Drink of the week:
Where you can find it: Friar Tuck.
The damage: $12.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? Claiming that Friar Tuck is one of my all-time favorite bars wouldn't be a lie, but I would feel like a poser saying so. I do love its quirky mix of grizzled regulars and relaxed young revelers from the neighborhood, and its small dance floor seems to be the most inviting one in the city. Still, I hardly ever make it to the dark pub, unless I'm on a celebratory bar crawl with a group of my former coworkers. This particular Friday, we were throwing a going-away party. The reason for us boozing wasn't a particularly merry one, but we were all smiles at Friar. How could we not be with cheesy '90s dance hits playing on the juke (our doing, I might add), baskets overflowing with gratis popcorn, holiday decorations hanging from the low ceiling, and someone taking a shot out of an inflatable sheep's backside just a few steps from us?
How it went down: These outings inevitably end up awash in beer, so I was looking to start off with something other than suds. After chatting up bartender Breon Bliss, I settled on a libation that couldn't be any more festive if it were served by St. Nick himself.
Bliss' dressed-up take on a good old White Russian, The Christmas begins with him pouring Rumplemintz into a pint glass and twirling it to coat the inside. He shakes in some cinnamon sugar, sticking it to all sides, and then sets the interior of the glass on fire twice. The second flame causes the cinnamon and sugar to caramelize, leaving Bliss with a sugary base for his blend of Stoli Vanilla Vodka, Kahlua (a coffee-flavored liqueur), Irish cream and cream. My friend Anne took one sip and said, in a non-sarcastic tone, "Starbucks doesn't have anything on this." Yep, The Christmas won our affection for its velvety flavor with hints of espresso and coconut, the latter courtesy of the caramelization process. It was a good thing I had someone to share it with, too, as a drink that rich in a glass that large warrants at least two straws.
Would I want to become a regular? I'm pretty sure the reason we started making Friar Tuck our go-to bar-crawl stop was because of its Fun Hat Fridays. The box of well-worn headpieces, which range from a sparkly jester's cap to an alligator head to a stuffed bumble bee, instantly adds a dose of fun to any evening. Still, I have no excuse not to visit on other nights of the week—not when the Friar folks are giving me so many excuses to venture out on, say, a Thursday for karaoke. And then there's my birthday, of course. That's when I too can get my hands on a sheep shot.
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.