The New York Times Chicago Cocktail Article Missed The Mark

By Lisa White in Food on Dec 27, 2013 4:20PM


The Bitter Bourbon Buck at Longman & Eagle.

[UPDATE, 12/28: We incorrectly stated that the author did not try Malort while in Chicago. Upon visiting the article again, we realized we misread the section and the author and his daughter did try Malort and were not fans of it. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience.]

Oh the New York Times, you almost had it right this time with your latest piece on the Chicago cocktail scene. Your rocky past covering Chicago's cultural scene is well documented and we might be a little hard on you but it is only because we know you can do better. So while we love the fact you visited some of our favorite cocktail bars in Chicago, we still found some serious flaws.

First of all the piece is titled “A Chicago Cocktail Crawl.” It should really be called “A Logan Square cocktail crawl, that bar from the Alinea people and my hotel bar.” The article’s main focus is the wonderful cocktail scene in Logan Square, which is wonderful, but super focused. Hell, you even mention when visiting Aviary that it is a 15-minute cab ride from Logan Square! A jaunt maybe, but a crawl it is not.

Then you have Bernard’s thrown in there, a bar “hidden away in a corner on the second floor of the sleek Waldorf-Astoria hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood.” We’re gonna venture a guess that the hotel you stayed at while in town was the Waldorf-Astoria? You were a 20-minute walk (if that) from Three Dots and a Dash, c'mon! You state that “a good hotel bar is never undiscovered, but it can count as an escape.” We think a better Chicago escape is sipping an island concoction from Paul McGee.

While we do appreciate the wonderful places you visited in our city, boy are there some glaring omissions. No mention of the Violet Hour, a bar that despite everyone’s feelings on it deserves a nod for standing at the forefront of the Chicago craft cocktail scene and having a hand in many of the minds that have opened up shop since. We already mentioned the missing Three Dots and a Dash. We would have loved to see Punch House as well, which would have helped your true cocktail crawl agenda sending readers crisscrossing around Chicago.

Then there is the matter of Malort. You laugh it up with the locals at Scofflaw about the local spirit that pervades the Chicago cocktail scene. Love it or hate it, Malort is a rite of passage when drinking in Chicago. We were interested to find out your take on the lovable burnt hair and lighter fluid concoction until we read the words “but no one was joining Club Malort anytime soon.”

Hold up. You came to Chicago to cover the cocktail scene and did not try Malort?! How dare you. Your journalistic integrity had been clearly compromised, at this point we knew we couldn’t take you seriously anymore. You further sealed the deal when you visited Aviary and failed to even mention the existence of The Office. An "A" for effort but fail for execution.

If there's any consolation, we noticed at the bottom of the page that a version of the article will appear in in the print edition on Dec. 29 under the headline “One Part History, One Part Play.” Which would have been a perfect title for this piece! So really dear writer, the fault is on your editor for putting such a misleading headline with the version online. That said, there are numerous wonderful food and drink writers here in Chicago. Perhaps one of them would like to freelance for the New York Times and give them a real cocktail crawl? If anything else it will at least save the NYT a hotel bill from the Waldorf-Astoria.