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A Cider with the Sunrise

After waking up at an ungodly hour to catch a UK soccer match, Dana discovers her new favorite breakfast beverage.
Tuesday Apr 15, 2008.     By Dana Kavan
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Strongbow tastes just as good in the a.m.
Drink of the week: A pint of Strongbow Cider at Fado Irish Pub, 100 W. Grand.

The damage: $5.25.

Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? I love a bout of day-drinking as much as anyone, but—for the sake of my beauty sleep, liver and the general desire to be a responsible person—I try to reserve pre-noon imbibing for those few fall days when I tailgate before a football game. I never imagined willingly waking up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday in spring to sit inside a darkly lit bar, polishing off an Irish bacon sandwich with a pint of cider just an hour after sunrise. But through association—more specifically my boyfriend's English step-dad, Mac—I've started following the West Bromwich Albion Football Club (that's soccer to us), an English team in the Championship League who played in the FA Cup a couple weekends ago.

The six-hour time difference between Chicago and London meant Fado opened its doors at 6 a.m., giving us 15 minutes to slug some coffee before game-time.

How it went down: The match was nearly over when we decided to partake in a brew, knowing full-well we'd be back in bed in no time and wanting a distraction from our team's soon-to-be loss. Like many Americans, I was unfamiliar with alcoholic cider, a drink that's become widely popular in the UK and beyond, but got overshadowed by beer in the U.S. after German immigrants came here post-Civil War. The term "cider" soon received a new meaning—the sugary, kid-friendly stuff we guzzle in the fall—after Prohibition. I always assumed that the fermented apple drink would taste super-sweet and appeal to non-beer drinkers only. But I wanted something a bit less heavy than Guinness at this delicate hour and decided to give Strongbow, a dry cider from England, a go.

The second the ice-cold, golden liquid hit my lips, I kicked myself for never ordering it before. It tasted light and much less saccharine than I expected, reminding me of a cross between spicy, cinnamon-tinged apple juice and a lager. It had a slightly bitter aftertaste and the perfect dose of refreshing effervescence. The apple flavor was deliberate, but not overwhelming. Despite our association of apples with autumn, the drink's crispness makes it the perfect tipple for a sunny spring day—or morning: A cider goes down mighty easy, even in the a.m.

Would I want to become a regular? I would much rather give my dollars to a local establishment, but as far as chains go, you could do worse than Fado. On the first floor of the tri-level space, it's easy to find a tucked-away nook behind the rich-wood bar, and Jameson mirrors hang on walls with a red faux-finish. When a popular UK football team is playing, the place has a palpable energy, with jersey-clad guys screaming at the TVs and an overall jovial quality—even between fans of opposing teams. Still, I'll likely hold off on any early morning boozing 'til fall, when I'll be grabbing a six-pack of Strongbow for the tailgate.

Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.


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