Better Than Binge Watching: #CocktailsandChill at Drumbar

The Orange is the New Black (left) and Frank Underwood (right) cocktails from Drumbar's #CocktailsandChill menu.

A new menu of cocktails at one Chicago bar is inspired by favorite streaming shows.

If anyone has ever asked you over to their place to Netflix and chill, you know that watching television is the furthest thing from their mind. The hashtag originated on Twitter several years ago, and for those unfamiliar with its connotation, let’s just say that if you get together to engage in these two activities, a show may be on in the background, but there will be way more than relaxing happening.

But afterwards, a cocktail would be amazing.

Capitalizing on the phrase that’s quickly migrated from social media to pop culture lexicon, Drumbar, the 225-seat speakeasy-style bar atop the Raffaello Hotel in Chicago, recently launched its #CocktailsandChill menu. The drinks are inspired more by Netflix binging than by other extracurricular activity, but sip a few rounds and you just may be stirred to bring someone back to your hotel room or apartment.

While in Chicago recently, my friend Jordan and I headed up to the 18th floor bar, where dark wood and dark leather inside and couches and firepits on the patio are more than enough to coax any couple to canoodling. Add to that an entire menu of cocktails dedicated to the best Netflix shows, characters and episode references, and the possibilities for a cozy evening in are endless.

Drinks on the #CocktailsandChill menu are categorized on a five-star scale (the stars have nothing to do with the reviews for the show, FYI). One star is chill (lighter-style libations) while five is boozy (alcohol-forward sips). “The goal was to freshen up the menu concept with something different and to encourage our guests to hunker down, order more than one, and simply chill,” said Drumbar beverage director Whitney Morrow. She adds that a Chicago winter equates to hibernating and binging on TV; this menu gets people out of their apartments but still makes them feel like they haven’t abandoned their guilty pleasures.

Each option on the list is reflective of its corresponding show, either in personality or appearance, explains Morrow. Since I’m completely addicted to the show (yeah, pun intended), I started with Narcos, where gin and peated Scotch are tempered by elderflower liqueur and a lime cordial; shaken egg white on top is the nod to all that cocaine Pablo Escobar and his Medellin cartel produced and exported during the 1980s and 1990s. A cool touch is grated black lime on top; popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and made by completely dehydrating the citrus fruit, it lends an earthy citrus quality to the drink. (Another libation that pays homage to its show through its appearance is Orange is the New Black, which gets its vibrant hue from mango brandy, Grand Marnier and a salted sweet potato syrup.)

A Parks and Rec fan, Jordan ordered the Ron Swanson, named for the libertarian leaning, unapologetically masculine character who heads up the namesake department for much of the series’ run. Strong and boozy (it’s one of the five-starred drinks), it packs a potent punch, with a bourbon backbone, chili liqueur for spice, Cynar for herbal depth, and maple and soy for a sweet-umami mashup, served in a peaty Scotch-rinsed glass over a large rock. Jordan’s assessment? “It tastes like freedom.” Who can argue with that? (He mixed one up when he returned to his own bar, and told me it might just be the thing to get over this election cycle. Another astute assessment – keep ‘em coming.)

Speaking of elections, while Swanson’s character is dry and curmudgeon-y, he’s still lovable; the same cannot be said for Frank Underwood, the Machiavellian politician played on House of Cards by Kevin Spacey. His ruthless, conniving, murderous personality is matched in liquid form by his conceptual namesake connection. “If you’ve seen the show, you’d assume that Frank’s personality would equate to a strong, spirit-forward, manly-man’s cocktail,” said Morrow. “This [drink has a] dry and almost abrupt finish; the flavor profile is dry, nutty and aromatic, with a hint of Oaxacan smoke.” It mixes Mistral Nobel Pisco with mezcal, Madeira, lemon, apple, elderberry and Prosecco. Underwood has gotten under my skin more and more as the seasons go on, and I just hope he gets what’s coming to him; the cocktail was decidedly lighter and easier to swallow than the last two seasons of the show have been.

And as a nod to that 1990s show where six friends co-mingle in New York apartments that they would never have been able to afford, The One Where Chandler Gets Caught is a refreshing cold version of a Glog, with Hennessy VS Cognac, mulled red wine, apricot, lemon and ginger, served over crushed ice and garnished with an edible flower.

Of course, newer Netflix series get their fair shake too, including Stranger Things, Bojack Horseman and Wet Hot American Summer (the latter is identified by a lightened up, refined, beach-ready version of the Paloma). “We have a lot of guests coming in specifically to try out ‘their favorite show’ and it has been an entertaining surprise for guests who didn’t already know about it,” Morrow notes. Still, the very point of Netflix is that viewers don’t care if a show was released twenty years or two months ago. Its shows remain timeless, ready to stream whenever we’re ready to watch.

Or in the case of Netflix and chill, not even glancing towards that set.

Narcos cocktail recipe - Drumbar #CocktailsandChill menu

Narcos

Recipe courtesy of Drumbar

“Fluffy egg white on top serves as an all-too-obvious reference to the ‘white stuff’ that Pablo Escobar was famous for,” Morrow says. “The flavor profile of this cocktail is floral [and] herbaceous with a touch of citrus.”

  • ¾ oz. peated Scotch
  • ¾ oz. Tanqueray 10 Gin
  • ½ oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 1 oz. lime cordial (see Note)
  • Egg white
  • Grated black lime, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker, and dry shake without ice for about a minute. Add ice and shake again. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with the grated black lime.

For the lime cordial:

Combine 1 liter lime juice (reserve peels, pith removed) and 1 liter sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a light simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and cool with ice bath. Add lime peels and let rest overnight. Strain and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Orange is the New Black cocktail recipe - Drumbar #CocktailsandChill menu

Orange is the New Black

Recipe courtesy of Drumbar

“The cocktail pays homage to its corresponding show through its vibrant color and perfect blend of sweet and spicy,” explains Morrow. “Thai bitters give it a hot and tangy flavor to contrast its fall-spice.”

  • ¾ oz. Rhine Hall Mango Brandy
  • ½ oz. Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz. salted sweet potato syrup (see Note)
  • ¾ oz. lemon juice
  • Dash Angostura Bitters
  • Dash Bangkok Betty Thai Spice Bitters

Add all ingredients to a mixing tin, add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice.

For the salted sweet potato syrup:

Blanche cubed sweet potatoes and then place in ice bath to stop cooking. Put through juicer, blend in nutmeg and a large pinch of salt. Combine in a saucepan with a 2:1 ratio of sweet potato to sugar. Simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and store in the refrigerator.

Ron Swanson

Recipe courtesy of Drumbar

This whiskey libation has a little bit of everything: booze, heat, bitter, sweet, smoky and umami. Heating the maple syrup a little before mixing it with the soy sauce will better allow the ingredients to meld.

  • 1 ½ oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
  • ½ oz. Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur
  • ¼ oz. Cynar Liqueur
  • ¼ oz. maple and soy sauce blend (1:1 ratio)
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Laphroaig Scotch, for rinsing glass

Pour a little Laphroaig Scotch into a rocks glass, swirl to coat and dump out the excess. (Alternately, use an atomizer filled the Scotch and spray to coat glass.) Add the other ingredients to a cocktail glass, add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into the prepared rocks glass over one large cube.

Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on  Twitter  and  Instagram  @kmagyarics.