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Behind The Stick: Familiarity Brings Comfort At Sportsman's Club

By Paul Leddy in Food on Mar 24, 2014 4:30PM


Walking into Sportsman's Club, which opened in the Ukrainian Village last December, there is a feeling of familiarity with the interior of the bar. If you have put in time at any classic Chicago bar (some call them dive bars), you know that there is certain style of backbar, a certain flow to the bar that is similar from place to place.

There is a reason for the case of déjà vu. The bar, when undergoing construction, utilized various elements that were part of the previous bar, including the name. “We got into the space and we saw the promise, but time had taken its toll on the tavern,” explains Wade McElroy. “We were able to salvage the original floors, the bar top, the backbar and the cabinets.” Reusing these pieces that had been in the bar for over 60 years, gives the bar a comforting atmosphere for guests when they come in.

Then there are the animals that adorn the walls. While you may think that the deer looking at you is part of a group of animals that are not sure ordering another drink is a good idea, the design is actually inspired by French hunting clubs and the French taxidermy institutions like Deyrolle.

The bar program focuses on the bottles on their backbar versus making 20 flavored syrups and tinctures to build their cocktails. Managing partners McElroy and Jeff Donahue—both vets of Barrelhouse Flat—enjoy exploring the new flavor combinations. "[We are] utilizing spirits that have been around for years rather than having an extreme focus on what you can cook in the kitchen," McElroy explains. "We are taking it back to a classic style of bartending when you mix just what you have on your backbar.”

Like Chicago weather, the menu at Sportsman's Club changes every night. The menu is comprised of four cocktails and one constantly changing cocktail that is called, appropriately, the Sportsman's Cocktail.

In today's video, Donahue, demonstrates a version of the Sportsman's Cocktail that uses bourbon, Zucca, and Luxardo bitter. The result is a cocktail that provides the liquid courage to brave our prolonged winter a little longer.

Sportsman Cocktail
2 ounces Very Old Barton Bourbon (Bottled in Bond)
3/4 ounce Rabarbaro Zucca Amaro Liqueur
1/4 ounce Luxardo Bitter
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir.
Strain into an absinthe rinsed, chilled cocktail glass.

Jeff Donahue and Wade McElroy (Sportsman's Club) - Sportsman's Cocktail from Chicago Cocktail Chronicles on Vimeo.

Sportsman’s Club is located at 948 N. Western Ave.