The pressures on Danny Shapiro when he opened Scofflaw with partners Andy Gould, Mandy Tandy and Kris Nagy in March 2012 had to be huge. Their goal? Open a gin-focused bar located on the outskirts of Logan Square, far from the restaurant row clustered around the El stop. Make the place as unpretentious as possible. Serve interesting, delicious, yet affordable cocktails. And offer an excellent food menu to accompany the cocktails.
No problem. A year later, the bar is as strong as ever, earning accolades from local and national publications and teaming up with North Shore Distillery to create its own Old Tom Gin. Earlier this year, it hinted at a new place opening up "before Chicago sees snow again."
All this came from a guy who moved to Chicago four years ago to take comedy-writing classes at Second City. We met up with Shapiro and asked him six questions about how he started in the industry and why patience is so important.
RECOMMENDED: The best bartenders in Chicago
The only places I tended bar before Scofflaw were (pre–Paul Virant) Perennial and the Whistler. Brandon Wise, the first one to implement a legitimate cocktail at Perennial, taught me as much as he could at a time where I was green, impatient and arrogant. I continued to learn as much as possible from Paul McGee when I got to the Whistler and thank god he was as patient as Brandon.
What's your approach to making cocktails?
I start with something I like, and go from there. If I'm starting with a spirit, then I'll nose it and try to pull out the notes that I want to build upon .
What is your cocktail-making style in in three words?
Keep it accessible.
What is the most important skill a bartender should have?
I would argue that patience is the most important tool you have and one that is needed for remaining sane in the game. Patience prepares you for the unexpected. It is your power in the face of adversity; it enables you to graciously receive your clientele who may ask you repeatedly why you don't carry their favorite energy drink or have a TV or play Miley Cyrus. Or, maybe it keeps you from sending home your barback who has sworn up and down that there is no Campari in-house even though you saw a case of it delivered mere hours ago.
Tell us about one of your cocktails that you've added to the menu that you think people should drink now and why?
The Sly Devil (Scofflaw Old Tom Gin, Maurin Quina, chai syrup and lime) is a good one to drink because I think it represents what we're about: It has a gin base, it's accessible, it has no more than four ingredients, and it's seasonal.
Complete this sentence: Malört is...