Where We’ve Been Drinking: Chicago’s Ladies’ Room
If you ask the hostess at Logan Square’s Fat Rice for the Ladies’ Room, she’ll ask you if you have a reservation. And if you do, she’ll direct you three doors down the street to the bakery that serves as the restaurant’s overflow seating during dinner. One of the server’s there will usher you through the bakery to the back of the kitchen, and into what seems to have at one point been a pantry and is now a cocktail bar.
The little room of about a half dozen tables, lit mostly by candlelight, is decorated in red and black, with soft velvet on the curtains and chairs, and vintage posters of Asian starlets on the walls. It’s almost impossibly hip, but also surprisingly cozy and friendly.
The Ladies’ Room distills their own plum brandy, according to the home recipe of their Romanian custodian, and makes many of their own liqueurs. We tried a few of them:
- ‘Campari’–their version of the bitter, orange peel liqueur actually tasted quite a bit like Aperol–Campari’s softer, sweeter sister–to us;
- ‘Chartreuse’–like the original, it’s made with a custom blend of over 50 botanicals, though they’re all from the Great Lakes region, rather than from the mountains of France. The Ladies’ Room’s version is less sweet and more vegetal than the original, with strong hints of grass and moss. It tasted better than we make it sound;
- ‘Malort’–Malort is a Swedish-style liqueur unique to Chicago. It’s legendary for being unpalatably bitter, Malort’s own marketing material calling it ‘brusk,’ ‘harsh,’ and ‘brutal.’ The Ladies’ Room version was indeed quite bitter, but also quite interesting, with an earthy texture and the aftertaste of strong black tea. We quite liked it, which maybe means they did it wrong?
We’ll happily return to the Ladies’ Room next time we’re in Chicago to try a few more.
What We Tried
One Way Ticket to Bangkok: black raspberry gin, lemongrass, shochu, sake, Thai herbs, maraschino
Be Somebody: 5 year plantation rum, allspice dram, bitters, jerk flavors, Scotch rinse
A Dangerous Summer: Neisson rum agricole, feni, rose cordial, grapefruit, lime
What We Thought
All three of the drinks we tasted were a great combination of unexpected and delicious.
One Way Ticket to Bangkok came in a bowl like is usually used to serve miso soup. It had that distinctive soft, dry flavor of fermented rice, sweetened by a good dose of berry and sour cherry.
A Dangerous Summer was a delicate balance of rose and lime.
Be Somebody came in a rocks glass, with a tiki umbrella and a postcard of Steve Martin as The Jerk. The jerk spices and baking spices played a subtle supporting role, while the Scotch rinse was surprisingly prominent, strong enough to balance and complexify the sweet, spicy rum.
Should you go?
Yes, by all means, make a reservation first and then ask for the ladies’ room. You won’t be disappointed by the combination of hip, cool, intimate, creative, and fun. Make sure you try the malort, and a couple more homemade liqueurs, but don’t let the liqueur flight distract you from the unique cocktails.