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Three a.m. is Intoxicating Tea Time

Everyone ends up at the Green Mill sooner or later.
Monday Dec 25, 2006.     By Dana Kavan
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Drinking at the Mill.
photo: Dana Kavan
Drink of the week: A Long Island Iced Tea at Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway Ave., on a Friday night.

The damage: $8 for a glass. Cover varies early, but if you go after 1:30 a.m. to catch the Green Mill Quartet's lively jam session, there's no charge.

Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? Rarely does anything good happen after 3 a.m. Bars with 4 a.m. liquor licenses are on par with the city's now defunct blue bag recycling program: Both sound like good ideas at the time but everything (or everyone) ends up trashed. Thankfully, Green Mill, the legendary jazz club in Uptown, presents an alternative to Chicago's status quo late-night offerings of meat markets and seedy scenes. With a 4 a.m. close on the weekend, you'll still probably end up sloshed, but at least you get to listen to smooth sounds in a fun, speakeasy atmosphere.

How it went down: The last time I downed a Long Island was in Nashville when a man in a cowboy hat came up to me and said, "Girls down here don't drink like you." Four years later, I apparently don't drink like me either. I couldn't even finish one glass. You see, the Green Mill attracts two types of people: those who made it a destination spot to impress out-of-town friends and those who went out for a "couple" beers after work and somehow ended up there well past bedtime. I was part of the latter group. It didn't help that Green Mill's Long Island is as famous for being strong as the club is for being Al Capone's old haunt.

The bartender pours one part vodka, tequila, rum, gin, triple sec, sweet and sour mix and a splash of Coke into a shaker with ice. He pours the mix into a pint, sticks in a straw and rests a large slice of lemon on the edge. The blend of seven ingredients reminds me of when I would mix "suicides" at slumber parties and dare my friends to drink the Coke, ketchup, lemonade and milk concoction in one brave gulp. Though the Long Island employs the same concept, it's remarkably tasty. Green Mill's version has the perfect amount of sweet and sour to balance out the booze, and the Coke adds just enough carbonation.

Would I want to become a regular? The Green Mill's vibe is a throwback to the 30's with white linen-covered tabletops, half-moon booths and dark lighting. The place seems to have a quasi-Grecian theme, with paintings of rivers displayed in intricate wood frames and a gold-plated Goddess adorning the back wall. It's classic and comfortable, but the real reason to go is the music. Varied acts from traditional to contemporary jazz fill the place with stimulating sounds every night, and cover can cost as little as $6. Now, that's my cup of tea.

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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  • America's Bar
    $2.50 drafts of Miller Lite, $3.50 drafts of Blue Moon, $3 well drinks, $4 long islands, $2 liberty shots
  • Captain Morgan Club
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    $2.50 pints of Miller Lite