After midnight, when the fancy bars have sucked your wallet dry, the classic Chicago corner dive is always there for you.
HORCHATA If your jaw is wired shut, Nuevo Léon’s horchata, the popular milky rice drink sweetened with sugar and dusted with cinnamon, is the perfect straw-friendly fix. 1515 W. 18th St.; 312-421-1517 $1.75 AGUA FRESCA Typically, agua fresca, a mix of water and fruit available at almost every taquería, tastes like diluted Kool-Aid. The one at La Lagartija Taquería is a juicy elixir rife with sweet watermelon cubes and plump strawberry hunks. 132 S. Ashland Ave.; 312-733-7772 $2.25 MARGARITA A good margarita starts with 100 percent blue agave tequila and real lime juice. By that standard, the margarita at Salud Tequila Lounge, made with peppery pear-noted Herradura Silver, agave syrup, and fresh-squeezed lime is great. 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-235-5577 $8 CHAMPURRADO Mexican hot chocolate often means thin reconstituted powder mix. Rick Bayless’s sandwich emporium, Xoco, serves a thick brew of champurrado (bean-to-cup chocolate) made with fresh-roasted ground cacao beans that display bright acidity and nuanced coffeelike flavors. 449 N. Clark St.; 312-334-3688 $2.50 to $4.25 MICHELADA Start with beer and mix in any number of items, such as salt, hot sauce, or honey, and you’ve got yourself a hot cocktail. Maiz’s tart rum, lime, and Mexican beer mix, a.k.a.…
Bridget Albert has gin in her blood. Albert, the chief mixologist for Southern Wine and Spirits and the co-author (with Mary Barranco) of the newly released “Market-Fresh Mixology,” from Surrey Books, is a fourth- generation bartender. Her lavender-eyed great aunt Tilly started the string by hopping behind the family tavern in Coal City, Illinois as a 12-year-old. Bridget’s then 10-year-old great grandmother soon joined Tilly and became a fixture in the street, hand-chiseling ice off the old delivery trucks with her fierce ice pick. Albert says, “My great grandfather used to get scared when he saw his wife running around with that pick.” The family lived above the tavern, and Albert’s great-grandmother would occasionally manage the tavern by peeking through the knots in the rickety floor down to survey the bar room below
If Jose Cuervo is the patron saint of bad judgment and horrid hangovers, then Ron Cooper, purveyor of Del Maguey Mezcal, is the angel of discretion and good taste. Though sometimes his is a case of “Do as say, not as I do.” On the morning I interview Cooper, he chain-smokes and squints in the morning light falling over Oak Street near the Newberry Library, his eyes rimmed by puffy bags. As a spirits professional, Cooper has no shortage of drinking buddies, and a few of them kept him out late after a tasting at Binny’s South Loop the night before.
From the increase in mortgage loan defaults to the roller coaster of a stock market, all the grim economic news might make you want to hit the bottle.