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And lived to write about it.
It’s not easy to make people want to go to a restaurant right now. And there’s no question the folks at newly opened Bar Chickadee know that. That’s why the team of Juke Fried Chicken’s Justin Tisdall, Bryan Satterford and newly recruited bartender Sabrine Dhaliwal (formerly of West) made their new pop-up irresistible.
The trio have repurposed Juke’s dining room to house an ‘80s-style contactless cocktail bar with a patio and separated seating. Oh, and you can still order Juke’s fried chicken. (In fact, it’s one of the only spots still open for late-night eats in the city).
I brought my Cocktail Nerd Friend (let’s call him CNF) along for the ride and he was not disappointed as we drank our way through the menu.
And it’s a fairly simple menu. You can go with the Dealer’s Choice and let Dhaliwal and her team craft a cocktail for you, create your own or pick from their dozen handcrafted options.
We went with the latter. And while this all comes with the caveat that everyone’s tastebuds are different, here are our very correct takes on the offerings, in the order in which we had them.
Even though CNF and I are in each other’s bubble, we were provided straws and happily used them to sample each others’ drinks.
Before the Storm is a gin cocktail loaded with amaro and chocolate bitters. In CNF’s words it’s “a really good way to start a meal.” In mine? “Boozy root beer, very good.”
Backyard Shenanigans is quite different—tart and refreshing with Wild Turkey bourbon, honey and lemon. Delicious.
No, before you ask, we didn’t have some weird agreement to pick cocktails that started with the same letter, it was just a weird coincidence, get off my back!
Anyway, Globetrotter is quite smoky and also sweet, with Wild Turkey bourbon making a return appearance. It’s bolstered by green chartreuse, charred pineapple and lime bitters. The menu description calls it “complex.” CNF calls it “really f-ing good.” And repeatedly asks how the hell it’s not scotch. Turns out, Dhaliwal gives it a scotch rinse, CNF comes through big time.
“I like yours more,” is CNF’s first comment about Golden Sunset, Chickadee’s take on the pina colada. It’s quite orange-y and fruity instead of creamy. It’s still quite good, enough so that CNF has to ask Dhaliwal for her secret. It’s maple syrup.
Here’s where things start to get a bit hazy. The neon-accented room is starting to blur just slightly. And you can tell we’re losing it as we both start making the “I don’t know man, the Canucks could go on a deep run this year” argument in good faith.
Down the Grapevine only serves to further push those theories with a hefty dose of alcohol. But it never tastes too boozy. Hennessey and amaro work together with tamarind and coffee bitters to make for a great end-of-the-night cocktail. “I’d much rather have this than an espresso to end the night,” says CNF.
The Starburst is essentially a tequila Dark and Stormy that also works nicely with an intriguing mix of sweet and smoky.
You know how I said Down the Grapevine makes for a great end of the night cocktail? Well, that was theoretical. Theoretically, it would. In reality, we chose to soldier on, ordering some of the best chicken we’ve ever had (maybe the drinks influenced that review, maybe not) before each grabbing one more.
It probably wasn’t the best choice, given that neither of us had really drank much more than a couple beers at a time during quarantine. But hey, you only live through COVID once. (Oh, that’s incredibly optimistic? Dang.)
Anyway, this is where my iPhone notes get noticeably harder to read. But I do distinctly remember the Greyscale being very good. The gin works in tandem with black lime (a delicacy often used in Middle Eastern dishes) and egg white to create a tart, incredibly smooth drink. It may have been my favourite of the night.
The almond old fashioned wasn’t overly almond-y or chocolate-y. But it had enough hints of both to make for an ideal end of the night cocktail.
CNF protested our departure a bit (after all, there were only two other cocktails on the menu, and we had come this far). Next time will have to do. There will definitely be one.