The Aviary has long been my grail cocktail bar, and Haley was nice enough to surprise me with a birthday trip during our layover in Chicago this past weekend.
It was delightful. I already want to go back.
- We went on a Saturday night. If you're looking for a cozier atmosphere, I would not go on a Saturday night; the service was still solid, but it was loud (we are old people and prefer quieter atmospheres.)
- We did the five-course tasting menu, which means surrendering your ability to pick drinks. I had some trepidation here, but it was definitely worth it; the small plates were noteworthy in of themselves and surprisingly filling (we arrived having not had dinner and were already planning on chasing down a hot dog stand on our way out, but were pleasantly satiated by the end.) and the five drinks, while not my standard fare, were all delightful.
- The five drinks were all about time, and about evolution of a cocktail over the course of your consuming it. This started with a twist on an Aviation in an infusion of meyers lemon and herbs, so that your first few sips of it are gin-forward but become increasingly herbal & citrus-dominant; it continued with a Zombie twist with pearls of frozen raspberry liqueur that sweetened the drink as they melted; and so on. It's an interesting and playful dimension of a drink that I admire for the craftsmanship, even if it doesn't quite square with what I love most about cocktails, which is a sense of (literal and otherwise!) timelessness — my favorite manhattan or martini is one that feels perfect and unageable, one that would fit neatly either in the palate of today or of fifty years ago or (ideally) fifty years in the future.