Showcase Rare Spirits with High-End Promotions

Message in a Bottle at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago. Image: Alexander Gouletas

Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago is playing a high stakes game: It’s offering four cocktails that cost up to $75 and is using them not only for sales but to alert customers to the rare spirits it carries.

“We wanted to showcase our rare spirits and we call these our luxury cocktails,” says head bartender Mike Jones. “The program is going well and people are really receptive.”

The four cocktails are: Save the King ($50) featuring the 12 from the Dalmore Principal Collection; Caffe Del Sud ($40), which includes Garrison Brothers Kimpton Select bourbon; Message in a Bottle ($75), whose ingredients include Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Single Malt Whisky; and Nouvelle Place, which features V.E.P. Green Chartreuse.

The best sellers are Message in a Bottle and Save the King, likely due to their presentations, Jones says. “They are both elaborately presented and cause a buzz in the bar when served. They’re sort of ‘contagious’—everyone wants one after they see them. We often sell two or more at the same time.”

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Sable launched these new cocktails in November and has seen a mixture of people drinking them. “We have 20-somethings coming in and they are cocktail geeks, and this is something new—they’ve never experienced it. Or there’s a table of businessmen and they’ve just closed a deal and want to spend some money. Then it becomes four men who each buy one and taste each other’s,” Jones explains.

Paramount to this program is the presentation, he says. “If we’re charging people this amount of money, we have to make it worth their dollar. So, we spent a lot of time thinking of presentations and vessels. Whatever vessel the cocktail goes into is just as important as what’s in the glass. We all eat and drink with our eyes as much as with our noses and our mouths.” The bar bought new glassware for this program, some of it from antique and vintage stores.

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These cocktails were intended, Jones says, “to expose people to these spirits and offer something a bit unusual. Any of these cocktails can be made at any time. All of them have ingredients we always have behind the bar. We wanted to take things that already exist and were sitting on our shelves and show them off.”

This program is also intended to involve all the senses, Jones adds. “We light spices on fire so you get crackling, and we bring out the fire and burn cedar chips. The idea was to fill the room with some excitement and immerse people in the experience and make all their senses pop.”

The four cocktails are varied, and that was important, explains Jones. “One’s herbaceous; one sweeter; one has really great bitter notes on the finish; another has a nutty vanilla thing happening with great acidity. We try to cover the gamut with these.” Jones adds that he may change one or two of these out as he moves into his spring menu.

Message in a Bottle cocktail at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago

Message in a Bottle

Recipe and image courtesy of Sable Kitchen & Bar

Method: Stir Zaya, Madeira, syrup and bitters. Strain

Glass: Double barreled globe; Glenfiddich in large barrel; Madeira, rum and syrup in small barrel. Serve on glass tray with two crystal cut glasses

Garnish: Dried hibiscus

This is a modern twist on the classic Manhattan. Floral hibiscus mixes with nutty, acidic Madeira while undernotes of vanilla are highlighted with rum.

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