This Thirsty Thursday could very well be a #ThrowbackThursday, thanks to the The Dawson’s new cocktails for Fall, an ode to everything totally nostalgic about the nineties. The Dawson’s new cocktail menu invites you to take a trip back in time to the decade that gave us Friends, Pulp Fiction, Austin Powers, In Living Color, Wayne’s World, grunge music, Tupac, Biggie, Power Rangers, Seinfeld, The Spice Girls, and Britney… what’s not to love?
The Dawson is one of my favorite “go-to” spots in Chicago. Conveniently located a block from where our friends Steve and Svetlana live, Chris and I have made it one of our regular spots over the years. The Dawson not only offers yummy menu offerings, such as the chicken fried lobster, in a beautiful restaurant space, but it has a lively bar scene, perfect for entertaining friends from out of town.
When Svetlana and I heard about an evening event to welcome the new cocktails over lights bites and ’90s throwback jams, we decided (with little hesitation) to indulge in some mid-week cocktails, and see if the restaurant could do my favorite era justice.
The Movers and Shakers
I was excited to see a friendly face behind the bar in manager Ken Fordan, a San Diego native who was formerly the beverage director at The Slurping Turtle. Ken not only has a vibrant personality, but he knows his stuff when it comes to cocktails.
Additionally, bar director Aaron Pollack, formally of Rocking Horse and High Dive, has quite the lengthy rap sheet when it comes to bar experience, with a few notable accolades, too. Below, I will share about one of our favorite concoctions of the evenings, a beverage that won Aaron the “Best Gin Beverage” award locally, nationally, and finally internationally, as he took home the top prize after winning the final competition in Morocco. These guys know their stuff.
The Dawson offers a large, gorgeous restaurant space that expands over two floors and also onto an outside terrace. The bar scene is perfect for post work drinks on the patio, or weekend cocktails in the bar on the second floor. Being that the event was on a Wednesday, and I had only just discovered it day of, I was curious as to see what the overall turnout was. As the cocktail party started around six at the bar on the second floor, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that by about 6:15 it had really begun to fill up.
A ginormous, wrap-around bar in the center of the floor allowed for groups of patrons to sit front and center as their cocktails were being created, while high tops and booths were open to both bargoers and diners alike. Rich leather and wood accents matched the dimly lit ambiance perfectly.
It will be hard to think about ever leaving as you listen to the DJ spin jams from back in the day, like The Fresh Prince theme song and Spice Girls hits. The servers are giving all of the nineties feels in their work attires, from Spice Girls and Nirvana Tees, to high ponytails and chokers; we loved it. For a second, you might imagine yourself at The Peach Pit.
Is This Seat Taken?
The Dawson is great place to enjoy post-work cocktails with coworkers, start your evening off with dinner and drinks, or to keep the party going throughout the night. Bar patrons were primarily younger at this particular event, but generally speaking, The Dawson is a perfect spot for just about anyone.
While the grooves are loud enough to make you want to get on your feet and start dancing, you are still able to have a conversation as well. Cute bar bites were passed around, such as some delicious deviled eggs, mini grilled cheeses, and heirloom tomato and mozzarella skewers. You can, of course, order from the standard seasonal dinner menu as well, so do not hesitate to go for that chicken fried lobster if your heart pleases!
The cocktail menu has taken the form of a CD case, which was pretty awesome. At our table, we read all about the new libations through the insert found in an old Smashmouth CD case at our table. Cocktails were not only delicious sounding, but their names made them even more desirable.
Our top favorite drink was, by far, the “Back In The Day”, the award winning gin libations that was created by beverage director Aaron. Made with opihr gin, fenugreek-infused manzanilla sherry, madagascar vanilla, lem-marrakech bitters, and garnished with a crisped lime sliver and a bay leaf, this drink tasted even better than it looked. It had a delicious aroma, and the drink itself was flavor packed with the effervescence of East African flavors and spices.
Presentation-wise, we were huge fans of the “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, a tropical rum beverage on the rocks made with del maguey vida, oloroso sherry, cocchi americano, coconut, pineapple, lime, and a splash of bbq bitters. It was really refreshing, and it went down way too fast, if you ask me!
Holding and sipping on this beverage in it’s clay pot home was especially satisfying. The most beautiful drink that we had seen all evening, though was, hands down, the “Tripping Billies,” a pea flower-infused vodka and plymouth sloe gin-based drink with lucky falernum, blueberry-rosemary cordial, and lemon. It’s name is a nod to one of the most popular bands of the ’90s, The Dave Matthews Band, and the drink it self is supposed to look like a favorite item of contraband among concert-goers that is often found at DMV concerts. They nailed that spot on.
Often times, happy hours or new cocktail debuts can be kinda of cheesy, one has to admit. And with fall having finally arrived here in Chicago, it is pretty exhausting to go just about anywhere and see pumpkin-something splattered on the menu. I assure you that The Dawson has no pumpkin themed libations.
Instead, the restaurant has created a fall cocktail menu that is void of cliches, and while is theme-oriented, still reflects a beverage program to be rivaled of any fancy cocktail bar, The drinks are good, the ambience is awesome, and when it comes to a ’90s party, The Dawson hits the nail on the head.
N Halsted Street ‘
Chicago, IL 60614