Where We’ve Been Drinking
Suburban Edition: Francesca’s
As we mentioned Monday, we used our holiday trip home to the suburbs to do a little investigation of suburban drinking. Had the cocktail renaissance come to the suburbs? And if so, how are cocktails the same and how are they different in the city and in the suburbs? To conduct our research, we took our family on a crawl through the drinking establishments of The Promenade, the outdoor mall that serves in the place of downtown.
Our final stop on our Promenade was actually a few days after the other three, when we ate Christmas Eve dinner at Francesca’s. Francesca’s is a Chicago-based chain with about fifteen restaurants in the Chicago area and another few in scattered locations around the country. It serves updated Italian-American cuisine from a menu that is changed on a monthly basis.
Our food was hearty and satisfying. And while the extensive menu of Italian wines would often steer us in that direction, the cocktail menu also looked quite respectable. For the sake of our culture studies, we ordered cocktails.
What We Tried
La Sorella: Grey Goose vodka; St. Germain; Aperol; lemon juice
The Outlaw: Jack Daniel’s Whiskey; dry vermouth; pomegranate liqueur; fresh lemon juice
Koval Old Fashioned: Koval Bourbon; angostura bitters; sugar; orange; maraschino cherry
What We Thought
While Mago’s Mezcal Manhattan holds the prize for best individual drink of our Promenade, Francesca’s was the establishment with the highest average quality. We left Francesca’s confident that it was safe to put ourselves in their bartender’s hands. The drinks were solid, simple cocktails that, while not classic recipes, followed a classic mode: not too many ingredients, a good balance of spirit and liqueur, and juice as an accent rather than a majority ingredient.
The old fashioned was made in what you might call the traditional contemporary fashion, with muddled orange and cherry. While we mostly prefer ours without the fruit, we’re more inclusive than other cocktailistas on that front. And we applaud their use of a local craft Bourbon as the spirit.
In the Outlaw, we enjoyed the contrast of the sharp dry vermouth with the rich, sweet pomegranate liqueur.
The Sorella was our favorite, and how could it not be with two such likable liqueurs as St. Germain and Aperol involved. The lemon juice added just the right sour edge for a three-way balance of bitter, sweet, and sour.
Francesca’s isn’t necessarily a cocktail destination. But if you go for dinner, you can be sure to have a quite decent accompanying cocktail.
La Sorella Cocktail Recipe
We’re guessing, but it’s something like this.
- 3/4 oz vodka
- 3/4 oz St. Germain
- 3/4 oz Aperol (or other orange liqueur)
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- orange slice, for garnish
- Shake all liquids with ice for about 20 seconds.
- Strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with orange slice.