Benjamin Schiller – Make it Sing

On September 3, 2013 by Paul

The Make it Sing at Boka

I was a little nervous walking into my shoot with Benjamin Schiller. At the time Violet Hour, Drawing Room, and Whistler were starting the craft cocktail movement in Chicago, Schiller was educating himself on the construction of cocktails. His time at In Fine Spirits and with the Boka group cemented his place and influence for the cocktail world in Chicago. I have since visited with him at Homestead, the farm-to-table restaurant in Ukrainian Village and, while I haven’t been there in person yet, I hear his work at the Berkshire Room is outstanding. As this cocktail shows, he really thinks about ingredients in a unique and innovative way.

We had no idea when we went to Boka restaurant to film Benjamin Schiller that he would soon be announce that he is leaving the Boka Group to work with the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group. We had an inkling that something might be up when he requested that bartender Savannah Witmer make the cocktail for the video – it turns out that she will be taking over the cocktail program at Boka.

That is the nature of things in this industry. When Schiller first started out as part of the opening crew of the Peninsula Hotel, he learned all that he could from others on the nature of first-class service, food and wine. From there, he has worked everywhere from fine dining and clubs to dive bars. It was at a typical Chicago bar that Schiller found himself “covered in Rose’s Lime juice and Miller Light and smelling like a thousand cigarettes” that he started to hear about the craft-cocktail movement happening on the East and West coasts and it piqued his interest. At In Fine Spirits, Schiller was able to hone his craft and mark his place in the industry as a craft-cocktail bartender. When the Boka Group hired him in 2009, he was able to work on the cocktail programs at not only Boka but also others in the Boka family (Girl and the Goat, GT Fish and Oyster). Now, Witmer will take over the program after learning the craft from one of the pioneers in Chicago.

Schiller’s approach to cocktails is to make a cocktail that is simple in presentation but still has layers of complexity. He eschews physical garnishes for more aroma-based ones that add an additional layer of flavor as the guest sips. Like a great wine, he likes a cocktail that has a unique beginning, middle, and end.

In today’s video, Witmer makes a cocktail that contains a lovely carrot-Sauternes syrup. The process to make it is somewhat complicated (it involves slow-cooking the carrots and the Sauternes in a immersion circulator) but the result is a syrup that gives the cocktail a beautiful color, taste, and mouth-feel.

Make It Sing
2 ounces Nolet’s Gin
1.50 ounces Carrot-Sauterne Syrup
0.50 ounces lemon juice
0.50 ounces simple syrup
0.25 ounces Aperol or Campari

Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice and shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with a bouquet garni spray.

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