Bar review by Amy Cavanaugh
“We’re going to get you an amaro machine for your birthday!” my friends told me after I ordered a second amaro shot immediately after finishing my first. The amaro machine is the best thing at Sportsman’s Club, the new bar in Humboldt Park. It’s a chilled shot machine (like the old Jäger machines), and managing partners Wade McElroy (Trenchermen, Barrelhouse Flat) and Jeff Donahue (Aviary, Barrelhouse Flat) are constantly adding amaros to the mix, so the shot is never exactly the same. On my visit, the shot included Cynar, Fernet-Branca, Averna and Cocchi Rosa, and there was even a taste difference between the two shots I had.
The amaro machine should be an indication that McElroy and Donahue are treading in dark, bitter territory, which is what I would drink exclusively, given the option. Besides the shot, which is $4, there are four rotating cocktails ($10), which change daily, in addition to the house Sportsman’s Cocktail ($8). On my visit, the menu consisted of a daiquiri, a Toronto, a Martinez and a ginger beer–bourbon cocktail. The short-lived nature of the menu means your experience will be hit or miss—the daiquiri was pleasant, but the Toronto (whiskey, Fernet, simple syrup, angostura) and the Martinez (gin, vermouth, maraschino) didn’t taste very balanced, or particularly exciting, which, at $10 in a neighborhood bar, they should be. Better to stick to the amaro shot and a beer.
The bar used to be an old Polish dive, and when McElroy and Donahue moved in, they kept the original bar in place and added a tapestry of a French hunting scene and more taxidermied animals than you can count. Plus, checkerboards are built into tables and there’s a small area where you can take beer to go. When I arrived on a weekend night, the place was absolutely packed, probably due to its proximity to the Empty Bottle. But anyone who didn’t find a seat had one drink and moved on. Us? We managed to snag a couple bar stools, where we stayed until we’d had our fill of amaro.