What would cocktail week be without delving into the dry bar to dig up the dirt on some of Chicago's more experienced mixologists, ahem, shall we say, lifers? Like many chefs, they too have flavorful pasts with big breaks, inspiring bosses, and possibly some concoctions gone awry. Eater is shedding some light on these old-time shakers for Cocktail Week.
Adam Seger, iPic Entertainment, got his start in fine dining while in college at Cornell Hotel School bartending at the Statler Hotel, the property on campus operated by the university. Once graduated, he was off to the historic Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky where he was immersed in whiskey, well, not literally, but it's where his love of dark liquors began. Seger cites his bosses from the Seelbach, Dale Degroff and Gary Regan, as laying the foundation of mixology as being a craft rather than a just a job. They are recognized as pioneers of the cocktail scene in the mid-90s.
Moving on from Louisville, it was his time spent at Tru and The French Laundry where he was able to "soak up the culture of the kitchen and reverence towards ingredients," says Seger, especially through chef Thomas Keller. In both establishments, he learned first hand the reinvention of fine dining, experimenting and respect for fresh ingredients.
With a new appreciation for fresh ingredients, Seger was on the move landing at Lettuce Entertain You creating a Latin cocktail program for Nacional 27. Eager to take it to the next level, he participated in the prep and ordering of the kitchen with then-chef Randy Zweiben which allowed him to fuse the kitchen with the bar. It was here that it all pulled together for Seger. Mixology became a career and for diners, cocktailing was evolving.
That doesn't mean he's never seen any disasters in his day. Take for example, the first time he attempted his hand at bitters. Wanting to make an aromatic complex bitter, Seger befriended his local apothecary and purchased some mugwort, which much like the sound of it, resulted in a lovely hamster-cage aroma. Back and forth the to apothecary to tweak his potion while keeping detailed notes, Seger finally nailed the concoction and won the Barmade Bitters Challenge for Best Herbal Bitters in 2009.
The big news flash from Seger born from that experience, he is now in the process of launching a new line of bitters called Rare Botanical Bitters with partner Rodrick Markus of Rare Tea Cellars. The first bitter, a Perigord Truffle Bitter, is in the hands of the government awaiting approval. Together they will, "wake people up to wows of flavor and hedonistic aromas elements of nature from around the world." The bitter will be released sometime next year after it is approved.
— Kiki Luthringshausen
· All Cocktail Week 2012 Coverage [~ECHI~]