Photo by Bill Hogan
December 17, 2014
It's no surprise that The Aviary, Grant Achatz's space-age cocktail lounge, found its way onto numerous best-of lists for 2011. But it's Craig Schoettler, not Achatz, who built from scratch The Aviary's molecular gastronomy-inspired cocktail menu, over which he reigns with the title executive chef.
Ask Schoettler to recall April 23, 2011, Aviary's opening night, and the most memorable moment is a total blank: He blacked out. "I'm sure it was out of exhaustion," Schoettler says.
Schoettler, 25, was plucked from the kitchen line at Achatz's Alinea to head up the beverage program at The Aviary -- with zero bartending experience, for which he has heard an earful. And although he's quick to credit sous-chefs Micah Melton and Jason Cevallos, who preside over the lounge's extensive ice program and private room, respectively, it's Schoettler's impressive culinary background that brings Aviary's drinks to life. From rum manhattans trapped in scented pillows to the essence of hot, buttered popcorn expressed in a glass, Schoettler's designs for drastically offbeat offerings follow in Achatz's pioneering footsteps.
Schoettler has single-handedly catapulted the caliber of the cocktail scene in Chicago (and possibly the country), though he swears he's not unique: "If I can think of it, someone has to have thought of it too. I'm not an Einstein." 955 W. Fulton Market; 312-226-0868
-- Lauren Viera