Barman Lee Zaremba is bringing a touch of Logan Square hipster to Gold Coast, as he’s joined Boka Restaurant Group and will create the drink lists for Boka’s two upcoming restaurants inside the Viceroy Hotel on Rush Street (Somerset and Devereaux). Zaremba was known for his drinks at Billy Sunday where he meticulously researched and poured cocktails in one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. His challenge in Gold Coast is to sate a different audience with higher incomes while maintaining the sense of adventure that made Billy Sunday a drinking destination.
“I’m 1,000% in favor of bringing fun back into the cocktail game,” Zaremba said, clearly excited about his new job.
Zaremba will also create the drinks at The Bellemore, another upcoming Boka restaurant Boka, this one’s inside the former Embeya space in West Loop. They lured former Bohemian House chef Jimmy Papadopoulos to helm the kitchen.
Boka’s new beverage director chatted last week about his new role and what customers should expect. Here’s a few highlights of the conversation. Somerset/Devereaux should open in September at 1118 W. State St., while Bellemore is now slated for a late fall opening at 564 W. Randolph St.
- The first Playboy Club opened in 1960 in Chicago, and that’s providing some of Zaremba’s inspiration for classic cocktails (like martinis) in the Gold Coast. Somerset’s drink list will feature 10 to 12 cocktails and divided into four sections: Martini, Collins, Rocks, and Swizzle. The categories will give drinkers a sense of familiarity. They’ll know what kind of glasses their drink will come out in.
- Zaremba knows his audience, putting in long hours hanging out in Gold Coast bars to feel the vibe. He wants to introduce Gold Coasters to trends from other neighborhoods. Zaremba added a cocktail with matcha to Billy Sunday’s menu about two and a half years ago, but matcha may still be considered avant-garde in Gold Coast. Zaremba will test those boundaries while paying tribute to classic cocktail culture.
- There’s challenges working at a bar with a swimming pool, including liability concerns. Drinks at Devereaux will come in high-quality plasticware. Zaremba predicts champagne should be very popular by the pool.
- Over at Bellemore in West Loop, Zaremba is excited about working with the chef. He called Papadopoulos, “one of the most-inspirational chefs [he’s] come across in a long time.” The atmosphere will be a little bit more playful along Randolph, providing a canvas where Zaremba is going to “get a little geeky.” They’ll have a special bar station where Zaremba will be making drinks whenever he’s working. The may even offer exclusive cocktails for patrons sitting at the bar.