Jonah Frank is the first to admit that it's going to be hard following Tona Palomino's act. "He’s the warmest and most brilliant and clever and caring guy," Frank said of the former Trenchermen beverage director. After Palomino's exit last month, Frank, 24, was tapped to helm the Wicker Park restaurant's highly regarded cocktail program. While he claims that he'll never be as "charming" as his predecessor, he has his own vision for the cocktail, beer and spirits list. Here are 10 things to know about the fresh face behind Trenchermen's bar.
1. He's a Chicago native. Frank was raised in Lincoln Park and now lives in Ukrainian Village.
2. His college major actually taught him about bartending. Frank studied classics at Vassar—think ancient Greek and Latin—and wrote his senior thesis on hospitality in the Homeric cycle ... which has what, exactly, to do with drinks? "It's about welcoming guests and how social interactions go, which is what’s underlying booze and cocktails," Frank said.
3. His first job was at The Barrelhouse Flat. After graduation, Frank began working at the Lincoln Park cocktail bar, where former creative director Greg Buttera became a mentor to him. He then helped open Ukrainian Village bar Sportsmans Club before joining Trenchermen.
4. Some of his cocktails might look familiar. If you're a regular at Sportsmans, you might recognize some of the drinks on Frank's first cocktail menu at Trenchermen. He's serving some of the favorites from Sportsmans, including Almost Like Praying (tequila, Luxardo, lemon, honey).
5. Franks' drinks have a classic bent. "Cutting my teeth at Barrelhouse and already liking old dusty books, my menu definitely leans a little more classic [than Palomino's]," Frank said.
6. His taste in spirits leans "geeky." "I love rhum agricole. It's funky but a little fruity," Frank said. Though that cane juice-distilled spirit factors prominently in one of his cocktails, The Neverland Saur, Frank had to steer himself away from his preference for out-there liquors. "I can’t put a list together where it would be all very strange, not approachable, silly drinks."
7. But he loves beer, too. After high school, Frank backpacked through Belgium and visited legendary brewery Cantillon. "It changed my life," he said. Look for his additions to Trenchermen's beer menu to debut within the next few months.
8. ... and food. His favorite dishes on the spring menu? A duo of green and white asparagus, as well as the restaurant's popular beet and burrata salad.
9. He'll stock some new spirits behind the bar. In addition to bringing in some of his favorite bourbons, such as Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Frank said he may start making some liqueurs in house.
10. When he's not working, he's ... reading at a coffee shop or bar. No surprise, right?
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