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How Logan Square's Mezcal Hotspot Made Chicago Love Sotol

Welcome to The Hot Dish, a behind the scenes look at the making of the dishes—or, in this case, drinks—of the moment

It's green, shrouded in a banana leaf, and emits the not-so-familiar odor of chlorophyll like walking into a greenhouse. It's the Magnetic Pole Reversal at Mezcaleria Las Flores, a vegetal cocktail that against all odds is one of the most popular at the Logan Square mezcal bar.

"People are coming with this very inquisitive nature that is just a dream from a bartending perspective," beverage director Jay Schroeder says about his agave-only cocktail bar. Every drink on his menu features an agave spirit, including the Magnetic Pole Reversal, which is made with Sotol. The weird cousin to mezcal is one of the lesser-know and less readily available agave spirits. Made in northern Mexico from the desert spoon plant, the grassy vegetation creates an equally grassy spirit with notes of dried herbs.

Rather than mask or contrast Sotol's vegetal notes, Schroeder opts to enhance them with cucumber and toasted coriander syrup, Suze (an earthy and bitter apéritif
made from gentian root), and basil. As for the Sotol itself, Schroeder uses Sotol por Siempre, a milder interpretation made at the same distillery that produces Ocho Cientos. The latter was one of the first Sotols available in the Chicago market and was used in the first incarnation of this cocktail, which appeared on his menu at Frontera Grill and was later featured in Food & Wine's 2015 Cocktail guide, before making its Northwest Side debut on the opening menu at Mezcaleria.

"Honestly, I didn't know how the neighborhood was going to react to this," Schroeder says. It is one of the more adventured cocktails on the menu, as indicated by sliding scales below each drink that also show the drink's smokiness and spirit-forwardness. Schroeder defines adventurous as flavors and aromas one doesn't encounter on a daily basis. In this case, sucking down a bag of fresh lawnmower clippings. "When people get it they're surprised it's not weirder than it is because its really elegant and well balanced," he adds.

Mezcaleria Las Flores serves 60 mean, green, booze-delivering machines on any given weekend night. No small feat, especially considering that each is served in a glass that is hand-wrapped in a banana leaf and corn husks. Its popularity has given Schroeder the confidence to push his cocktail program even further. "It's only going to get weirder," he says, with more agave-focused and presentation-driven cocktails.

Mezcaleria Las Flores

3149 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL (773) 278-2215