Cheers convened a large and dynamic round table at the National Restaurant Association’s Wine, Spirits & Beer Event in Chicago, which touched on how both local and classic traditions influence bar offerings and trends in the Chicago mixology community.
Operators in attendance included Natalia Cardenas of Balena, Kyle McHugh of the Boozehound, Chandelle Pabros of Vinera Wine Consulting, Kevin Settles of Bardenay, Revae Schneider of Femme du Coup and George Vizer of Hyatt Hotels. Charles Forman, publisher of Cheers was also in attendance as was conference director Katie Smith. Editor-in-chief Liza B. Zimmerman moderated the roundtable.
The lively discussion covered topics such as what standard drinks should be available at every bar to how different American city’s bar programs are influenced by regional tastes and preferences. The attendees were a mix of Cheers board members, bar operators and consultants.
Many in attendance questioned the viability of totally locally focused cocktail programs. Vizer noted that they can be expensive. McHugh added that he has seen local programs be so blindly local that some customers no longer want to visit them. Others were moving forward with the locally sourced trend. Schneider noted that she was consulting on a bar called Homestead, which was slated to open shortly, where all the ingredients would be grown on the roof. She added that it would have a limited period of months when it would be open.
Attendees also noted that beer can skew as regional, if not more so, than cocktails. Some also added that they were taking low-calorie cocktails off their lists. A few also commented that some of the recent focus on molecular cocktails has been driven in great part by local and groundbreaking bar the Aviary.