Barman Dustin Drankiewicz calls his upcoming Logan Square bar, The Pink Squirrel, “a huge career burden off his back.” For seven years he’s held onto the idea of a Midwestern cocktail lounge with ice cream drinks that harnesses the feel of several south side Milwaukee establishments. He’s working with chef Shin Thompson (Furious Spoon) on the house-made ice creams to power some of the concoctions.
The Pink Squirrel, 2414 N. Milwaukee Ave., should open sometime this summer. The bar will channel supper club vibes from the 1950s through 1970s with retro cocktails like piña coladas, Brooklyn egg creams, and Harvey Wallbangers. Drankiewicz also wants to push boundaries, putting a few twists on those traditional cocktails. “We’re going to have 40 to 50 of those in play 24/7,” Drankiewicz said.
“I’m excited, I’ve been dreaming this up for a long time,” he continues. “I think it should be amazing to walk into the bar and take those memories of those south side spots...if I can show people all of that and merge this together, I think they will be blown away.”
The bar neighbors Deadbolt, and Drankiewicz is working with Thompson and the same team he did when opening that bar. The two bars won’t share similarities, as while Deadbolt is a “turn and burn” spot devoid of sunlight, there will be “an amusement factor” at The Pink Squirrel, a former nail salon. The 1,800-square-foot space without TVs should flow with natural light giving it more of a friendly, Midwestern feel. There’s room for 50 indoors and it’ll have a sidewalk patio. Drankiewicz isn’t ready to share design details, but he’s working with Siren Betty Design.
A pick-up window is also planned for non-boozy desserts like milk shakes and root beer floats. Three classic ice cream flavors will be available most of the time. Additional rotating flavors should be a little crazier. Nothing’s finalized, but imagine a spicy avocado ice cream.
Drankiewicz retold the stories of how his father, a professional bowler, would take his son from bar to bar, giving the youngster a first-hand account of the area’s drinking culture on the mostly-Polish south side of Milwaukee. Drankiewicz would later work as bartender, pouring shots and Miller Lites to customers.
“My nights were a little later than most of the kids my age,” Drankiewicz said.
Later in his early 20s, a visit to Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee—a bar Esquire called the best bar in the country—opened Drankiewicz’s eyes. He sipped on the bar’s signature cocktail, The Pink Squirrel—a creamy ice cream drink. It was his first “curated cocktail.” That’s when Drankiewicz learned there was more to bartending than beer and shots. That’s what set him on the path toward mixology.
Drankiewicz hopes the Pink Squirrel will translate for Chicagoans and also give Milwaukeeans a home away from home. “If you don’t like dessert, if you don’t like booze, if you don’t like an amusement factor while you’re out drinking,” Drankiewicz said. “Then you’re not doing it right.”