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Most Creative Cocktails In Chicago

By Elizabeth SanFilippo

If you're throwing a party -- or just want to try something different -- make a cocktail that's sure to impress your friends. While most of these recipes are spins on old classics, you won't find these cocktails at most bars (unless you frequent the restaurants/bars listed below). These flavor combinations are hard to beat. From a cocoa old fashioned to the Granny Smith cocktail, your taste buds will thank you.

Mercat a la Planxa
(Credit: Mercat a la Planxa's facebook)

Mercat a la Planxa
638 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 765-0524

To make bartender Nicole Donahue's spiced apple martini, combine 2 ounces Hennessey, 1/2 ounce Frangelico, 1 1/2 ounces apple spice compote, 2 drops Sasprilla-molasses bitters and 1/2 ounce rosemary caramel. Shake all the ingredients together and strain into a martini glass.

About Nicole Donahue:

Nicole Donahue got her start in the hospitality industry at the age of 16 working at a local country club. Since then, she's worked in a variety of roles in the restaurant, tavern and nightclub industry. Donahue has always been a cocktail enthusiast, particularly when it comes to creating unique flavor profiles. She's constantly using her creativity to come up with new and innovative cocktails, including her spiced apple martini which is a popular drink at Mercat under the name Spice Apple.

Related: Best Breakfast Cocktails

(Credit: Sepia's facebook)

123 N. Jefferson St.
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 441-1920

To make an oldie but goodie -- cocoa old fashioned -- from mixologist Josh Pearson, infuse 1/4 cup of roasted cocoa nibs in a bottle of rye whiskey and leave it for 24 hours. Strain off the cocoa nibs. Then, separately, muddle a 1/2 orange wheel with 2 brandied cherries. Add ice and 2.5 ounces of the infused whiskey. Add a "dash of simple syrup as well as a dash of angostura bitters. Stir for 30 seconds and then garnish with an orange flag."

Smashes have also become increasingly popular in Chicago as they combine interesting flavors and are refreshing no matter what time of year. To make Josh's R&R Smash, muddle sprig rosemary and 4 sour cherries in a cocktail shaker. Add 1.5 ounces Templeton Rye, 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, 1/2 ounce cherry heering, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice and a dash of Angostura bitters, along with some ice. Shake well. Double strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

About Josh Pearson:

As s a teenager in his hometown of Queensland, Australia, Josh Pearson started in the hospitality industry as a server in several cafes. At the age of 18, the legal age in Australia, he became a bartender, which got him started on the path that would lead to his career as a mixologist. After several stints in Australia in a variety of bars, Pearson moved to Canada where he refined his bartending skills at Toronto's Dominion on Queen and later Vancouver's Chow. Pearson joined Sepia in 2009, and today he's responsible for the creation of the restaurant's cocktail program, which focuses on fun flavor combinations.

1631 Chicago Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 868-8945

While beverage director Jan Henrichsen's Granny Smith cocktail is one of the more complicated of the bunch, you'll be rewarded with a cocktail that also tastes like a delicious dessert. To make the buttered bourbon, sauté 2 quartered apples (peels, seeds and all) in 1/2 pound of butter. Add 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Slowly cook on low heat until apples are soft but not falling apart. Using a strainer, separate the butter from the apples (and don't worry about the spices). Combine one 750-ml bottle of bourbon with the melted spicy apple-flavored butter. Let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours in a wide-mouth container. Then freeze until the butter becomes solid and strain the bourbon of the butter.

To make the cider syrup, reduce 1/2 gallon of apple cider to 1 cup over low heat.

Now, to make the drink, combine 2 ounces buttered bulleit bourbon, 1/2 ounce lemon juice and 2 ounces of boiled apple cider syrup in a 6-ounce rocks glass. Add a single large ice cube, and top with seltzer.

Another creative cocktail recipe from Henrichsen is the Festivus. To make the "shrub," combine 1 cup of chopped fresh cranberries, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup apple cider vinegar. Let sit, loosely covered, in a cool dark place for 2 to 3 weeks. Stir daily. When it no longer smells like vinegar, it's ready. Now for the easy part: top 2 ounces of the cranberry shrub with sparkling wine (Found uses L Mawby's blanc de blanc from Michigan). Henrichsen rims the edge of the glass with super fine sugar infused with vanilla.

About Jan Henrichsen:

With two decades of wine, beer and spirits industry experience -- as well as a love for home brewing -- Jan Henrichsen joined Found in November 2012 as the beverage director and manager. Prior to Found, Henrichsen worked as a beverage director and manager at Bin 36, as well as a wine buyer at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine. Her management credo is, "The most important person in the room isn't me--it's the person at the table." Henrichsen has built a menu at Found that focuses on classic cocktails with local twists. She also believes that Found's wine, beer and spirits tell the same story as Chef Nicole Pederson's food, which she considers "smart and simple."

Related: Best Hot Drinks in Chicago

Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at

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