your table in a small rounded 1.5 oz glass, the Zombie Panda is a watermelon color with the texture of a blended watermelon. It’s a perfect introduction to richer flavors to come throughout your menu of drinks during your stay.

Barber’s Brunch

Whether or not you love to brunch with bottomless mimosas, The Aviary’s take on the classic champagne and orange juice beverage is sure to stun. Paired with a seasoned fried pork rind, the mix of Seville orange, royal combier, and topped off with a dusting of paprika, served in a champagne flute, makes Barber’s Brunch a VODA favorite.

Infernal Imagery

A treasure chest full of treasure is nice, but at The Aviary a treasure chest full of alcohol is better. Delivered to your table in a small chest made of smoky cherry wood, your waiter will open the top to a fog of deep aromas and drinks mixed with baralo, maurin quina, and rhum.

VODA Tip: As the drinks flow throughout your night, make sure to ask for glasses of water as well as The Aviary’s egg drop soup—a traditional hangover preventative featuring egg, greens and a delicious buttery ginger broth.

The Porthole

Trust us, this drink is so much better than being stuck on a cramped cruise. Served in a porthole infuser, teas, citrus and spirits collide for a drink that continues to change flavor throughout your dining experience. Available in various combinations of herbs, fruits and spirits, whichever porthole you order make sure to try this beverage at the beginning, middle and end of your stay. Your taste buds will be glad you did.

Tea In Trinidad

Looking less like a tea and more like the beginnings of a high school chemistry project, this drink is served in a cylindrical beaker complete with a stand and straw. Let the smoky start of this warm drink settle before enjoying a sweet taste of rum, rooibos, verjus, and benedictine like never before.

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

Photo Credit: Christian Seel

In The Rocks

Old fashions are your parent’s drink, an In The Rocks is yours. The Aviary’s most popular beverage served completely enclosed in a ball of ice, the In The Rocks requires a little bit of work before enjoying your drink. Served with a slingshot, your server will instruct you to place the slingshot on the glass, pull the apparatus back and let it strike the ice open to reveal your drink. A VODA favorite for innovation.

If you’re feeling a little hungry post cocktails, the restaurants on Randolph Street are a short walk away or The Aviary will call you a cab if you are wanting a lift.

The Aviary is located at 955 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL.

VODA In the Know:

  • The Aviary has a classic cocktail-style speakeasy in the basement called “The Office.” If there’s a cocktail that is your go-to that they don’t have upstairs, ask to have it downstairs! They also have an “insane spirit” list and 14+ collaboration beers that are only available at the Aviary.
  • Achatz—owner of one of American’s Top 50 Restaurants Alinea located in Lincoln Park—and Kokonas were asked by a hotel group to open a branch of Alinea in hotel locations. Chef Micah Melton says Achatz and Kokonas proposed a bar instead, but the hotel group passed. Following the rejection came The Aviary.



Miami’s First Gin Club Opens In the Sexy New Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach

Gin, once described as an herbal medicine, derived from the juniper berry is one of the most widely ranging spirits in existence. In preparation for VODA Magazine’s Miami Issue, we’re headed to the Metropolitan by Como Hotel in Miami Beach. This is Tripadvisor’s current number one hotel and home to the sultry city’s very first gin club at the Traymore Bar. I perused the menu of over 30 different artisanal gins – all this time I was limiting myself to Tanqueray and Bombay. The menu features gin from the United Kingdom, United States, France, and Netherlands. While I’m content with a simple gin martini or a gin and tonic with a lime, I was thrilled to see a fabulous mixology program in place for this dynamic spirit and other alluring liquors.

Read more…


Taxes done … time for a drink

Tax season has come and gone.   With it the headache of seemingly endless forms, boxes, and charts.  No sleep.  Questions creep into your head… Did I fill everything out correctly?  Am I forgetting any juicy deductions?  Am I going to owe a crap-ton of money?  Am I going to be audited?  Do they allow conjugal visits in prison?  It’s enough to drive a person to drink.

J.W. Marriott announced a couple tax themed cocktails to help take the edge off. Read more…


Fresh Origins – Above the rim


No better way to crown a cocktail. Read more…