Things have been busy over at Revival Café-Bar, but we are looking forward to warmer weather and sourcing some fun beers, wines and mixing new cocktails that will quench your thirst and keep things cool at the food hall. Currently, we’re getting ready to unleash the newest expression of our collaborative beer with Hopewell Brewing Company, the Café Saison 2.0 – a beer that will seriously make you rethink coffee beers.
Our bar team has also been hard at work crafting new original cocktails for our spring menu. We’re all very excited to share the results of our work with guests, as each drink tells a different story. One of the more peculiar submissions for this round came from our lead bartender, Mark Phelan, with his Purple Martin #2. To explain this cocktail, it’s best we let Mark tell the story:
Sitting with one foot out of a cab near the intersection of California and Augusta, I pause to let a gust of spent cigarettes and food wrappers roll past like tumbleweeds. They settle under the red neon glow of The California Clipper, and I open the car door to watch them scatter into the air behind me like embers. The city skyline is a faint haze from this distance, a separate entity. Upon entering the bar, I’m fully transported to somewhere new, but I’m not sure where or in what year the place belongs. There are brothel-esq red lights beaming down from either side into the otherwise pitch-black interior. Cracked vinyl booths and a long, curved, sheen-less bar outline the space with dark figures of chairs and Formica square-top tables scattered in between. Once at the bar, my eyes adjust. A man with a cooler full of tamales makes his rounds. A gangly figure tunes a banjo on a small stage at the far end of the room. The whole place is weather-beaten, worn and lived-in. There is no denying its authenticity. It feels good in here.
I was not a bartender back then. I eventually traded an expendable income and a general numbness for a leaner check and the priceless feeling of enjoying what I do everyday. At The California Clipper, Anthony pours me a glass of water and hands me the menu. At the top, priced at $6, is the amusing combination of grape soda, coconut rum and lemon. It is called the Purple Martin. I’m told it is the house cocktail and the only one on the menu that is not a classic. It is built in a tall, curved glass over thin cubes of ice, topped with grape soda and garnished with a lemon wedge.
I order the Purple Martin.
Under the red glare of the lights, it’s hard to tell how unnaturally purple the drink really is. Sipping it at a bar that is pre-grooved for my forearms to rest upon, while listening to the sporadic plucking of banjo strings, it’s hard to really care. In this moment, the cocktail is sweet and tart and refreshing. It becomes more than a drink. The Purple Martin is an experience. It’s a timestamp of the old Clipper, a less polished Humboldt Park and a younger me discovering Chicago. This drink and this night became one in a series of authentic experiences that led to my becoming a bartender.
Purple Martin #2
Coconut Rum, Hennessy VS congnac, verjus, lemon, Combier Fruits Rouge, Angostura, cinnamon cream