Tag Archives: cocktails

Mixologist Jay Schroeder is Here to Delight You with Cocktails

We’re toasting the forthcoming release of Food & Wine’s 2015 Cocktails book, which features recipe contributions from our very own mixologist and bar manager Jay Schroeder.

“They reached out and asked me about agave spirits cocktails, that’s kind of my forte, so I went ahead and sent some recipes out to them … I used some different spirits and some things that I think are up-and-coming and deserving of a lot of recognition, but also made sure the cocktails were really approachable for those making them at home,” he said.

Schroeder, a resident of Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, joined the Frontera team in 2013, bringing with him a deep knowledge of tequila, lesser-known mezcal and the even lesser-known sotol, a grassy Mexican distilled spirit he describes as “vegetal and superfunky.”

No surprise, those spirits are featured prominently in Frontera’s bar program, where he creates inspired, seasonal cocktails that routinely impress our guests — just look at this cocktail menu — and in the pages of Food & Wine’s glossy recipe book, which contains more than 150 drink recipes supplied by 25 of the nation’s “rising star” mixologists.

Jay’s contributions include:

  • Magnetic Pole Reversal – A sotol-based cocktail made with a basil-cucumber puree
  • To Alleviate Apparent Death – Made with guajillo chile and añejo tequila-soaked dark cocoa beans
  • Pastorela – A beer-and-tequila cocktail made with a syrup derived from chile powder and Latin American sugar
  • All Quiet – Made with sotol and neroli oil, an essential oil extracted from bitter-orange blossoms

We’re so proud of our man behind the bar that we feel compelled to have a drink. Here’s Jay’s recipe for the Pastorela:

Makes 1
4 oz. Negra Modelo beer
1 oz. añejo tequila
1 oz. panela syrup (recipe below)
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1 orange twist, preferably spiral cut for garnish

Pour the beer into a large chilled wine glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, panela syrup and lime juice. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into the wine glass and garnish with the orange twist.

Panela Syrup
In a medium saucepan, combine 10 oz. chopped dark panela (aka piloncillo or unrefined cane sugar), 1/3 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger, 2/3 cup water, 2 tsp. ancho powder, 1 1/4 tsp. whole cloves and the zest from one orange.

Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the canela is dissolved and the syrup is very fragrant, about 7 minute. Let cool, then pour through a fine strainer into  a jar. If desired, strain the syrup again through cheesecloth to remove any residual ancho powder. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. Makes about 8 oz.


Riff Tracks: Bar Sótano’s Cocktail Competition

Riff Tracks is a night of cover songs and cover cocktails at Bar Sótano.

The theme for our inaugural cocktail competition is agave “riffs” on classic cocktails (think tequila Mai Tais and mezcal Martinis) coupled with the most bangin’ playlist of cover songs ever assembled.

Competing in this one-of-a-kind clash are bartenders from some of our city’s finest drinking establishments, including Lazy BirdAda StreetThe Loyalist, Dusek’s, La Josie and Tzuco.

The top three contestants will be decided in a popular vote — by you — and the finalists will face the judge’s gauntlet of Chicago Magazine dining editor Amy Cavanaugh, Imbibe editor Emma Janzen and our very own Lanie Bayless.

The winner gets a spot in Banhez Mezcal’s December 2020 trip to Oaxaca, an amazing opportunity to see first hand exactly how a community-driven mezcal is made.

Your $28 ticket offers cocktail tastes from all participating bars. We’ll also have a limited menu of Bar Sótano cocktails and Chef Rishi’s modern Mexican street food available for purchase.

Say Hola to Bar Sótano

We’ve got some news.

Rick & Deann Bayless, along with the Frontera Group’s beverage director (and their daughter) Lanie Bayless, will soon open an agave-focused, late night cocktail bar in the basement—in the sótano—of Frontera Grill.

Technically located at 443 N. Clark St., Bar Sótano will be accessible by a century-old freight elevator located in the alley behind Frontera Grill. It is slated to open November 15.

The cocktail menu—inspired by the unparalleled bounty of Mexico’s markets—is punctuated by uniquely crafted mezcal and tequila drinks, all developed by Frontera spirits director Lanie Bayless and bar manager Roger Landes. Health-promoting herbs marry in a homemade vermouth. Sugar cane is squeezed fresh for a touch of sweetness.  Chiles and fruits play off each other. The flavors of aromatic tacos al pastor even make an appearance in libation form. 

The Sótano team travelled to Ejutla, Oaxaca, to blend a one-of-a-kind mezcal from barril and espadin agaves to take these cocktails to a new level. Like your mezcal neat? You can bet there will be one of the largest selections in the country. Not into mezcal? There will be a selection of Mexican wines by the glass and Mexican craft beer. 

Chef Rishi Manoj Kumar, a veteran of Topolobampo, developed a menu of modern Mexican bar food that includes charcutería and snacks (homemade suckling pig ham and panela cheese, pickled pigs feet spread, tlayudas, Oaxacan roasted peanuts), sweet-and-spicy Yucatán fried chicken, Ensenada mussels cooked with garlic and Baja wine, fresh and broiled oysters and a cooked-to-order arroz (think: paella with the flavors of Mexican chorizo and Gulf shrimp.)

Bar Sótano’s lifeline is the vibrant markets of Mexico, where fruit stalls, healthy herb stands and chile vendors swirl in a symphony for the senses. The craftsmanship of those who keep these Mexican flavors alive — including those who craft dozens of agave varieties into distillates — is unlike any in the world. Bar Sótano will reflect this side of Mexico’s exhilarating culture,” Rick Bayless said.

When you visit the intimate, 50-seat bar, you know right away that you’re in a classic late-1800’s downtown Chicago basement, rock walls and all. Muralist Juan de la Mora, from the Jeanne Gang studio, has created a floor-to-ceiling piece for the space.  This is will be Bayless’ sixth Chicago outpost and the latest addition to River North’s bustling nightlife scene. A limited amount of reservations will soon be made available on the Reserve app and by phone.

Website: barsotano.com
Phone:  312-391-5857
Hours: 4pm-12am, Tuesday-Thursday; 4pm-2am, Friday & Saturday; Closed Sunday & Monday

Spicy Mezcal Old Fashioned

To make Pasilla Syrup, stem and seed 1 pasilla chile and tear into pieces. In a small saucepan combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, cool and pour the syrup (chiles and all) into a storage container.

Sweet, spicy autumn, in cocktail form

We drink classic margaritas full of puckery-sweet limonada all year round. But we’d be lying if we said it didn’t taste best outside on a warm day, in the sun, preferably near some water.

Not the Apple-Habanero Margarita from Rick’s latest book. This margarita is infused with autumn in three different ways: an apple-habanero Mexican_yellowLogo_POST_170x177puree; a dose of apple brandy; and a peppery cinnamon salt that goes around the rim of the glass.

This is a richer margarita, a cocktail that offers a roasty sweetness followed by the pleasant bite of chile. It’s not the type of drink you sip on the beach; it’s a drink you sip near the fire. Which, of course, makes it perfect for this Mexican Weekend.

Habanero chiles, though foremost thought of in terms of their heat, are one of the most delicious chiles on earth—fruity, citrusy, wonderfully floral. And they pair perfectly with apples. So when you’re at the fall farmer’s market, buy your favorite apples and a few habaneros (thankfully, both are in abundance at the same moment) for this special cocktail—special for anyone who loves spicy. For me, ½ of an habanero is the right amount. I typically roast a whole habanero with the apples, then roughly chop it and add it to the pureed apples a little at a time, until the flavor and heat at perfect. I encourage you to do the same. Combining apple brandy and roasted apple puree gives this drink a rich, roasty oaky flavor with hints of oakiness. A resonant reposado tequila fits in beautifully, offering an age-induced smoothess while preserving the tequila’s agave flavor. To make Peppery Cinnamon Salt, mix 3 parts coarse (kosher) salt with 2 parts ground cinnamon (preferably fresh-ground Mexican canela) and 1 part fresh-ground black pepper.
Servings: 1cocktail


  • Peppery Cinnamon Salt (see Bartender’s notes above) or coarse (kosher) salt
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 1/2ounces 100% blue agave reposado tequila
  • 1/4ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2ounce apple brandy (Calvados is the most famous one)
  • 1 1/2ounces Apple-Habanero Puree (see recipe below)
  • 6 to 10 small ice cubes (about ¾ cup)


Spread the Peppery Cinnamon Salt on a small plate.  Moisten the rim of a 6-ounce martini glass with the lime wedge, and upend the glass onto the salt to crust the rim. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, lime juice, Calvados, Apple-Habanero Puree, apple brandy and ice. Cover and shake vigorously until frothy and cold; tiny ice crystals will appear in the drink after about 15 seconds of shaking. Strain into the salt-crusted glass and serve immediately.

Apple-Habanero Puree

2 large apples, peeled, quartered and cored (you need about 12 ounces/3 ½ cups of    cleaned apple quarters)
¼ cup sugar
¼ to ½ fresh habanero chile, stemmed
¼ cup agave syrup (light organic syrup gives the best flavor) or simple syrup

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spread the apples onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with the sugar, tossing them to coat evenly.  Add the habanero to the baking sheet, and slide into the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the apple pieces. Roast for another 20 minutes, until lightly browned and completely soft.

In a food processor or blender, process the roasted apples with the agave syrup (or Rich Simple Syrup) and ½ cup water until completely smooth. Chop the habanero (seeds and all), then add a portion to the apple puree—start with a quarter to make it a little spicy, half for the full experience. Process to blend thoroughly, taste and add more habanero if you were too timid at first. Pulse to blend.  Pour into a storage container (strain the mixture if you think there may be unblended bits), cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use, up to 5 days.

Yield: 1 ½ cups