1/10/2013 01:00:00 PM

Alex Bachman Talks Cocktails and Opening Date of Billy Sunday

Aquinas, a bonded rye and tonic cocktail
“It’s going to make [Yusho’s bar] look like a 7-Eleven,” said mixologist Alex Bachman, joking about the program at Billy Sunday. The second project from Bachman and chef Matthias Merges, a turn-of-the-century bar, is no laughing matter. When it opens next Friday (pending final inspections and permits) it will have one of the most intense cocktail programs in Chicago.

The drink menu, which is an expansion of Yusho’s, contains 13 drinks priced at $10. No two cocktails use the same spirit, and everything from bitters to tonics is made in house. Every type of ice required, from hand chipped blocks to cubed and crushed, will be at the disposal of the bartenders. The program showcases a commitment to detail that Merges and Bachman share - something they probably picked up during their time together at Charlie Trotter's.

“Ice and bitters is the standard you have to meet, so it’s challenging to push the envelope further while continuing to remain grounded in tradition.” They push that envelope with their kegged cocktails. Beginning at two on tap, and soon expanding to four, the spirit and tonic cocktails are a favorite at Yusho. Billy Sunday will serve the signature gin and tonic as well as rye and tonic. Each is flavored with citrus and herbs before being force carbonated. Soon, tequila and tonic as well as rum and tonic will be available.

The signature cocktails are designed around classics. Drinks with the names “Daiquiri” “Negroni” and just “Cocktail” are on the menu with unfamiliar ingredients such as malted rye, ambergris laced palm sugar and North Bay Bitters. These drinks put the focus on the spirits, something Bachman takes very seriously with an extensive knowledge of rare liquors and defunct distilleries. This passion is put on the shelf with an impressive back bar filled with Fernet, bottles from no-longer-operating distilleries and rare imports.

“I think it’s very important when you talk about a cocktail menu - and base them abound the flavors of base spirits - if you have that mind set, that philosophy, and start using the same spirits  and there’s repetition, then drinks are going to taste alike,” Bachman said. “Other than that, I think it’s important to support a diverse array of people that make [spirits] that taste great.”

Because a chef the caliber of Megres would never let his customers go hungry, there is a select food menu reminiscent of grandma’s pantry (if grandma is a classically trained chef). A mix of early American cuisine and comfort food, the options include pig ears with malted vinegar, pickled sardines and an entire section dedicated to “things in jar.” For a shared “supper,” choose from braised rabbit or roasted cream of wheat with mustard greens, tomatoes and Pecorino. Round out the odd meal with peanut butter and Concord grape doughnuts or banana pudding.

The food and drinks will be enjoyed in a narrow and intimate space, similar to the layout of Yusho. A 26-food bar will span the East wall with seats for 15 and an additional dozen tables will take up the rest of the space. Behind the bar, glass-front cabinets hold vintage glassware. A deep red floor is illuminated by brass fixtures at night and a window overlooking Logan Square during the day.

3143 W. Logan Blvd.; 773-661-2485


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