Mixology consultant Revae Schneider was assigned a specific challenge when she joined the team at Homestead, West Town’s brand-new “meadow-to-table” rooftop eatery.
“I was given the task of using what’s in the garden and coming up with some great cocktails.”
“The garden” Schneider refers to is a 1,000-square-foot meadow and two massive hanging plant holders that form the centerpiece of this green restaurant.
Both Schneider and chef John Wayne Formica were asked by owners Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner to use the rooftop farm for inspiration in their beverage and food creations, respectively.
Unlike Formica — who layers his dishes with delights from the rooftop as well as other off-site organic gardens — Schneider typically selects just one fresh-picked item to spotlight in each drink.
Her opening specialty cocktail menu features 10 libations — all numbered, not named. And she plans to mix things up quite frequently.
“[The menu] will always be something new, so it grows with the garden,” says Schneider, whose drinks currently include such seasonal produce as blackberries, mint and thyme.
When selecting ingredients, Schneider enjoys incorporating some of her personal favorite fruits and herbs. These include fresh strawberries — which currently appear in the No. 3 ($11), along with Grey Goose vodka, Aperol, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, ginger syrup — and lavender.
“I’m a huge lavender fanatic,” Schneider says.
Schneider’s take on the classic margarita, the No. 5 ($11), uses lavender in the form of house-made vanilla-lavender salt, which garnishes the side of each glass. Here, Cazadores Blanco tequila is mixed with Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh-squeezed lime juice and Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters. Take a sip of this exceedingly fresh cooler and within seconds, pleasant notes of vanilla and lavender will waft upward to your nose.
Schneider frequently plucks plants growing on the rooftop farm and plays with them until the perfect concoction reveals itself.
“I ended up taking home some clover and trying different things with it, and that became the No. 2,” she says. The clover “adds a nice touch, a nice finish, and you wouldn’t know it was there unless you looked for it.”
True, the No. 2 ($11) has a refreshing, light “green flavor” that one might not necessarily identify as meadow clover. This is particularly true because Schneider expertly mixes it with several other lively components — Leblon Cachaça, Velvet Falernum Liqueur, Sirène Absinthe Verte (“which is meant to highlight the flavor of the clover”), artisanal orange bitters and Château Moncontour sparkling Vouvray.
Accessibility is important to Schneider, so she features a cross section of spirits on her brief menu, and uses some brands that are familiar (say, Grey Goose vodka) as well as a few that are a bit lesser known (England’s Oxley gin). Then she mixes them with appealing combinations of garden ingredients, fresh juices and house-made syrups so guests “want to try one of everything on the menu,” she says.
Antique and vintage glassware also gives her cocktails an added dash of panache. Each drink is assigned a a vessel in a specific style.
Perhaps most precious is the setup for the No. 10 ($20 for two people), an iced-tea drink poured from an antique teapot and served in pretty porcelain teacups. The strong but well-balanced cocktail is a blend of English Breakfast-infused Barcadi Select rum, jasmine syrup, Bittercube Jamaican #1 Bitters and fresh lemon juice — with an edible flower floating gently on top.
Schneider purposely prepares this lemon-drenched tea with just a touch of sweetness.
“My pet peeve is that I don’t like when a cocktail is too sweet and you don’t want to go back and have another one,” she says. “I want these cocktails to be ‘Oh my gosh! I want to have another.’”
1924 W. Chicago Ave, 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60622