Restaurateur and chef John Manion has brought on an accomplished bartender to direct the bar programs at El Che Bar and La Sirena Clandestina. Jacyara de Oliveira spent years in Brazil and now she’ll use the Latin American spirits she loves in the West Loop and Fulton Market. She’s worked at Sportsman's Club, The Drawing Room, Nico Osteria, and Perennial Virant. From amaros and vermouths to interesting tropical fruits, Oliveira has big things planned for Manion’s restaurants. The 2015 Food & Wine Rising Star told Eater Chicago what she has in store for the cocktail programs at chef John Manion’s restaurants.
How did you get involved with La Sirena Clandestina and El Che Bar?
Well, I’ve known John Manion for a number of years now. When La Sirena opened I was excited because my father’s Brazilian and I lived in Brazil for a while, and there weren’t any restaurants that were focusing on Brazilian food at that level of execution. Over the course of time Manion and I developed a professional relationship. When the time came to include both the restaurants’ beverage programs under one roof, Manion reached out to me.
What kinds of things do you plan on bringing to John Manion’s bars?
Both La Sirena and El Che have great programs to start with and the teams are really cool. But, they haven’t had anyone to really bring it together — I don’t think anything needs a total redo, just a kind of focusing and developing the ideas that are already in place. With El Che, I’d like to bring in some of the things they use in the kitchen, like the hearth, to bring the kitchen and the bar together — like a hearth-fired pineapple. It also makes sense to work with amaros, vermouths, Fernet colas, to lean into that concept — to put in some low-proof amaro driven drinks and things to keep it really streamlined. With La Sirena it’s really bright and bold, like sitting on a beach, so I’d like to use more tropical flavors. Some of my favorites are jaca or jackfruit and cashew fruit. They’re all kind of funky, weird, and a little bit earthy, but I feel like they’d play really well with the food that’s served there.
What are you most excited for working at El Che and La Sirena?
I have such a personal connection with a lot of the food and drinks. I haven’t really had the opportunity in recent years to focus on working with Latin spirits and flavors, it’s really important for me to get that opportunity to develop this section of our industry. It’s really exciting for me. I think Latin food often times gets kind of channeled into casual or street food, as opposed to really being given its due credit as this great cultural expression at a really high level of cooking, eating, and drinking. It’s really important to be able to give that high level of quality using these ingredients and spirits as a base to the cocktails.
Will the entire cocktail menus change or is there anything that’s staying on?
We’re not changing out the whole menu, just because I do have a lot of respect for what the existing teams have been doing at these two locations already. We’ll be making seasonal changes, like special drinks for the holidays. But, there will always be things you can count on, like that Fernet Cola at El Che and a capirhina at La Sirena.