Midnight Mary #2 at the Aviary
The first cocktail Charles Joly added to the Aviary�s menu was modern in form (a mix of tomato/aquavit/Benedictine/lime/galangal poured over a vaporous mound of nitrogen-frozen basil foam), but classically summer in taste.
Aviation Jell-O shot at the Charleston
Annemarie Sagoi made a name for herself this year as the �Jell-O-shot girl� at the Charleston, but she�s hardly the picture of a scantily clad airhead doling out test tubes of J�ger on Division Street. Her concoctions lean classic, as in turning gin, Luxardo maraschino, cr�me de violette and lemon into a solid-state slurper.
Fresh-roasted coffee at Den Den
To-go cups don�t exist at this Eritrean eatery, where Ilen Mezengi performs the duty of traditional coffee service: toasting raw Ethiopian beans before your eyes, grinding them by hand and adding steaming water for one of the freshest brews around.
Big Hugs from Half Acre Beer Company
Even stout superfans struggle with sucking down thick, creamy, inky-black Imperial stouts in summer, but come cooler weather, there are few better beers to drink. Hence, Half Acre limits this big badass to holiday availability (look for it by December 15), slapping on oddly festive labels such as a gigantic cat ravaging the North Pole. Don�t think about it: Just drink it.
Heirloom from Illinois Sparkling Co.
One sip of this sparkling dry ros� from winemaker Mark Wenzel (also of August Hill Winery), and you�ll quit ragging on Midwestern-made vino.
Bilberry Black Hearts gin from Journeyman Distillery
Local booze is the new �put a bird on it.� But distiller Bill Welter is clearly in it out of passion�not trendiness�as evidenced by this distinctive gin, in which the subtle licorice flavor of bilberries (a wild cousin to the blueberry) tempers gin�s typical juniper profile.
Hot chocolate at Katherine Anne Confections
Okay, $7 for one cup of hot chocolate is ridiculous. But not when you think about the fact that it contains nearly as much chocolate as a half-pound box of truffles, and it�s so thick and intense that you have to share it with a friend.
Most from Prima Cider
The Long Grove-based Bertsche family makes cider the only way they know how: from fresh-pressed heirloom apples fermented into dry farmhouse cider that pairs well with pretty much anything you can eat.
Negroni sbagliato at RPM Italian
RPM�s bartenders do cocktail expert Paul McGee�s drinks justice, particularly a classic variation on a Negroni, which lightens and brightens the sipper with the addition of prosecco.
Neo Negroni at Scofflaw
Danny Shapiro�s adaptation of this classic cocktail (traditionally equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari) is like a Negroni on steroids: He subs Byrrh Grand Quinquina (a wine-based aperitif) for vermouth to enhance the drink�s bitterness, ditches Campari for less cloying Luxardo Bitter and (this might be the kicker) doubles up on the usual amount of gin.
Green Hornet at Trenchermen
Tona Palomino is a cocktail minimalist, a guy more interested in teasing out a single clean flavor than in the pageantry of garnishes and billion-ingredient drinks. Case in point: the power of mere celery juice in this riff on a gin and tonic.
Verdita at the Whistler
Unlike your typical chaser, this fiery juice (a blend of cilantro, mint, pineapple, lime, jalape�os and habanero peppers) doesn�t so much erase the taste of tequila as enrich it. Owner Billy Helmkamp recommends 100-proof Don Fulano Silver as a pairing.
Zombie Dust from Three Floyds Brewing Co.
Between San Pellegrino Pompelmo and Stiegl Radler, this has been a bomb year for grapefruit lovers. Add to those two this instantly iconic pale ale, brewed in Munster, Indiana. It�s hoppy, easy to drink and blessed with the gentle bitterness and fruitiness of our beloved grapefruit.