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Pigtail interior
Photograph: Regan Baroni

Try pork-infused cocktails and jamón at José Andrés’ new speakeasy

Located beneath Jaleo in River North, Pigtail goes whole hog in its embrace of a culinary theme.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Earlier this year, celebrity chef José Andrés unveiled his ambitious plans to open no less than five concepts in Chicago throughout 2021. Earlier this summer, his flagship Spanish restaurant Jaleo began welcoming guests in River North—and now a speakeasy in the restaurant's basement is preparing to do the same.

Inspired by Spain's trendy cocktail scene, the menu at Pigtail revolves around jamón ibérico—a type of cured ham that's ubiquitous in Spanish cooking. Nestled in a small, dimly-lit space below Jaleo, this 33-capacity cocktail lounge was conceived as an intimate spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks, accompanied by an "elevated snack menu." And you won't just be eating pork at Pigtail; you'll be drinking it, too.

One of the most intriguing creations coming from behind the bar at Pigtail is the Consomé Cocktail, which combines a house-made pork consomé with palo cortado and amontillado sherries, topped with egg oam. Pigtail (and Jaleo) chef Justin DePhillips describes the concoction as "one of the most unique things you’ll ever taste. It’s sweet, salty, savory, fatty—it’s really, really interesting."

Curated by ThinkFoodGroup cocktail innovator Miguel Lancha, other drinks on the Pigtail menu feature mezcal that is distilled with an entire jamón ibérico leg hanging in the still, and gin that is fat-washed with rendered ibérico ham fat.

"Unusually, we wanted the food to support the drinks as opposed to the other way around," DePhillips says, describing the way the dishes at Pigtail complement the robust beverage program.

When the team at Pigtail were told that the restaurant's silverware was backordered for nine weeks, DePhillips set out to create a menu that was "silverware optional," filled with dishes that can be eaten with your hands (as long as you don't mind getting messy). Among the 15 offerings on Pigtail's initial menu are jamón and béchamel fritters, fried pig ears and snouts accompanied by a cheese foam, and a foie gras terrine served with ibérico de bellota.

While you could conceivably cobble together a meal at Pigtail by ordering most of the dishes on the menu, DePhillips says that the speakeasy is intended to function as a pre- or post-dinner experience. He's also quick to note that while the majority of the menu incorporates pork products, there are food and drink options at Pigtail that will be appropriate for diners with dietary restrictions.

You'll be able to experience Pigtail for yourself (and see if you actually enjoy pork-infused cocktails) when it begins welcoming guests on October 15. The speakeasy is currently accepting reservations via OpenTable and hours will be 5–11p Thursday through Sunday.

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