Where We’ve Been Drinking
Suburban Edition: Mago Grill and Cantina
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 third stop was Mago Grill and Cantina. Mago is a very small (four location) chain of Mexican restaurants in the Chicago area. The atmosphere is festive. The decor–at least at The Promenade location–follows a whimsical Mexican wrestling mask theme. The food aims to split the difference between down-home comfort food and Anglo flavor preferences.
We sat at the table next to the mariachi band and ordered a round of tacos and our third round of drinks. My taco was chorizo and octopus; it was quite tasty, though even the waiter seemed surprised that anyone would order it.
What We Tried
Sangria: an unspecified blend of red wine, liqueurs, and juices
Mango Mojito: rum, mint, lime, sugar, and mango juice
Mezcal Manhattan: mezcal, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, bitters
What We Thought
The sangria was velvety smooth, with strong hints of vanilla; it was a soft, mellow way to wind down from an evening of bar hopping.
We appreciated the fact that the mango was in addition to, rather than in place of, the usual lime and mint in the mojito. The mint came through especially strongly, with the mango’s tropical syrup serving as an unexpectedly suitable backdrop for it.
The Mezcal Manhattan was a revelation. It arrived in a perfectly beautiful little coupe glass, the only one we saw all evening, looking for all the world like it had gotten lost on its way to a speakeasy and was as surprised as us to find itself at a suburban Mexican cantina. The choice of Carpano Antica was inspired, it’s rich sweetness softening the smoke of the mezcal to the most satisfying whiff of a fireplace on a chilly evening. It was a truly excellent drink, and the gem of the evening. While several of our evening’s drinks were solidly built, this one gave us a whole new appreciation for the capabilities of The Promenade.
Mezcal Manhattan Cocktail Recipe
- 1 oz mezcal
- 2 oz sweet vermouth–make it Carpano Antica or Cinzano
- 1 dash mole bitters–we don’t know if Mago used mole, but the spicy chocolate seems to fit
- Luxardo cherry, for garnish
- Stir the liquid ingredients with ice until well-chilled. The ice should start at the level of the liquid, and you’ll know you’re done when it has melted such that stirring becomes quite easy.
- Strain into the prettiest cocktail glass you have.
- Garnish with the cherry.