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Where (and how) to drink wine from a porrón in Chicago

Photograph: Matthew Reeves Bordel

Something strange happens when you see a porrón in action. The vessel, which can best be described as a cross between a watering can and a decanter, inevitably sets off a chain reaction. “I’ll have whatever they’re having,” you’ll hear yourself say, helpless to its allure.

Originating in the Catalonia region of Spain, the pitcher with two spouts has become a fixture in some of Chicago’s best restaurants and wine bars, encouraging patrons to tip their heads back and let the booze flow into their mouth.

“When we decided to open a restaurant that would feature Spanish cuisine, especially tapas, that was the moment we knew we’d have porróns,” says Richard Hanauer, Bar Ramone’s wine director and associate partner. “It was never even something we discussed as an option. We knew we had to have it.”

Bar Ramone, Photograph: Christina Slaton

At the River North wine bar from restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You, guests can order select still, fizzy and rosé wines in a 500-milliliter glassware. One of Hanauer’s favorite things to put into a porrón is txakoli, an effervescent, dry white wine from Basque Country. “The porrón aerates as it pours, which is exactly what txakoli wants,” he explains. “Drinking txakoli from the porrón actually makes the wine better.”

That's not to say that it's all serious wino business. Hanauer admits that behind the scenes, he likes to have fun: "Whether it’s right or wrong, there’s nothing we won’t put in a porrón," he laughs. "We've used wines that definitely should not be in there. We've put liquor in there."

Bar Biscay, Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

At sister restaurants Bar Biscay and mfk., owner Scott Worsham uses the the vessel to liven up service. Throughout the night, he or a bartender will stroll from table to table, allowing guests to take a gulp without touching the porrón. “It’s an instant party starter. It brings everyone in the room together,” says Worsham. 

Every few tables, he’ll come across a group of first-timers, who are typically eager to crane their necks back and aim the tip straight into their gullets. For those hoping to avoid a dry-cleaning bill, Worsham has a few pointers: “Start close to your mouth with a nice, steady stream,” he says. “Once you feel like you’ve got that, extend your elbow straight out and then go back in. But, most importantly, don’t overthink it. It’s supposed to be fun.”

Looking to try the trend? Aside from Bar Ramone, mfk. and Bar Biscay, winos can find porróns at Bordel, Black Bull and etta.