It Takes Two

Two people, who are equally talented and innovative, can form a powerful relationship that ultimately benefits not only the parties involved but also those around them. Batman and Robin, Lennon and McCartney and Ben and Jerry are only a few on that list. And joining the pantheon of these great duos is Culleeney and Seger.

Old friends Ed Culleeney, managing partner of PL8 in Barrington, Ill., and Adam Seger, celebrated mixologist and co-founder of hum Thai Chilispirits, are working together to make Valentine’s Day at PL8 a special experience for patrons looking to celebrate.

Seger is joining Culleeney to create cocktails that will complement a Valentine’s Day food menu for those adoring couples heading to PL8. Seger will guest bartend on Feb. 10, as well as train staff on making the drinks. The promotion will run through Valentine’s Day; reservations are required.

Still in its infancy — PL8 opened on Feb. 5, 2010 — Culleeney relies on these types of promotions to attract new clientele to his restaurant, especially because it's located more than 35 miles outside of Chicago.

“Obviously, (the promotion) has to be unique. It’s the lifeblood of the restaurant,” explains Culleeney. To plan this promotion, Culleeney says that the biggest thing "is just brainstorming.” Before putting this promotion together, Culleeney and his team sat down and asked the big questions: How is this going to work? Who should we bring on? How do we develop this special?

Yet, PL8 — with its red colors and “sexy and sleek” Asian décor — lends itself to be the “perfect tie-in with the Valentine’s Day theme,” Culleeney says. That’s why the Valentine’s Day menu will include red food options, as well as red cocktails created by Seger using his scarlet-colored hum spirit, a pot-still rhum made with fair-trade hibiscus, ginger root, green cardamom and kaffir lime.

Cocktails on the menu include Sparkling Sangria (hum and Yuzu Luxe Sour Mix, topped with Voveti Prosecco), Pineapple Thai Basil Mojito (hum, homemade ginger syrup, a muddle of mint leaves, basil leaves, pineapple and lime wedges, topped with a splash of soda), Thai Chili-Blood Orange Martini (Ketel One Citroen, hum, Perfect Puree Blood Orange Concentrate, simple syrup, lime juice and bar spoon of chopped cherry chilies, topped with Hou Hou Shu Sparkling Sake) and Asian Toddi (hum and ginger syrup, topped with Passion Plum Oolong tea and served with a side of honey).

Seger's cocktails

Valentine's Day cocktails at PL8 in Barrington, Ill., include: (left to right) the Sparkling Sangria, Thai Chili-Blood Orange Martini, Pineapple Thai Basil Mojito and Asian Toddi.

There’s a mutual respect between these two innovative food-and-beverage minds for the items each brings to the table, showcasing what two people with melding viewpoints can create: an event that highlights all of the unique characteristics and nuances of food and cocktails available at PL8.

“We’re trying a different twist. We’re always trying to bring it back to food and drinks. Our wine and cocktail program is very strong,” Culleeney explains. “We have a specialty cocktails list,” and bringing on Seger is a smart way to capitalize on the housemade syrups and juices already behind the bar at PL8, he says.

Seger says that Culleeney’s attitude about the restaurant industry is what makes PL8’s promotions a success.

“I really like the idea that as a restaurateur, [Culleeney’s] savvy with what’s going on at the bar. He breaks down the traditional lines between the front and back of house,” Seger explains. “We share similar philosophies with cocktails that way; that makes (the Valentine’s promotion) a very special cocktail week.”

And those philosophies mesh well together.

Seger “finds it really stimulating to have great cocktails for themed events,” because it builds relationships and adds value for him as a spirit producer, but also it builds Culleeney’s business as well.

“We’re doubling our resources,” Seger says.

Culleeney also notes that it’s not just about getting people in the door but about creating value at your establishment and developing loyal customers.

“With Valentine’s Day week — it’s a Tuesday this year — you’ll always have people dine out. But nowadays, people take advantage of the whole weekend,” he says.

In essence, it comes down to making the most of not just one night but the few days leading up to Valentine’s Day. And while competitors may throw together a simple romantic meal, Culleeney wanted to create something larger all together.

“It’s so extremely important,” Culleeney says of building a strong promotion, noting that events such as this are “one of the best ways to get your name out there. The more people that are aware of you, they’re likely to come in and try something and see what you’re all about,” he says. “Once you get them in there, it’s easy to get them back.”

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