It’s taken me several months, but I’m finally able to come to grips with the idea that Jim Meehan is running a bar in Chicago.
I have nothing against the Windy City and his new spot sounds great, so what’s my problem? It’s just that I will always equate Meehan with his pioneering New York establishment, the modern-speakeasy PDT (Please Don’t Tell), that opened in the spring of 2007 and helped change the course of American drinking. The jewel-sized bar was the epitome of early 21st century cool, with delicious cocktails, a letterpress menu, haute hot dogs and taxidermy. Even though it was miles from my neighborhood, I spent many good nights there drinking with friends.
But things, of course, change. And to be honest, I should have seen this coming. A few years ago, Meehan even relocated to the Pacific Northwest, and turned the day-to-day operations of PDT over to a talented crew of bartenders.
Even the choice of Chicago really makes sense, since Meehan grew up there. The Midwest is also the inspiration for the new watering hole, Prairie School. (He partnered with the acclaimed Heisler Hospitality group that operates a number of bars in the city to open the establishment.) Where PDT has a very chic, dark East Village vibe, Prairie School seems like the work of Frank Lloyd Wright with fieldstone, stained glass and thick wooden shelves. And instead of PDT’s signature tater tots, there are, of course, the Midwestern favorite, friend cheese curds.
So, if you find yourself in Chicago here are the five drinks you should try from Prairie School’s first menu.
If you love the classic Last Word Cocktail you may enjoy “this biblically compelling twist.” It, naturally, includes gin from Wisconsin as well as a sought-after cider-based eau de vie.
Falling Water is, of course, the name of a famous Frank Lloyd Wright house constructed in Pennsylvania. So it’s pretty hard to turn down a drink with the same name at Prairie School that calls for coffee, plum brandy and a cardoon-infused amaro.
End your night with the Father-in-Law that features local Koval Single Barrel Oat Whiskey, sherry and cream. It “was inspired by oatmeal cookies with milk.”
One of the biggest trends this fall is the rise of whisky highballs. The simple combination of spirit and club soda was huge in the 1950s and is now super popular in Japan. Prairie School has a special Japanese machine that makes a highball with Suntory Toki Whisky.
This is a relative of the famous New York Sour cocktail and is made with the award-winning Canadian Lot 40 Rye Whiskey, lemon juice, maple syrup and Malbec wine.