A Tiki Speakeasy: Curio at Gilt Bar in Chicago

Thanks in part to topnotch new(ish) tiki bars like Smuggler’s Cove and Painki…I mean PKNY, tiki drinks seem to have overtaken Prohibitian-era cocktails as the darling of current liquid culture. “Tiki nights” have popped up all over the country and bars with barely any thatch or bamboo are encouraging their patrons to put down the vodka-soda and rediscover rum.

The summer menu at The Terrace at Trump is one of the most recent examples in Chicago, and when we were there back in November we checked out another tiki cocktail program at Curio, which is hidden away under Gilt Bar by the Merchandise Mart. (Again I have to credit Tasting Table for bringing Curio to my attention in their Fifteen Best Cocktails in Chicago feature from last year.)

After entering the restaurant, you head down the stairs next to the bar. Keep going down the hallway and you’ll find Curio on the right, behind black velvet curtains.

As I’ve mentioned before, I adore the 1920s era so the speakeasy style will never get old for me. The room was very dimly lit, with candles on the tables and a chandelier above the bar at the opposite end of the space. There were leather banquettes for larger groups, but since it was just the two of us we shared an antique loveseat.

A different cocktail menu is offered down here. In addition to a special section featuring Chartreuse, there were five “Tiki Inspired” drinks each priced at $13. Prospective patrons should take note that Curio is cash only (I suppose that really brings the old-fashioned—or illicit—theme home).

Pago Pago (Matusalem rum, creme de cacao, green Chartreuse, lime and pineapple juice) took the top prize from Tasting Table, but I preferred The Mariposa Fizz (made with Flor de Cana rum, creme de cacao, egg whites and lemon). It was so light and delicious, sort of like a spiked egg cream. I’ve been meaning to try and reverse engineer it in my home bar.

UPDATE: Curio has been replaced by The Library, a new cocktail bar from Brendan Sodikoff that opened in March 2013.

Gilt Bar on Urbanspoon

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