Cheers Q&A: Priscilla Young, beverage director, Travelle Kitchen + Bar in Chicago

Chicago’s Travelle Kitchen + Bar in The Langham hotel in December launched a “Stay in, Stay Warm, Drink Hot” menu. These beverages, which are individually hand-brewed using hot sand and a Turkish coffee maker and take about seven minutes to make, are priced from $14 to $16.

The lineup includes Monk’s Glüg (Courvoisier VS, Benedictine, raspberry, lime cordial, ginger, spiced red wine); Kyoto Hotty Toddy (PX sherry, Diplomatico Blanco rum, apricot liqueur, lemon, hot nigori sake); 11 Pirates (Angostura 7 yr rum, amaretto, lime, spiced red wine, juniper and star anise; and Chicago Blazer (Malort, chamomile-rose tea syrup, Byrrh, lime juice, aromatic and orange bitters).

Cheers caught up with Travelle’s beverage director Priscilla Young to learn more about the program.

CH: How did you come up with the “Stay in, Stay Warm, Drink Hot” recipes?

PY: For three weeks, my team and I spent every Wednesday and Thursday night after the bar closed researching and developing the cocktails. I gave the bartenders inspiration by describing all the hot drink styles, like glugs, grogs, toddies, blazers and hot sake.

Each of the bartenders submitted one recipe to me. We would fine-tune together and taste with the staff and chefs; I had the final say whether drinks went on the menu.

The challenge was having to create them using the Turkish coffee machine to heat the drink—no prebatching the spirits and just pouring hot water on top. It had to be fast, too, with a pretty presentation.

CH: What made you decide to use Turkish coffee maker and sand method?

PY: My head bartender is Russian, and recalled having his coffee made in this way in his home country. We did the research to ensure we had the proper equipment and method correct. It was a beautiful display, so we went with it!

‪CH: Is there a particular day part for hot cocktails—are they more of a later afternoon indulgence, or before dinner/after dinner, for instance?

PY: In Chicago during the fall and winter season, any time is the right time to indulge! But I find with toddies or sake-based hot drinks, most people order more often in the mid afternoon after brunch. Irish coffees, too.

Guests typically order our glugs and grogs and our Chicago Blazer cocktail at night. I think people lean towards red-wine-based drinks toward the evening, after dinner as they wind down. Combined with warm spices and the hot booze, it is a perfect end to a hard work day.

CH: What are some of the challenges of offering heated cocktails at the bar?

PY: One of the biggest is teaching the bartending team to accept making hot drinks. Most bartenders don’t often make a lot of hot cocktails in their careers and they’re not used to leaving their bar to fetch hot water or brewing coffee to make one.

Organizing a bar so that all mis en place is easily accessible so the bartenders enjoy making the hot drinks is a task in itself. After that, it’s making sure that all proper tools are used to ensure safety, cleanliness, and the proper temperature of glasses and final cocktail. With a Turkish coffee maker, you also have to make sure that the drink does not boil over or burn.

‪CH: Any specific tips on what makes a hot cocktail?

PY: Balance and complexity. Hot drinks don’t need too much booze or it will mask the other ingredients you are using, such as wine or sake.

I find that red wine works best with brown spirits, such as brandy, whisky and rum, especially with some citrus. White wine and sake offer great complexity with herbaceous or oxidative spirits such as agricole rums, tequila, mescal and sherries.

And keep in mind that hot drinks always need more sugar than you might think—definitely more than a regular shaken drink. Just think how delicious a hot chocolate is compared to a straight black coffee.

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Monk’s Glug
1 oz. Courvoisier VS
½ oz. Benedictine
½ oz. Raspberry syrup
¼ oz. Lime cordial
8 oz. Red wine
10 corns of Old Spice, 2 pinches of ginger powder

Combine all ingredients, warm up on the stove and serve.

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