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Behind The Stick: Watching Chicago History Unfold At Sixteen

By Paul Leddy in Food on Feb 24, 2014 4:15PM


One of the most interactive Chicago history presentations in the city is neither happening in a museum nor via a walking tour. You can now eat your way through Chicago history at a table in Sixteen restaurant, located inside the Trump tower.

As their recent menus have shown, Sixteen, under the guidance of Chef Thomas Lents, likes to tell a story. Their menus have a general theme and the courses are thoughtfully put together to tell the story. Their current menu, “The Story of Chicago," is one of their more inspired and cohesive menus to date.

On the menu, Chef Lents presents courses like “Midway Plaisance” which features small, fair-inspired dishes served on a table-sized Ferris wheel. The dish is their homage to the Ferris Wheel that made it’s debut in Chicago at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Each course on the menu is meant to reinforce a particular period or event in Chicago history.

In today’s video, General Manager Dan Pilkey demonstrates a cocktail that is paired with another course called “A River Reversed.” Both the consommé for the dish and the cocktail are prepared using a reverse vacuum device called the Yama vacpot. As the liquid is boiled in the lower vessel, it will rise up to the upper level, which contains ingredients that infuses quickly into the liquid. The process is a nod to when the city of Chicago chose to reverse the flow of the Chicago River in the 1900s.

The cocktail that Pilkey makes contains another part of Chicago’s (drinking) history: Malört. We have seen many bartenders use Malört in cocktails before (check here and here), but we have never seen it prepared this way. Using a very specific and secret recipe of Letherbee Malört, Nolet’s Gin, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and lemon (for cocktail aficionados, the cocktail is very similar to the “Hard Sell” from Brad Bolt at Bar Deville), the cocktail is infused with herbs and spices.

The bitterness from the Malört is tamed a bit with the infusion, but it provides a nice juxtaposition to the carrot consommé. “Malort has a very unique astringency to it that can be quite beautiful,” Pilkey explains. “With the consommé being a little sweet, it plays with the bitterness very well.”

The Chicago menu is scheduled to end at the end of March. However, if you won’t have a chance to experience the whole meal you can order the Malört cocktail off-menu at the Sixteen bar. “We love it on the menu,” says Pilkey. "But, on it’s own, it has it’s own merit and balance. It is truly a great cocktail.”

Dan Pilkey (Sixteen Restaurant) - A River Reversed from Chicago Cocktail Chronicles on Vimeo.

Sixteen is located on the 16th floor of the Trump Tower, 401 North Wabash Ave.