If GreenRiver is the bright and airy escape 18 floors above bustling Streeterville, then Annex is its leather-clad counterpart. Opening tomorrow, the second Chicago concept from Danny Meyer's Union Square Events and Best Bar in the World's Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon is ready to offer an even more esoteric selection of cocktails with equally stunning views of Lake Michigan.
"What we wanted to do with the program here is to take that ingredient-focused approach that we did at GreenRiver and take it even further," head bartender Julia Momose says. "Stripping away the idea of what is the base spirit of this cocktail, and focusing more on what is the flavor of this cocktail."
Momose let the word "spice" lead her down a rabbit hole of inspiration, landing on cocktails that take cues from the Spice Trail, herb blends, and specific ones such as cardamom or peppercorns. In the case of an Indian-inspired cocktail, she found her muse in the color yellow. Named "Chorus Girls," it contains Feni (Indian cashew liqueur), Italian herbal liqueur, Ambre vermouth, amchur (mango powder), turmeric, lemon, pineapple, and vanilla ($19).
The opening menu contains a dozen cocktails that are printed on cards in a custom box—similar to a recipe box with a slot for each card. This allows Momose to switch out cards as new drinks come on the menu or replace all of them when a new theme comes to the forefront (this will happen seasonally). Annex at GreenRiver will also offer a more extensive spirits list featuring Momose's favorite—Japanese whisky—as well as various rare bottles and an assortment of lower-proof options.
A limited food menu by chef Aaron Lirette will compliment the luxe elements of the space with grand seafood towers, tuna and foie crudo, gin-cured gravlax and tableside triple cream brie and champagne service. The chef has sourced china accented in gold and silver filigree as well as vintage-inspired patterns to try to make each person feel like they are getting the VIP treatment.
As for the bar itself, it seats eight in oversized leather stools and six more at a parallel bar that offers a view of the action without actually being seated within arm's reach of a bartender. Additional banquette seating runs along the back wall next to sheer curtain-covered windows. A single four-top table is on one end of the bar while a bookshelf filled with a complete collection of World Books flanks the other.
"I think that the person who loves the bright, energetic feel of GreenRiver will be excited to come here and try a cocktail, but I do think that there are people who will prefer to be in this space over GreenRiver," Momose says. "I think I would certainly fall into that category—I like to go to the darker, quieter bars and disappear for a little while."
The boozy retreat opens to the public tomorrow night at 7 p.m. and will remain open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.