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What the Cocktail Industry Should Expect at the Chicago Style Conference

Trash tiki, bar menu design, and why bars shouldn’t be community parasites

Trash Tiki returns to Chicago part of Chicago Style.
Trash Tiki/Facebook

The inaugural Chicago Style conference is 11 days away, bringing together some of the bar industry’s more influential voices to address topics like inclusion, menu design, and reducing waste. Tickets are still available for the four-day event which starts on May 7 and goes through May 11 at the Ace Hotel in Fulton Market.

The full schedule was released last month. The event’s organizers, including founders Shelby Allison (Lost Lake), Caitlin Laman (Ace Hotel Chicago), and Sharon Bronstein (The 86 Co.), shared their three best bets for the conference and connected Eater Chicago with the presenters.

Jacyara de Oliveira, a Chicago bar vet who’s over at El Che Bar in the West Loop, on May 8 will host “Community Spirits: Cocktail Bars as Active Community Members.” Bars should be where revolutions are born, she said. Bars shouldn’t be passive members of their neighborhoods. They need to give back to residents, whether that’s providing locals a space they can enjoy or giving them jobs opportunities. They shouldn’t just open up at a marginalized area and act like a parasite.

“I believe that people are personally and emotionally invested in their favorite local haunts, and so those bars should have a personal and emotional investment in their patrons and larger community,” de Oliveira said. “The people on our panel have made that a focus of their programs and so whether you are a patron or provider.”

Kelsey Ramage, founder of Trash Tiki will host “Wasteland Paradise” on May 9. Ramage wants attendees to get their dance on to help “a new generation of bartenders that want to help everyone know how to eat, drink, and party whilst not cocking up the planet as we know it.” The Trash Tiki crew last year visited Chicago and made 600 drinks in five hours on Sunday afternoon.

Ramage’s crew is dedicated to showing bars that they can make tasty drinks without causing too much waste. Bars don’t even have to hire additional staff or carve out too much time to be save the environment.

“Citrus is every bar’s biggest luxury, waste item, and as demand continues to far outstrip supply, expense,” Ramage said. “Looking for the simple recipes on our site and shooting for a 50-percent reduction in your purchases within six months is a great starting point.”

Jen Delos Reyes (School of Art and Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago) will moderate “Do Touch The Art: Outstanding Menu Design” on May 9. She wants to dash the notion that design is an elitist concept that can even benefit dive bars.

“Good design is also about context,” she said. “Whether or not something feels designed, it definitely is. Someone made a choice on how to communicate that information, even in a dive bar. Design is everywhere.”

Innovative menu design may even ditch traditional paper menus.

“One of the examples of menu design I’m going to talk about on the panel is from Trick Dog in San Francisco,” Delos Reyes said. “One season the drink menu was a record album of 45s where all of the drinks were named after the songs — think Stevie Nicks’ Leather and Lace —which was Bacardi 80-year rum, Krogstad Aquavit, Amaro Montenegro, Velvet Falernum, lime, spiced with ras al hanout.”

Wednesday’s tickets are sold out, though Monday tickets for Bar Fight Club and Tuesday and Thursday tickets are still available at the event’s website.

Ace Hotel Chicago

311 North Morgan Street, , IL 60607 (312) 764-1919 Visit Website

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