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Liquor Lab- A Secret Drinking Club

Liquor Lab- A Secret Drinking Club

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Most foodies are familiar with the concept of “underground dining,” a secret, member’s only supper club where diners are often only told the theme and location of a pop-up restaurant the day before an event. Now imagine being served a six-course meal from appetizer to dessert consisting of only cocktails, this is Liquor Lab. A few weekends ago I was given the opportunity to experience an evening of fine-dining, liquid-style, courtesy of Liquor Lab’s featured mixologist Mark Darress of The Godfrey.

One day before the event I received an email from one of the founders of Liquor Lab with the location, Fulton Market Kitchen.

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What I didn’t know was that we’d be hosted in a private event space above the restaurant that reminded me of a grown-up version of Color-Me-Mine. Different colored mason jars dotted the shelves around the room and paintbrushes hung from the ceiling. Each guest was greeted with a glass of champagne and allowed to pick a seat at any of the tables. I liked that it wasn’t assigned seating and we chose a seat with a good view of the bar and the room itself.

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Before the first cocktail was served one of the founders introduced themselves and explained that the theme of the evening was ice and homemade bitters. Mixologist Mark is a specialist in making his own bitters and made special ice molds for each the drinks we were to have that evening. Each cocktail was unique, but every one followed the theme of ice and bitters with the drinks evolving as you drank them, releasing different sensations and flavors. Mark’s inspiration for this theme was to experiment with ingredients that he doesn’t get to use all the time along with finding a perfect balance between all the different flavors.

At the event I tried six different cocktails:

“Just for Starters” Aperol, Dry Vermouth, Ruby Port, Egg White, Xocolatl Mole Bitters

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“Gin de Blanc” Gin, Blanc Vermouth, Underberg, Lemon

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“Ice Grenade” Pyrat Rum, Watermelon Mint Ice Sphere, Root Beer Bitters

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“Playa del Bitter” Mescal, Almond Syrup, Sweet Vermouth, Lime, Hellfire Bitters

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“Oldie But A Goodie” Old Forester, Pineapple, Mint, Foam

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“Best For Last” Fernet Branca, Peach, Lemon, Rosemary Honeydew Foam

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My favorite cocktail of the evening based on my taste preferences was the “Play del Bitter.” The mescal’s signature smokiness lent itself well to the sweet and spicy feel of the beverage. The one though that really encompassed Mark’s goal and I think showcased the evening’s theme best was the “Ice Grendade.” I loved the playfulness of crushing the ice sphere and it created an experience of drinking almost two completely different beverages; before and after the root beer bitters were released from the cube.

If you’re interested in attending a Liquor Lab event (and you should be!) here are some basic facts:

  • Memberships are $175/ year
  • Memberships expire 1 year from 1st event you attend
  • Events are individually ticketed generally between $40-$100 which includes tax + gratuity
  • Events generally seat between 40-80 guests
  • Members are emailed when tickets are posted for events
  • Members have the ability to buy a ticket for themselves and one guest
  • The only way to attend as a non-member is to ask a member to take you
  • Event information and what type of experience you can expect will be disclosed when tickets go on sale
  • Event locations are secret and are released one week prior to the event
  • The rule of thumb for event location is never more than a $20 cab from Navy Pier

After a little bit of research of popular cocktail spots at trendy restaurants and bars around the city, I can guarantee that you’ll be paying $10-$16 per cocktail. I had six amazing cocktails and a unique experience at Liquor Lab and for an event cost of $40-$100, it’s a great way to spend a night with fellow Chicagoans!

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