Great world bars we love: The Aviary, Chicago

The Aviary’s cocktail kitchen. Joanne Sasvari photo

From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. An awning over a discreet door in a West Loop industrial neighbourhood is the only sign that some of the world’s most exciting cocktails await. But step inside The Aviary, and it’s all subtle opulence, not that you can really tell because it’s so moodily lit.

Besides, your eyes are mesmerized by the team of mixologists hard at work behind the barred windows of the cocktail kitchen, as if captured in a sort of gilded cage.

This is the inventive realm of owner Grant Achatz, the chef who pioneered molecular cuisine at his celebrated restaurant Alinea, as well as bar director Alexis Tinoco and Micha Melton, the beverage director who worked his way up from “Ice Chef,” responsible for creating over 30 types of ice for the bar program.

Remember the Maine, a cocktail featuring whisky in three stages (fresh, neutral-aged and barrel-aged) at The Aviary in Chicago. Joanne Sasvari photo

Cocktails are deconstructed and reconstructed. Liquids become solids become airs become something else entirely. Flames flicker, smoke curls toward the ceiling—or is it dry ice? Garnishes are whimsical. Flavours even moreso. This is the highest form of cocktail art. Needless to say, these are luxurious drinks at equally luxurious prices.

But it’s the travel restrictions that’s really put them out of reach for Canadians. Which is why we’re so glad The Aviary has published a series of cocktail books. The original, The Aviary Cocktail Book, comes in a fancy 440-page, 115-recipe reserve edition that weighs over eight pounds and costs a cool US$135. (The standard edition is US$85.) The most recent is The Office: Classic Cocktails, US$39.95. Any of these would make a great gift. Ahem.,

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