In the history of American drinking, the ’70s—best summed up by tequila sunrises, grasshoppers and Harvey Wallbangers—are a grim period indeed. But now that bartenders have succeeded in restoring pre-Prohibition cocktails to their rightful place on drink lists, many have turned their attention to improving ‘70s recipes. Better ingredients and tweaked formulas have yielded some terrific drinks (case in point: the delicious minty grasshoppers all over Chicago), but the Heavy Feather is taking the ‘70s thing to another level—it’s an entire bar devoted to the decade.
Unlike other ‘70s bars, including New York’s now-closed Golden Cadillac, the Heavy Feather feels less like a theme park and more like a refined bar that just happens to serve drinks from the era. The restraint isn’t really surprising, given who’s behind the bar—the Scofflaw group, with beverage director Doug Phillips at the helm. Located above Slippery Slope (where Phillips also handles drinks), the Heavy Feather plays on a fern bar, a type of drinking establishment from the era that was decked out with potted ferns, served sweet drinks and aimed to appeal to single women.
Instead of sugary concoctions, Phillips offers up a list of 13 balanced drinks, like a velvety amaretto sour, improved with the addition of bourbon and frothy egg white, and creamy grasshopper ice cream drink strengthened with cognac. If the fern bars of yore were half as good as the Heavy Feather, they would never have gone out of style.
Atmosphere: The space, with dim lighting, peacock feather-print wallpaper and a stuffed bear on the mantel, is chill and comfortable. Service is warm and relaxed, and the bar feels like a complete 180 from the loud dance party downstairs at Slippery Slope, which you'll need to get into before you can get upstairs to the Heavy Feather. But even if you need to wait in line for Slippery Slope, the wait is worth it.
What to eat: Nothing. There’s no food menu, but this is Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square—you’ll be fine.
What to drink: For something brightly flavored, try the plum gin fizz, with Averell Damson Gin Liqueur, Letherbee gin, Cynar, lemon and egg white ($10). Prefer dark spirits? There are very good versions of an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan (both $10), but my favorite drink on the list is the Polished Nail, a richly flavored upgrade on the Rusty Nail, with Scotch, Drambuie, dry vermouth and orangey Ramazzotti Amaro ($10). Or, cool down with the tropical frozen Shark Attack, made with three rums, raspberry, pineapple and coconut ($12).
Where to sit: Cozy tables and rolling armchairs at the bar make the Heavy Feather feel like the kind of place you want to settle in for a whole evening.