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Big Bar – Creative Concoctions

The longest freestanding bar in North America with only two pillars supporting it, Big Bar at Hyatt Regency Chicago impresses us not just architecturally, but with its technology and menu too!
The longest freestanding bar in North America with only two pillars supporting it, Big Bar at Hyatt Regency Chicago impresses us not just architecturally, but with its technology and menu too!
 
One thing I have learnt in my experiences with America till now is that the country takes its football very seriously. Like we Indians are ready to kill and die for cricket, it is quite same over here for football, if not to that much level of fanaticism. 
 
So imagine, if you are football fan, and you walk into a room full of big screens, small screens and personal televisions, accompanied by your favourite beer or scotch, how would you feel. My guess is ecstatic.
 
That is exactly the kind of feeling Big Bar will evoke in you. Located on the second floor of Hyatt Regency Chicago, you will be greeted with ambient lights on the walls changing every few minutes, from a bright red to green to blue to a paler green now. Adding further thrill are two large LED televisions on either side with sports channels playing on them. The back wall, overlooking the Chicago skyline, is also covered with 24 smaller screen televisions in a row. And if that wasn’t enough, 11 tables have their personal televisions, which can be controlled by the guest!
 

The subtly under-lit marble top bar counter is enhanced with a tall tower displaying liquor by the bottle in a highly tempting way. And topping the cake is a bar manager who is highly passionate about his job. Once we were done meeting with Richard Iannone, manager of Big Bar, we were more intoxicated than we had intended to be! 
 
Liberating libations
Not that I regret it! After all, we got to taste a variety of cocktails, beers, wine and more, and discovered some wonderful flavours in the process. We started with Home Sweet Home, and I knew it is going to be my favourite for the evening. Supporting the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago, a part of the proceeds from the drinks are donated to the organization. And epitomizing the colours of this ever-welcoming gentleman, the drink is brightly dressed in shades of yellow and red! “It’s really good! Do try it,” said a gentleman sitting next to me as he was making his way through this drink. Made with Absolut Mango, St Germain, mango puree and sour mix, it is garnished with cherry on the top. A mix of sweet and just a hint of bitter, this feminine drink highly appealed to me!
 
As for my companion, he too got one, probably more fitting for his gender and taste. Ginger Gold, made with Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon, Domaine de Canton and lemon, it has 60 per cent alcohol in it! One sip had me scrambling back to my sweeter Home Sweet Home! My companion thoroughly enjoyed it. Very smoky, it hits the throat and warms it up, and the lemon immediately soothes and gives a bounce back to the concoction. 
 
One unique thing about Big Bar is that they encourage their bartenders to imagine and experiment with flavours. If their cocktail is approved, they add it to the menu, naming it after the creator. Try Martin’s Melody, named after a bartender Martin, who loves playing guitar. Initially started as a summer drink, it became so popular that it was added permanently in the menu. Made with Effen Cucumber, Apricot liquer, orange juice and lime, it was fresh of course. According to Martin, he experimented with spicy cucumber at home to come up with this drink, balanced by the apricot liquer. 
 

So passionate was Mr Iannone while talking about this cocktail, that he even gave us tasting samples of the Giffard liquer they usually use in their drinks. “We make sure we use only quality ingredients which add value to the drink,” he said. And that proved correct when we tasted the liquers. The vanilla liquer by Giffard was especially velvety with a smooth flavor of vanilla – absolutely far from the more synthetic versions you usually get in the market.
 
The Cha-Cha, named after its creating bartender who talks a lot, much like the Mexican Chachalaca bird, is quite sweet, but with a zing. Grey Goose Le Melon gives it the flavor of honeydew melon, mixed with St Germain and grapefruit juice, which add a hint of punch. This pinkish drink is another favourite for which I’ll come back to Big Bar again!
 
More on the palate
To stay sober with all this, we called for Jalapeno and Cheddar stuffed Pretzel, which was accompanied by ranch dip. Large sized and good enough to bite in for two people, it was delicious, even though there was not much of jalapeno flavor in it. “We tried getting a menu with more innovative eats, but our customers were happier with usual bar bites like nachos and chicken wings. So here we are!” said Mr Iannone with a smile. You could also try their Ceasar salad, pizzas and hot dogs. 
 
But this was not it. Mr Iannone took us through the drinks menu page by page as he introduced a variety of beers, wines and scotches to us – local and international. He explained his strategy, “I try to have as many local brands as I can along with international since many of our traveling guests prefer to experiment with local flavours when they are here.” 
 
So sample Fistmas, a holiday beer, by Revolution Brewing Co. Adding to the Christmas spirit, you can actually feel the smell of pine forests wafting up from it. Refreshing with a moderate amount of hops, it has quite a bit of depth and is smooth. The Dragon’s Milk by New Holland Brewing Co, with quite an interesting artwork on its bottle, is an oak barrel aged stout. Dark and aged in bourbon barrels, it has bitter, chocolate notes. A quintessential winter drink, it is rich with a roasted malt character and depth. 
 

Always ready to experiment with wines, I was delighted when Mr Iannone came out with Loveblock, a sauvignon blanc with peach, juicy citrus and black current notes. Light and dry with moderate tannins, it has a fruity aroma wafting up. The Gravel Bed Red, on the other hand, was a deeper Bordeaux style blend.
 
Presenting that quintessential American bar experience in more sophisticated setting, Big Bar will certainly please everyone. You might think that with the televisions all around, men would be more attracted to this venue. Mr Iannone rejects this myth and says that women are as prone to coming here as men! And that is quite true as I looked around at the filled up bar area.
 
So as you move around the city catching up with friends, colleagues and family during the festive season, do try and add Big Bar in your itinerary!
 
Coordinates: 151 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, USA

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