Photograph: Anjali Pinto
Photograph: Anjali Pinto

The four-rum Zombie punch is available at Three Dots and a Dash in River North.

We drank every cocktail at Three Dots and a Dash last night

We tried 16 tiki drinks—and two punches!—at Paul McGee's Three Dots and a Dash, all in the name of research.


After waiting what felt like years (it was almost a year and a half) for Paul McGee to open his subterranean tiki lounge Three Dots and a Dash, we knew we had to visit opening night and do it right—by drinking every single cocktail on the menu.

The bar, located beneath Bub City, has an alley entrance off Hubbard, so look for blue lights and a guy with an earpiece manning the door. Three Dots is downstairs, and aesthetically, it’s exactly what we expected. There are wooden tiki heads behind the bar, a wall of skulls, palms, servers in flowered dresses, colorful lights, and swizzle sticks with a tiki head that looks like Paul McGee.

We rounded up five people to drink through the 16 cocktails, which really doesn’t sound all that hard, until you realize that some of these drinks have little skulls printed next to them on the menu, which means that they are “drinks of impressive strength.” This is accurate. And each drink seemed larger than most other cocktails you’ll find around town.

The menu features eight classic tiki drinks and eight modern tiki drinks, 13 of which are rum-based, and all of which come with an abundance of garnishes, like paper umbrellas, orchids, swizzle sticks, maraschino cherries, leaves and curls of citrus peel.

We started slowly with the lighter drinks—the namesake Three Dots and a Dash, made with aged rhum agricole, Guyanese rum, honey, falernum, lime, allspice and angostura bitters; a Mai Tai, with aged rhum agricole, Jamaican rum, lime, curacao, macadamia orgeat and mint; and a modern tiki drink, the Tropic of Thistle, made with aged Puerto Rican rum, aged Caribbean rum, Batavia arrack, Cynar, Luxardo Amaro Abano, lime, cane syrup and mint. We passed the drinks around the table until we wound up with our favorites.

While we can’t remember the order of the rest, here are all the other cocktails we tried:

Halekulani: Dark Jamaican rum, bourbon, curacao, grenadine, lime, pineapple, angostura bitters

Tropical Itch: Bourbon, Trinidadian rum, overproof rum, curacao, passionfruit, lemon, angostura bitters

Pago Pago: Gold Nicaraguan rum, green chartreuse, pineapple, lime, crème de cacao

Saturn: Navy strength gin, passionfruit, lemon, falernum, almond

Jet Pilot: Dark Jamaican rum, gold Dominican rum, overproof rum, lime, cinnamon, grapefruit, falernum, absinthe, angostura bitters

Jungle Bird: Bajan rum, dark Jamaican rum, Campari, lime, pineapple

A Lonely Island Lost in the Middle of a Foggy Sea: Aged rhum agricole, blackstrap rum, Indian rum, cold brew coffee, pineapple, lime

Poipu Beach Boogie Board: Rye, overproof rum, guava, maraschino, grenadine, pineapple, lemon

Rum River Mystic: Aged Puerto Rican rum, bourbon, quinquina, Benedictine, ‘Elemakule bitters

Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri: Jamaican rum, spiced rum, overproof rum, coconut liqueur, banana, lime, nutmeg

Tall as a Tree and Twice as Shady: Scotch whisky, Batavia arrack, almond, lemon, pineapple

Aloha, Mexico: Tequila, genever, pineapple, mint, tamarind, hellfire bitters

Painkiller No. 3: Bajan rum, Jamaican rum, coconut liqueur, passionfruit, pineapple, cream

The plan was to just try all 16 cocktails, but once we reached the end of the list, it was 12:45am and we weren’t really that drunk (at least compared to the people we encountered in the bathrooms). So we looked at the punch list, which features four punches, and ordered the Planter’s Punch, which serves 4-6 people. It’s made with three rums, lime, grapefruit, grenadine, and angostura and came with an orange carved into a skull.

After we finished that, we tackled the Zombie Punch, which came out in a crystal skull glass. It had a mix of four rums, lime, grapefruit and cinnamon poured over crushed ice and little pieces of bread set on fire. And because we were very drunk by then, we tried the fiery bread after the flames were extinguished, and can say that you should probably not eat it.

At that point, the bar closed, which was a good thing, because we did not need the three-rum Christmas in July punch or the utterly insane Treasure Chest No. 1, a $385 drink that comes served in a big treasure chest with a bottle of Dom Perignon.

So how was everything? We’re planning to review Three Dots and a Dash once it’s been open for at least a month, but we’ll say that we finished every drink in front of us. And we got multiple orders of coconut shrimp from the Island Fare menu, which also features crab Rangoon, curry chicken skewers and Thai fried chicken.

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