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Liquor reviews, cocktail recipes, mixology trends, and seasonal ingredients. Includes cocktail tips and info on local whiskey, gin, vodka, beer, and liqueur.

Filtering by Tag: Chicago cocktails

HOLLOW LEG + Jack Daniels = <3

Devin Kidner

HOLLOW LEG is excited to announce that we were chosen by CUSP Magazine and Jack Daniels to be featured in a new video series entitled, The Process, and our episode drops in early February!

CUSP Mag writes, "The Process looks at Chicago based entrepreneurs who are using their bartending & mixology experience to inspire their own business and brand."

Until our episode drops, check out the first video featuring Carlos Matias. "Carlos is a local mixologist who focuses on hospitality being a key component to the bar experience."

5 Things To Do in Chicago THIS Week!

Devin Kidner

Another week, and more amazing things to do in Chicago - of course! Here are our top picks for a fantastic week, starting with...

  1.  Tiki Cooking Class @ The Chopping Block (Wednesday 14 December)

    In 2017, I’m making it my mission to cook and bake more, especially foods I don’t know how to cook. I love creating and drinking tiki cocktails (like this one), so am thrilled to be taking a class to teach me how to make food that pairs! More info here.

2. Adler After Dark (Thursday 15 December)

If you're looking for something different, and love museums but hate competing with kids to interact with the exhibits, Adler After Dark is for you. It's for 21+, you can buy some booze, and you can even go to the observatory to peer at the night sky! Info and tix here.

Photo by Luke Golobitsh

Photo by Luke Golobitsh

3. Go caroling at The Bean (Friday 16 December)

It's the last day of caroling at Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), so take advantage of it! This is one of my favourite Chicago holiday traditions, and after you're done singing, you can grab a pair of skates and head to the ice rink, or grab a bite to eat at Park Grill! More info here!

4. Drink to benefit Chicago animals! (Saturday 17 December)

If you want to spread some Christmas cheer by donating to Chicago's neediest animals, join us for a holiday-themed cocktail class, in which all proceeds of your ticket benefit Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control. More info and tickets are available here.

5. Christmas Bingo (Sundays at 2 pm at The Royal George Theater)

Christmas + Bingo + Catholic comedy. What could be a better mix? You know you're sick of doing the same old, same old, so head over to The Royal George and get your laugh on (and get into some competitive bingo action), for this show. Info and tix here.

Enjoy the week! 

Kimchi Cocktail Recipe: An In-Class Creation

Devin Kidner

In our cocktail classes, we don't like putting Baby in a corner. That's why we don't centre our classes around recipes for certain cocktails.


We know that what makes a good drink isn't a stuffy bar director or bartender or anyone else telling you that a drink is good. Nope. It's about your palate and your preferences!

In our classes, we give you the tools you need to succeed: Not just the muddlers and the mixers, but the science of how we taste and how to think about creating your perfect drink from the chemical effects to troubleshooting a finished product that doesn't make the cut.

With that, we're stoked when class-goers come up with interesting, creative creations that stem from their own imagination, and even more joyous when they share their recipes for others to enjoy.

Here's the cocktail we're sharing this week:

Just Add Noodles - a bright, spicy, and tangy drink that's both savoury and a little sweet. It's the fermented flavour of a Bloody Mary with the sweetness of orange, like a Mimosa! 

  • 2 oz. dry gin
  • 1 forkful of kimchi and a splash of the juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • ½ fresh cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Muddle the kimchi and cayenne into the gin. Add orange juice, then shake vigorously over ice. Serve cold in a small Ball Jar. Garnish with kimchi, a cayenne pepper, and an orange peel on a skewer.

Meet Our Farmers & Producers

Devin Kidner

Our Holiday Mixology, Bitters, and Bloody Mary Classes are up and running (with more to be posted soon!), and we’re so psyched to be featuring local farmers and producers in our classes.

Supporting local folks has been one of HOLLOW LEG’s main missions, and we're excited to be showcasing their produce and products in our classes. After all, the best cocktails are made from the best ingredients, and we want everyone coming to a class to taste the best the Midwest has to offer.

To us, cocktails are more than a drink, they're a glass of stories, passion, and an honest day's work. Please take a moment to meet the people who make (and will make!) your in-class creations possible.

Why they're amazing: I've personally known René (the lady half of this farming duo, Bruce is her husband) for years and have had the pleasure of seeing her at Green City Farmers Market. She and her husband are dedicated to sustainable farming, and, according to their website, is "verified in MAEAP for all crops produced. MAEAP stands for Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program and certifies environmentally sustainable agricultural practices." 

The Ellis Family on the farm 2015, picture courtesy of Ellis Family Farm

The Ellis Family on the farm 2015, picture courtesy of Ellis Family Farm

Peter and me (Devin) modelling for Crain's Business, photo courtesy of Crain's, photo by Lisa Predko

Peter and me (Devin) modelling for Crain's Business, photo courtesy of Crain's, photo by Lisa Predko

  • Eggs from Meadow Haven Farm (Sheffield, Illinois)

    Jeremy and Cherie House are some of my favourite humans, as well as some of the most incredible stewards of the land they work and the animals they raise. In any egg-based drinks we make (egg white drinks will be featured in our holiday classes), we exclusively use their eggs - read why here.
Jeremy and Cherie House of Meadow Haven Farm feeding their healthy, happy chickens

Jeremy and Cherie House of Meadow Haven Farm feeding their healthy, happy chickens

Savoury cocktails are both complex and interesting, and whether you're creating a Bloody Mary in our Bloody Bar Workshop, or inventing a new creation, this kimchi is the best. Bushel & Peck preserves everything by hand using produce from their certified organic farm.

  • Spices – Epic Spices (Chicago, Illinois)

    Fresh and well-sourced spices are a must for making quality, potent bitters. Epic Spices is our go-to because Steven is incredibly knowledgeable and has a huge selection.

Holiday cocktails beg for some homespun caramel made from the best darn butter you've ever tasted. Enter Nordic Creamery. On top of being amazing folks, Al and Sarah Bekkum are award-winning cheese and butter makers. Their cows are pasture-raised and their butter never has chemicals or preservatives. 

The adorable Bekkum Family on their farm in WIsconsin

The adorable Bekkum Family on their farm in WIsconsin

  • Tomatoes, Garlic, and Onions – Leaning Shed Farm (Berrien Springs, Michigan)

    Fresh tomato juice in Bloody Marys is only made better when sourcing locally grown tomatoes from Leaning Shed. Dave and Denise grow over 45 types of heirloom tomatoes, 5 varieties of garlic, and the best darn onions this side of the Mississippi!
Dave showing off what he grew, picture courtesy of Leaning Shed

Dave showing off what he grew, picture courtesy of Leaning Shed

  • Cold Brew CoffeeDark Matter Coffee (Chicago, Illinois) or Printer's Row Coffee Co. (Chicago, Illinois)

    We're stoked that Dark Matter are our neighbours, and their philosophy is that they produce "quality coffees [that] are sourced based on traceability, innovation and social responsibility." You'll love their stuff.

Printer's Row Coffee Co. feature our friends Nick and Nicole, and their small batch coffee tastes as pure and fresh as their passion for the craft. They're always surprising us with brews that are unique and thoughtful, perfectly pairing with whatever cocktail we may have in mind!

Nicole and Nick, the wife and husband team behind Printer's Row Coffee Co.

Nicole and Nick, the wife and husband team behind Printer's Row Coffee Co.

  • Soda - Seasons Soda (Chicago, Illinois)

    It's not often enough you get to see an amazing success story bloom before your eyes, but then again, most people haven't had the pleasure of meeting Bobby Chang. Bobby sold his handcrafted sodas at Green City Market before turning his tent into a full-fledged business sticking to the philosophy, "source responsibly, process minimally, and deliver a beverage that embodies the essence of its origins."

    His sodas are interesting and nuanced: Bitter Lemon Tonic, Ginger Demi-Sec, and Maple Demi-Sec, just to name a few.
&nbsp;Bobby Chang of Seasons Soda, photo courtesy of Seasons Soda, photo by Amanda Jane Jones

 Bobby Chang of Seasons Soda, photo courtesy of Seasons Soda, photo by Amanda Jane Jones

  • Edible Flowers/Unique Herbs - Pyrite Sun (Chicago, Illinois)

    Sarah Mallin is a gem. By far one of the most knowledgeable and down-to-earth folks I've ever known, her garden bursts with the most interesting and coveted edible flowers and herbs. If ever someone has made our cocktails more beautiful, it's Sarah's expert gardening and keen eye for the uniquely beautiful. She's also an amazing pie-maker. For serious. Check her out on Instagram at @pyritesun.
Sarah Mallin and her gorgeous pies, photo courtesy of Pyrite Sun

Sarah Mallin and her gorgeous pies, photo courtesy of Pyrite Sun

I doubt the Ball Jars company knows how grateful we are for their jars. We use them exclusively for all of our events to store our mixers and syrups, and as our cocktail shakers. Made in the USA and locally to boot, we're thrilled with the quality, the convenience of the measurements on the side of the jars, and the many accessories that have been designed to make pouring and sipping easier. Cheers, Ball Jars!

At HOLLOW LEG, cocktail-making is a community affair. We hope you enjoy the drinks you create in class with the world-class ingredients we've sourced for you!

Girl Scout Cookie Cocktails, Part 3

Devin Kidner

It's time for Part 3 of our Girl Scout Cookie cocktail series, and today is really fantastic because it combines whiskey and peanut butter and beer. Oh yes. All three...

In case you're joining the conversation a little late, here is Part 1 (the Samoa) of our GSC cocktail experiment and here is Part 2 (the Trefoil)

Let's get down to business...

The Do-Si-Do has long been one of our favourite cookies. Creamy peanut butter sandwiched between oatmeal cookies are an instant classic. They're casual and perfect for a lunchtime snack.

Our riff is a little more...grown up...but still has all the flavour of these classic cookies, and has a twist...a beer twist.


Before you begin, grab an 8 oz. Ball Jar (we used the 8 oz. quilted jar because it's prettier), and create the cookie garnish.

You'll need:

  • A plate
  • Maple syrup
  • Pastry brush
  • Cookie crumbles (finely crushed Do-Si-Do cookies work well, or make some shortbread crumbles. Into a small bowl, add a tablespoon of butter, a tablespoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of flour. Rub together the ingredients with your fingers until they start to make little pebbles. Toss on a baking sheet (on top of some parchment) into a 350° oven for 10 minutes.)

Pour some maple syrup onto the plate and with the pastry brush, paint on the maple syrup around the top of the Ball Jar.

Pour the cookie crumbles onto the plate and roll the top of the jar in the crumbles until evenly coated. Set aside.

The Do-Si-Do Cocktail without the glorious beer float.&nbsp;  Photo credit: Brett Calomino

The Do-Si-Do Cocktail without the glorious beer float. Photo credit: Brett Calomino


  • .5 oz creamy peanut butter (we used MaraNatha No Stir, Organic Creamy Peanut Butter)
  • 1.5 oz Four Grain KOVAL Whiskey (the mash is made with, among other things, oats! This gives the cocktail a wonderful oaty flavour, as well as a creamier mouthfeel)
  • 3 dashes of Oaked Grappa/Vanilla Bitters
  • .5 oz maple/brown sugar syrup

Shake all of the above ingredients for 10-12 seconds, or longer, until peanut butter has completely combined with the other ingredients. The mixture will be thick.

Add ice (I used 6-7 ice cubes), and shake again for 10 seconds. Strain into an 8 oz. Ball Jar filled with ice.

Now for the beer float!!!


See this amazing beer? It's brewed by Slapshot Brewing right here in Chicago. It's a brown ale brewed with peanut butter, and it is incredible. A great nutty aroma, a fantastic peanut buttery finish, it really does add a nice finish to our Do-Si-Do cocktail.

Why top an already fantastic cocktail with beer? A few reasons:

1. It adds a little bubble to the cocktail, making it more interesting to sip
2. It adds an incredible aroma to the top of the beer.
3. It adds more complexity to the beer.
4. Local beer. Local beer brewed with freakin' peanut butter. That's why.

So about that beer float. After you've strained your cocktail into the Ball Jar, fill the rest of the way with beer. It's that simple. Sip away!

Next week we will unveil our final Girl Scout Cookie Cocktail, the Thin Mint, but it will ONLY be available through our newsletter. So if you want to know how to create it, sign up here:

This Valentine's Day, Give Her (or Him!) a Cocktail!

Devin Kidner

Okay, don't JUST give her/him a cocktail. Also take them out to dinner. But mix them a cocktail to set up the evening (or as a nightcap), and start the night out right!


The Penny Lane tastes like a boozy chocolate dipped cherry. Find the recipe and technique below!

"Penny Lane"

2 oz. Ceres Vodka from Chicago Distilling Company
2 oz chilled hot chocolate made with local dairy (I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa)
2 tsp. cognac
1 oz cherry juice

OPTIONAL: 1 Meadow Haven Farm egg white

The Technique:

If omitting the egg white, shake the ingredients together with ice for 10 seconds. Strain into a glass and garnish with a cocoa powder heart.

If adding the egg white, shake all of the ingredients together without ice for 20 seconds, then incorporate ice and shake again for 10 seconds. Strain into a glass, gently shaking the egg white on top.


The Garnish:

See that picture above? This is how you accomplish an awesome garnish on top of this drink, or really any drink.

It's super simple. Take a piece of cardboard and draw a shape on it. Then carefully cut it out.

Sit it on top of the glass and carefully shake cocoa/cinnamon/sprinkles over top.

Remove the template carefully and voila!

A few tips:

  1. Make sure the amount of liquid in the glass is near the top but not right to the edge, otherwise, your template will get wet!
  2. If the template does get wet, just let it dry out on a flat surface. It will dry and you can reuse it.
  3. If you don't remove the template carefully, you will damage your cute little garnish! To save it, you could re-shake the cocktail then try again!

Adorable, right? Happy Valentine's Day!

You put WHAT in your winter cocktails?

Devin Kidner

One of the biggest challenges anyone dedicated to the local, seasonal way of eating faces, especially in the Midwest, is what the heck to do in the winter, when there's less variety of produce and it seems root veggies are in every. single. dish. 

It's no different for us here at HOLLOW LEG. Being dedicated to sustainable cocktails, working within the limits of freezing Chicago winters seems ridiculous.

Spoiler Alert: Citrus doesn't grow in a climate like Chicago's. Picture by Kilroyart

Spoiler Alert: Citrus doesn't grow in a climate like Chicago's. Picture by Kilroyart

Sustainable cocktails, sure! But is this a sustainable business model? What the heck are you spiking cocktails with in the dead of winter?

And forget about the winter! Did you know here at HOLLOW LEG, when we work the Midwest scene, we steer clear of citrus fruits, which are pretty much the staple in mixology? They are used in everything from garnishes to anchoring flavour, and for good reason: they lend their acidity, bitterness, and characteristic sharp flavour to create complexity and balance in cocktails.

I’ve been asked why. Why no citrus? Why not just make my life easier and squeeze that wedge of lemon into the Pucker Up, a drink that uses fresh cranberry sauce, rose hip liqueur, vodka, and egg whites? Isn’t there something lacking without citrus?

The answer to me is simple. It’s unnecessary.

Unlike our lack of common baking spices in the Midwest (if someone knows where I can source local cinnamon, black pepper, and mace, please let me know, because for now I’m sourcing Fair Trade!), acidity can be achieved right here in the Midwest through a seemingly unusual but traditional source: Vinegar.

That’s right, y’all. Vinegar.

Mine doesn't look so beautiful, so here's a pic from Williams-Sonoma. Gah, overachievers.

Mine doesn't look so beautiful, so here's a pic from Williams-Sonoma. Gah, overachievers.

It was easy here in ChiTown when the spring and summer stopped by for a visit. Anyone who has tasted rhubarb knows you need no lemon to make it zing; young blueberries and blackberries are tart as all get-up; tart cherries hit at the perfect time and make for a gorgeous sour syrup; quince and crab apples are fantastic tart-ing staples; and persimmons nearly burn your tongue off with their astringency, which can fake as something sour when balanced well. 

It’s when cranberry season comes ‘round, I know we’re at the end. As soon as cranberries hit the market this year, I had a mini-panic attack. How am I going to incorporate acidity into cocktails through the long winter? 

I have a whole pantry of locally dried fruits and preserves, but it was a Midwestern baking tradition that made me reach for vinegar.

Vinegar Pie.

Return to a traditional baking staple for cocktails! Picture by

Return to a traditional baking staple for cocktails! Picture by

Nelson Algren, back in the 1930s, wrote in his book, America Eats:

Early Illinoisans felt keenly the absence of native fruit. Along toward the spring their systems developed a craving for something tart. To satisfy the craving, ingenious housewives invented the vinegar pie - vinegar, molasses, water, a little nutmeg and flour enough to bring the mixture to the consistency of custard. When baked in a pie tin, the resulting product was much relished and remained a favorite springtime dessert until young orchards coming into bearing provided real fruit pies to take its place.


With that I thought, “Well, dang. I bet it’d work for cocktails, too.” So I created the Pucker Up, a delightfully unique cocktail with a bitter-fruity cranberry sauce-syrup, smooth CH Vodka, KOVAL Rose Hip Liqueur, a shaken egg white from Meadow Haven Farm, and homemade apple cider vinegar. Just a few drops.

Here’s the recipe:


Ain't it pretty?! Picture by Brett Calomino.

Ain't it pretty?! Picture by Brett Calomino.

2 oz homemade cranberry sauce-syrup (cranberries from Ellis Family Farm)
1/2 oz KOVAL Rose Hip Liqueur
1.25 oz CH Vodka

1/8 tsp (a couple drops) of homemade apple cider vinegar
1 Meadow Haven egg white

(or if you don’t have access to Meadow Haven, use a pasture-raised egg from a source you trust. I cannot stress this enough. It can be harmful to your health if you consume raw eggs, but a local farmer has your back and generally, their eggs are pretty dope!)

Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously. And I mean vigorously. For at least 20 seconds to get an incredible merengue out of the egg.

Then shake with ice. 

Strain into a pretty glass (it doesn’t have to be any particular shape as long as it makes you smile) by tipping the glass at an angle and pouring the libation slowly down the side. Shake out any remaining egg white over top. 

Garnish, or don’t garnish.

What resulted was something tangy, airy, slightly bitter, and aromatic. It was delightful. Folks would ask me, “What is in this?! I can’t put my finger on it,” and when I’d say, “Homemade apple cider vinegar,” their jaws dropped.

It’s true, folks. We’re hard core here in the Midwest. We don’t need no stinkin’ citrus! You can make plenty of varieties of vinegars at home, and they can all be incorporated into cocktails beautifully.

Listen, I’m not knocking those cocktails that use citrus, but I find that when we place limitations on ourselves, it forces us to be more creative with what we concoct.

That’s the whole idea of HOLLOW LEG: Creating unique drinks from local, forgotten and oftentimes underused ingredients to please your palate and inspire you to keep reaching for the weird. 

Because weird can be amazing.