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redeyechicago.com

We tried it: Bottlefork's $35 cocktail

By Michael Nagrant, @MichaelNagrant

For RedEye

12:00 AM CDT, March 17, 2014

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Like chef Kevin Hickey, Bottlefork's head barkeep Brandon Phillips (The Drawing Room) has a pedigree. Then again, when I read about a cocktail called Bill Brasky, the Gentleman's "Cut" ($35), a mix of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Hudson New York corn whiskey, Bank Note scotch, Journeyman rye and "the aftershave Brasky used to woo your wife," I figured I'd save myself the 35 bucks and just spray a canister of Pledge furniture cleaner on my tongue. There was no way this mixture of high-proof alcohol would taste good.

Man, I was wrong. Phillips tempered the bite of alcohol with a floral drop of rosewater (Brasky's supposed aftershave), the smoky sweetness of agave syrup and the citrus perfume of orange bitters. It is the ultimate spicy, fruity and bracing cocktail for the truest of brown-liquor lovers.

The only thing I didn't love was that the Brasky was served in a fishbowl-sized snifter that was truly as big as my head. Every time I took a swig from the massive glass, I felt like the most conspicuous douche in the whole room.

While the cocktail itself was great, what happened when I ordered it was disappointing. When I asked my server if the drink came with vintage playing cards embedded in an ice cube like I'd seen in photos, he confirmed that it did. But when the drink arrived with three enormous ice cubes, there were no playing cards. When I asked the server about it, he grinned sheepishly and said that the kitchen ran out and they couldn't keep up with demand. He did bring out a couple of the cards for me to look at, but the fact that he didn't warn me they were out of these special ice cubes and just brought me the drink felt like a crass check-padding upsell.

The cocktail lasted the entire meal, and at the original price of $30, seemed almost reasonable. You're getting six ounces of alcohol well-crafted in to a powerful and enjoyable drink. That amount of liquor translates to roughly two $15 cocktails. But cranking the price to $35, like the crew at Bottlefork has, just feels like a money grab.