ROOF UNLEASHES ITS NEW BEVERAGE PROGRAM
If there’s one thing that Chicagoans can agree on, it’s that we’re pretty serious when it comes to booze.
Classically trained sommelier, with over 12 years of experience, and the beverage director for theWit hotel, Michael Simon, revitalized the beverage program to comply with the city’s hyper-interest in sophistication, excitement and taste.
By just speaking with Michael, you can feel his passion fill the room. The thought behind each drink—the way it’s crafted, the natural, local ingredients, and the presentation—is cleverly shown in a minimalistic; yet, deceivingly intricate way.
Simon’s focus is on quality, over quantity. He hopes to provide the customer with a drink that can elicit an emotional response and facilitate a positive mood. He wants guests to be in the moment, able to block out the outside world and keep everything fun and in motion. “Even if you order something ordinary, it’s never going to be ordinary here,” says Piers Smyth, the assistant general manager at ROOF, who works directly with Michael Simon on the execution of the beverage program. “As the new beverage program transforms its ingredients to create novelties that are unlike anything you have experienced before,” he continues.
This sentiment is in line with this dynamic duo’s mission: “to take everything that makes ROOF unique, as a pioneer in Chicago nightlife, and to keep the heart and identity of it, but help it grow up,” says Simon, who hopes that by implementing these changes and re-inventing drinks quarterly, ROOF will be “kept in the conversation for years to come.”
As can be imagined, much effort and skill go into the preparation and execution of these cocktails. Simon emphasizes the demand for “fast, pick-up drinks,” where they can “disguise a lot of sophistication and beautiful ingredients in the prep itself, but the actual drink can wow the guests in a matter of seconds.”
“It’s like a dance behind the bar,” Smyth remarks. With the help of new tools and highly trained bartenders, it’s as though the bartender’s hands are moving a mile a minute. Such precision and time management is required to withstand the urgency—“428 drinks a night, 160 drinks an hour, more than 1 drink a minute,” Smyth estimates as the calculations for an average night at ROOF.
The new beverage program is broken down into five distinct parts: house cocktails, classics, shots, high-end cocktails, and large format drinks.
Upon reading the house cocktail menu, the names are sure to stand out. “Valley of Dolls,” “Manhattan’s Only For The Wealthy” and “Amber Rose’s Sultry but-instagram-terms & conditions-appropriate” poke fun at the perceived pretentiousness that can be associated with sophisticated cocktails. Smyth explains, “we never want out guests to feel embarrassed or out of place.” By including playfulness, it allows guests to enjoy their cocktail in a fun, lux atmosphere without any distaste.
The inclusion of rare liquors, such as whistle pig rye, as featured in “Manhattan’s Only For The Wealthy,” elevates the cocktail to new heights. Natural teas and oils give its drinks a healthier edge, offering freshness, flavor and nutritional properties. “Valley Of The Dolls” relies on spearmint tea, which is sourced from all-natural tea cellars, to pair nicely with cucumber bitters and club soda for a light and refreshing cocktail.
Also, two frozen cocktails will make an appearance in June, just in time for Chicago’s beautifully, warm summer.
Featuring in-house spirits, the shots menu takes a generic beverage and adds a new twist. The “Fireball,” now known as “ROOF on Fire!,” gets remodeled as an infusion of organic raw honey, agave syrup, cinnamon and fine whiskey. Smyth recommends Whistle Pig Rye or a whiskey from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Another generic beverage, the lemon drop, or rather the “Lululemon Lemon Drop,” boasts fresh honeydew lavender and citrus vodka. The light, floral essence brings the cocktail to a whole new level and makes the “expected unexpected,” adds Smyth.
Changing quarterly, the classic menu features 8-9 cocktails that include high-quality ingredients, with an added riff on a classic recipe to jazz things up. The classic “Gin Martini” features Tanqueray 10 gin, a premium gin that highlights floral and citrusy notes, and finishes it off with orange bitters, instead of the usual olive or lemon wedge.
ROOF also takes it sweeteners to new heights, as is represented in the “Mint Julep.” By infusing fresh mint with sugar to create natural, simple syrup, the drink’s flavors are enhanced and exude a freshness that is unparalleled to the generic sweeteners that cocktails often rely on.
The Paramount Suite
Named after the largest suite at theWit, this list features high-end, luxury cocktails. Available in the living room/loft bar, they run on the expensive side. “The approach is minimalistic,” says Simon, “mixing high-end spirits in a very incisive and exciting recipe.” The whole atmosphere presents a lux ambience, making it the perfect place to splurge on a one-of-a-kind cocktail. “These drinks are especially fitting for solo business travelers, as they aren’t looking for bottle service and would prefer to invest in a rad drinking experience, one that they could remember forever,” says Simon.
One cocktail that Simon is particularly fond of is “The Essential French 75,” which combines Nolet’s Gin and Bollinger Special Cuvee, and adds fruitiness with homemade, raspberry sugar and lemon. Each liquor is of the finest quality, making it worth every dollar, and the simple sugars and garnishes bring uniqueness to the glass. Simon incorporates orange saffron bitters, honey lemon and Riesling-infused agave, among others.
Large Format Drinks
With the inclusion of large format drinks, ROOF can resemble a “playground for adults,” says Simon. He hopes that the list, which will be released the first week of June, will allow for a fun and interactive experience among guests. By adding a level of sophistication to the nightlife scene, it’s setting the bar high for other venues. “It also takes a little pressure away from bottle service, by offering another type of niche that is exciting,” states Simon.
In addition to 4-5 drinks, innovation will take form in new tools, glassware and vessels, all of which will be integrated into the presentation of these drinks. Here’s a spoiler: “Marsellus Wallace’s Briefcase.” Containing Whistle Smyth Rye, briefcases, and LED lightbulbs, the drink presents an old-fashioned, but in a newly fashioned experienced. Trying to visualize the presentation? You’ll just have to go see for yourself!
For more information on ROOF on theWit’s beverage program or to book reservations, please visit here.