At Sable Kitchen and Bar, located in Chicago’s Hotel Palomar, the cocktail list is complicated. It’s divided into chapters, sprinkled with clever quotations (“Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors and miss.”Lazarus Long) and full of complex, flavorful drinks made with ambitious ingredients such as cardamom-spiced Guinness, cranberry-infused maple syrup and house-made bacon bitters. However, Sable’s Bartender Sterling Field wishes everyone would simplify.
“People come in and they want the wildest drink on the menu, the one with nine ingredients,” he says. “But I love to introduce them to a classic, like the daiquiri or a martini, and blow them away. Then we can move on.”
In fact, Field says his favorite drink is the clearcut daiquiri: just rum, sugar and lime juice. And although Sable’s drink menu appears quite elaborate, Field claims that “straightforward” is the word that best describes the restaurant’s cocktail philosophy. “We’re trying not to take ourselves too seriously,” he says.
However, Field’s shortlist of must-have bar tools is straightforward, indeed: Imbibe! (Perigee Trade, 2007) by cocktail historian David Wondrich serves as a reference for “old-timey cocktails,” long-handled bar spoons from Cocktail Kingdom and, most importantly, Angostura bitters. “We’d have to close Sable without them,” he says jokingly.