surf globally, eat locally
May 21, 2012

Cocktails and Joints Discovers Tavernita
By Marcia Frost

Meetings in the publishing industry usually take place in a conference room. This is not always the case when it comes to producing a hot new lifestyle magazine. When publisher Dale Winspeare and I decided to take a meeting, we thought it would be only fitting to do it in one of Chicago’s newest restaurants -- one that happens to have a fantastic new cocktail menu.

Tavernita is a lot like Cocktails and Joints as it is new, modern and takes eating and drinking to a whole new level. It’s part of the Mercadito Restaurant chain and is all about the drinks thanks to the “batchology” genius of the Tippling Brothers (more to come on these guys in the near future). The key word at Tavernita is “keg” and that goes way beyond the beer. It’s also kegged wine, kegged sangria – and kegged cocktails.

We got to sample everything on the drink menu and I have to say that skeptical me (cocktails in a keg?) was won over. First, you have consistency that won’t depend on a bartender pouring a little more or a little less of something. And, most important, you can sample any cocktail you want. It’s just a matter of pouring a bit into a glass, rather than the waste of having a whole drink made that you may not like.

Among the selection I can’t say there was anything I disliked. Our favorite cocktail was the Booty Collins (green tea-infused Absolut Vodka, passion fruit, lemon, cayenne and Yohimbe). We both also loved the Comandante Big Nose (hibiscus-infused Cruzan Rum, macadamia liqueur, Falernum, lime and nutmeg). The macadamia gave the drink an unusual taste I have never experienced before. The Red Sangria, made with Hennessy Cognac, was also excellent.

One of the biggest treats in a glass for me was the kegged gin and tonic, my favorite drink. The tonic is homemade and is an unusual bland that includes agave. It is mixed with Plymouth Gin, which I happen to be on my way to visit at its England home. By putting these two ingredients in a keg it allows the flavors to blend in a way that you’ve never tasted before. If you are a G&T lover, it’s worth a trip to Tavernita just for that alone.

If you don’t feel like imbibing, Tavernita also has house-made soda -- Valencia Crush, Uva Pop, Ginger Chile Ale and Cola Nita. They were all good, but the ginger was outstanding, made with fresh ginger, guindilla and orange blossom honey.

This is a restaurant so there’s also plenty to eat with your cocktails. We sampled a number of the small plates, which is their specialty. Among the best were: Grilled Queso, made with aged cheddar and tomato marmalade and served with brioche toast; Greg’s Meatballs from wagyu beef and pork with a hazelnut romesco sauce; and Croquetas with Serrano ham and saffron aioli.

As for our meeting, we did manage to get to that too. I can tell you with confidence there’s even more exciting things coming to Cocktails and Joints -- and I’m happy to be a part of it.

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