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Photograph: Erica GannettPaul McGee

Paul McGee discusses Three Dots and a Dash

The bartender talks about Three Dots and a Dash, the tiki bar he’s opening with the Melman brothers.


Paul McGee used to vacation in Hawaii with his family, where he once found himself eating at classic tiki joint Don the Beachcomber. He was too young to drink but, years later, he’s bringing the best of Hawaii’s booze to Chicago with Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki bar he’s opening with Jerrod and R.J. Melman below their restaurant Bub City at 435 North Clark Street.

Three Dots and a Dash—what the heck does that mean?
It’s a Don the Beachcomber drink from the 1940s. It has a couple different types of rum, honey, allspice, Angostura bitters—all these spice elements to the cocktail—and it’s one I’ve really liked for a long time, ever since I started doing tiki drinks. The name refers to Morse code: Three dots and a dash is Morse code for the letter V, and that was used to symbolize victory in World War II.

So this is kind of like victory for tiki in Chicago?
That’s perfect.

Should we expect classic tiki or McGee tiki?
I’m definitely going to have some classics on there as well as some originals.… One [original] drink that I’m really excited about is a reference to me going to Hawaii…. I boogie boarded on Poipu Beach, so the drink is called the Poipu Beach Boogie Board. It’s rye whiskey, Lemon Hart 151 [rum], maraschino liquor, a little bit of demerara syrup, pineapple—it’s got a lot of ingredients—some guava and grenadine, and then a little lemon juice, buzzed with shaved ice. One thing you’re going to see in this bar that’s different from other craft-cocktail joints is that the techniques we’re using are completely different. You’re not going to see a lot of shaking of the cocktails—we’re going to be blending a lot of drinks with a stick blender, just buzzing them with really nice crushed ice, and then also swizzling some drinks.

Can people expect to see you there doing the swizzling every night?
Yeah. Probably more than they’re going to want to!

Three Dots and a Dash opens in late October.

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