First Look: The Barrelhouse Flat
By Roger Kamholz in Food on Oct 24, 2011 4:00PM
So, Dolores and Jimmie Roosevelt walk into a bar. Followed by Bobby Burns and Mamie Taylor. Then comes Margarita, escorted by Jack Rose. And they're all being chased by a Zombie...
No, this isn't a scene from that unsold Halloween horror flick script we've been working on; these are just of few of the characters who are making their debut tonight at the grand opening of The Barrelhouse Flat, the Lincoln Park cocktail bar that has been the two-year brainchild of bartender Stephen Cole. Cole had been behind the stick at the Violet Hour up until this summer, when launching the BF project became a full-time gig in itself. Cole worked closely with friend and fellow bartender Greg Buttera, whose previous stints include the Aviary and Sable Kitchen and Bar, to craft a premiere drink menu that features dozens of classic cocktails, many of which you may have never heard of.
Name a classic, and it likely appears on the exquisitely produced "First Edition" of BF's cocktail menu, which Cole and Buttera co-curated and -wrote. We recently caught up with Cole during a preview of the handsomely furnished bar and learned that in addition to the deep roster of classic drinks now available, Barrelhouse Flat will soon have a continually updating list of original cocktails, slated to change every other week or so. On top of all that, BF will also be offering up punches, served in a collection of elaborate crystal punchbowls.
The Barrelhouse Flat consists of two floors: a more casual street-level saloon with wooden bench seating, an open kitchen, an antique piano and jukebox, and a long, mirror-backed bar; and a richly adorned second floor filled with high-backed and leather club chairs, dark wood, patterned wallpaper and dimmed lighting. A menu of light bites - including things like spreads with toast, a seasonal salad, and mushroom and blue cheese beignets - is available both up and downstairs. (With this many great drinks to try, a little snack here and there is a valuable thing.)
The drink menu is organized by spirit - whiskey, rum, gin, brandy and "the rest" - then subdivided by ingredient or preparation: egg, bubbles, shaken, stirred. This helps one to hone in on a drink one is likely to enjoy, but we're of the mind that the best way to take advantage of Barrelhouse Flat is to experiment on the frontiers of your cocktail comfort levels.
Gin drinkers: why not try the Tom Collins, which they're serving with Old Tom gin; or a classically prepared Martini, which includes orange bitters and - gasp! - not a lick of olive anything; or jump the Pond and order up a Holland's Pride, made with Dutch genever, a precursor to London dry gin.
Rum lovers are well taken care of, too, with options like the aforementioned Dolores cocktail (Jamaican rum, Dubonnet Rouge, dry sherry and aromatic bitters); Ti' Punch, a rhum agricole drink popular on the island of Martinique; and a Queen's Park Swizzle, a rich, molasses rum and mint-driven cocktail of Trinidadian origins.
More adventurous souls will be rewarded with obscure selections like the Japanese cocktail (cognac, almondy orgeat syrup, Angostura bitters) and the Jimmie Roosevelt (cognac, Green Chartreuse, demerara syrup, Champagne, Angostura bitters), the latter being one of Cole's personal favorites off the Barrelhouse menu.
Indeed, from the looks of their debut menu, it's clear Cole and Buttera have an eye for - not to mention a deep knowledge of - classic cocktails. We're certainly looking forward to what their talents can bring to a drink menu all their own.
The Barrelhouse Flat is located at 2624 N. Lincoln Ave.