With my various work and familial commitments, I don’t get as many opportunities to hit up the cocktail spots in Chicago as I would like. When I visit, it is usually tied to a work function or when I am in the city for another reason. When I recently found myself home alone without kids (on vacation with grandma) and my wife (at work), I knew I had to take advantage of the situation and head into the city. I hopped on the train and made my way to Barrelhouse Flat for a couple cocktails made by the great Jess Keene. After the drinks, I looked at the time. It was just a little after 9pm and the last train back to the suburbs was at 12:40pm; plenty of time to hit another bar. I remembered that Scofflaw was doing a throwback night as part of their Fan Fiction series of events. On this night, they were celebrating the work of Dale DeGroff at the Rainbow Room (New York City) circa 1998. Dale was a pioneer in bringing craft cocktails back into the spotlight. I hopped in a cab and headed over to check out the bar.
Scofflaw, as the video shows, is an intimate space, but I felt immediately “at home.” The place was packed and I admit that I was worried I would be standing for a long time waiting for a space at the bar. As luck would have it, a spot opened up right in front of Danny’s station. It was a wonderful, albeit slightly bleary, evening. Despite the fact that he was getting slammed with drink orders, Danny still took time to talk to me and to make sure I was enjoying myself. When I admitted to him, when the guests next to me had shots of it, that I never had Mallort straight before (Scofflaw has it on tap), there was a shot in front of me from him. My first taste of Mallort was not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. As the evening went on, bartenders like Erin Hayes (from Perennial Virant and J Parker) stopped in to see Danny. That’s another thing that I love about the bartending community here in Chicago, they all support each other. Just afterr midnight, after the warm cookies were handed out (something that they do every night at Scofflaw), I flagged down a cab and made it to Union Station just in time.
Danny Shapiro is one of the more unique bartenders that I have met. While he has been working a relatively short time in the industry, he has a great approach to cocktail making. You can tell that there is a lot of thought that goes into his creations. Every liquor, garnish, and ice is chosen for a reason. It is experience at places like Perennial and Whistler, but also training he took through Bridget Albert’s Academy of Spirit and Fine Service that helped shape that mind. In the cocktails I have seen him make, I see big things happening for him. When I asked him what he sees in the future for Scofflaw and the bar world in Chicago, he paused and answered, “maybe one day we will have someone who combines the experience of a Paul McGee and the knowledge of Benjamin Schiller mixed with the cool of Robbie Haynes, (with someone) who is a natural teacher like Bridget Albert and someone who can pull off a style like Freddie Sarkis. Once that character emereges, that will tie the Chicago scene nicely.” While we await the coming of the Chicago Bartender Messiah, I feel pretty good knowing that Danny is part of our scene.
In the “Veranda Way” cocktail that he is making, Shapiro takes a Mexican fermented pineapple drink called Tepache and creates an incredibly refreshing cocktail. A few days after I recorded him making the drink, an article on Tepache appeared in the Chicago Tribune. In the article, Danny mentions using Tepache in the cocktail. I have a funny feeling that the demand on Tepache in Chicago increased dramatically with that article.
Danny was nice enough to film the making of two cocktails that day and I will post the video for the other cocktail in a few weeks. As a little tease, I will say that the cocktail he made is something that Second City would be very proud of.
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