I had a very rough Wednesday (if it could go wrong, it did - work, personal, medical - ugh!), I was still feeling the residual stress well into late last night. Ever have that feeling after a bad day that you have an elephant sitting on your chest? Yeah, I had that. It sucks, because even though everything had been resolved, I just couldn't shake the elephant. It just stuck around waiting for someone to feed it peanuts I guess... but I digress.
Thankfully last night was a great night which included some self medication found in good company and a drink. The night started with a little down town shopping and wandering. Okay, more wandering than shopping, but it was beautiful out. With no particular plans, the beau and I ended up at the Trump Tower and found ourselves seated at Rebar. Not as glamorous as one might expect from the name of Trump, but it was still a great experience.
Random conversation, a beer, and some oddly flavored popcorn later we left to continue our night. We came across a sign that said, "$5 Burgers" and agreed, "Why not?". We were quickly greeted and seated in Chicago's South Water Kitchen and I requested a Brandy Old Fashioned, Sweet. Now, let me set the tone for this beverage. I had my first Old Fashioned about a year and a half ago in Michigan. It was great. Since then I've never had even close to a decent Old Fashioned, and not for lack of trying! When ordered, they've been either bitter or too sweet, and quite frankly disgusting and a waste of money. So with that, my expectations were that I'd have a crappy drink and then switch to a beer, something with a reliable and consistent taste.
Little did I know that according to this RedEye article, we were in the presence of Chicago's best bartender! I was served the drink pictured above and befuddled by the dark fruit that came with it. Not recognizing it, I dismissed the "sweet" and went straight for the drink. It was heaven in a glass. I immediately and excitedly commented to E that it was the best Old Fashioneds I've had since Michigan! A little more conversation about the drink found E braving the dark fruit and he made the assumption that it was a cherry, a very sweet cherry, but wasn't sure what had been done to it (regarding color and taste).
A $5 burger, some fries and a near empty glass later we were talking up our late night waitress and she mentioned she'd be leaving, but would leave us in the hands of the city's best bartender. Chiding, we insisted we had to meet him first as she couldn't leave us with just anyone. And what was with the "best bartender" comment? She brought Dan over and introduced us. We quickly inquired about his status of "Best" to find out that he really had won a recent contest and was named the best bartender in the world. (Okay, just Chicago). I gave him rave reviews on his ability to make such a great drink, and we learned all about the process.
The dark fruit - yep, it was a maraschino cherry. An unbleached cherry, in it's natural color and form. Those bright red, long stemmed things you see in most drinks? They've been bleached to get that coloring and the stems were removed during processing and then put back in afterwards. How shocking! Okay, yeah it's just a condiment to a drink but I never knew these details about the maraschino! Dan continued about his simple syrup making process and the ingredients he chose for my beverage. It was cool to learn about what makes a great drink, and to see his passion about his craft.
Eventually Dan had to check on his other patrons, we finished our drinks and headed home for the night. It was a late night, and nothing "special" in the ways of big plans, but it was special none the less. It was a relaxing, light-hearted and spontaneous fun evening, just what I needed. I'm not sure when, maybe somewhere in between Old Fashioneds and fries, but the elephant left and never came back.