Taste: Spirits: Reinventing a Classic
Pressed-tin ceilings, mahogany bars and elaborate cocktails were in vogue when Chick’s opened for business in 1893. Today, the Bella Vista bar is still in style; salvaged pressed-tin ceilings and restored mahogany bars are de rigueur among the city’s newest watering holes. It’s a formula — just add local brews, hard-to-pronounce wines and goat cheese — that has revived fading taprooms in the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods, but Chick’s hasn’t been content to simply reinvent itself. Bartender Katie Loeb is equally determined to reinvent the cocktail.
[sidebar]Philly may have been reluctant to embrace the cocktail-shaker movement that has stirred New York and San Francisco, but on a quiet night at Chick’s — there’s a game on, someone explains — it’s the sandwich board advertising Loeb’s new drinks that draws customers into the TV-less bar.
These summer offerings aren’t quite classics, and they aren’t quite cosmos. Loeb makes her martinis with gin (and grapefruit bitters), and her cosmopolitans have the sweet heat of ginger beer. She spends as much time in the kitchen cooking up lavender and lemon syrups as she does behind the bar, where she’s a cheerful ambassador for carefully constructed cocktails.
Choose a game night for an unhurried introduction to the candied, floral Front Stoop Lemonade, made with Philly’s own Bluecoat gin and an unexpected Thai-basil syrup, or for a reintroduction to the daiquiri. Premium rum, ruby red grapefruit and Loeb’s rhubarb syrup renovate the berry blender drink into the bright, tart Rhuby Daiquiri.