Mixers & Shakers: Milton Latrell and Kris Von Dopek

The Windy City was host to one of our most stylish Mixers and Shakers segments as Milton Latrell, the founder and designer of Chicago-based menswear and accessories company Agriculture, got a taste of mixologist Kris Von Dopek’s style—in the form of a custom Stoli Raz-infused cocktail “Raz Royale.” The two chatted about what makes them stand out in their respective fields at Kris’ second home, Anthems.

Check out this original interaction between Kris and Milton and head over to our Mixers and Shakers section for more great cocktails!

Slightly Off: The Secret Life of Vivian Maier

In 2007, when local Chicago historian John Maloof bought a box at an auction house for $380, he had no idea that its contents—tens of thousands of prints and negatives by a mystery woman named Vivian Maier—would rewrite the history of street photography.

An intensely private person who worked as a nanny while maintaining a secret life as a photographer, Maier is posthumously being hailed as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. But when she was alive, she wanted no one to know about her work—not even her small circle of friends.

When she was hired as a nanny in suburban Chicago in the early 1950s, Maier asked the mother of her two young charges to put a lock on her third-floor bedroom, making it very clear that no one was allowed to enter. It was in this room where she hid the 100,000 photographs she had taken over the years, mainly of the people and streets of Chicago and New York in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Maier died in 2009 at the age of 83—just before her meteoric rise from an unknown and enigmatic au pair to an internationally celebrated photographer. Now placed among such icons as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank, she has been the focus of acclaimed exhibitions in London, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, where Stephen Kasher Gallery displayed her works alongside those by Weegee in 2011. "The composition is slightly off to me," said actor and director Tim Roth about a Maier photograph he bought. "I think that’s why I like it."

Also in 2011, Maloof published a book of her photographs, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer, now in its second printing. The documentary film Finding Vivian Maier, produced by Maloof and Charlie Siskel (Bowling for Columbine, Tosh.0), was selected by the Toronto International Film Festival for its world premiere in September 2013 and acquired by Sundance Selects for U.S. rights.

"She would have hated every minute of it," said one of the film’s interviewees about the sudden and surging interest in Maier’s work. "She would never have let this happen." Perhaps. But thankfully for the rest of us, it did.

Time for a Toast: Women, Cast Your Ballots

Raise a Prohibition cocktail to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who drafted Amendment XIX. Enacted today in 1920, it gave American women the right to vote.

In 1878, Anthony and Stanton drafted an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would give American women the right to vote and introduced it to Congress, where it sat in limbo for over four decades.

Finally, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment took effect and there was much rejoicing. However, alcohol was illegal at the time, with Prohibition having just gone into effect seven months earlier, so any "legal" celebratiions had to be dry. Of course, we all know that didn’t stop the booze from flowing. And although supporters of suffrage generally endorsed the temperance movement, the right to vote gave rise to a new brand of post-World War I feminists who threw off constricting Victorian corsets to embrace the frisky, fun-loving flapper lifestyle. And that meant cigarettes, the Charleston and fastening a flask to your inner thigh to sneak booze into speakeasies.

LET’S GET DRUNK AND MAKE LOVE

The emerging feminism found a voice in The New Yorker‘s "Tables for Two" column, penned by Lois Long, who Cambridge historian Joshua Zeitz described in his 2007 book Flapper as "one of the most insightful observers of sex and style in Jazz Age America." Looking back at her life in the 1920s, Long later summed up the flappers’ fast-living philosophy: "All we were saying was, ‘Tomorrow we may die, so let’s get drunk and make love.’"

But not all literary ladies of the Roaring Twenties were so keen on the flapper movement. Dorothy Parker (who turned 27 just a few days before the 19th Amendment was enacted) took a jab at the fad in her poem, "The Flapper," saying that their "manners cause a scene." The Algonquin doyenne also expressed a more moderate—and infinitely more sensible—approach to quenching one’s thirst:

“I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under my host.”

So cheers to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who gave America the 19th Amendment—and an excellent reason to tipple through the Roaring Twenties.

MIX IT UP: THE SOUTH SIDE COCKTAIL

For a perfect Prohibition cocktail during summer’s last gasp, you can’t go wrong with the South Side. Though named after the Chicago district where it was a favorite of mobsters during the dry years, the drink’s exact origin is still contested. New York’s illustrious 21 Club, for example, has laid claim to it. They use the following recipe.

Ingredients

2 oz. vodka, gin or white rum
Juice of one lemon
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. fresh mint leaves

Method

Place ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well enough to bruise the mint leaves and release the mint oil.

Strain into a chilled collins glass filled with ice.

Garnish with mint leaves.

Enjoy!

BY THE NUMBERS

37 – Number of years the 19th Amendment lay dormant in Congress (a period known as "the doldrums")

31 – Number of votes by which the 19th Amendment won passage in the Senate

51 – Percent of U.S. population that is female

18 – Percent of Congressional seats currently held by women

10 – Amount, in dollars, in 1912, of the budget of the Washington, DC, office of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA)

41,368,000 – Number of Susan B. Anthony one-dollar coins minted

30,000 – Number of speakeasies in New York City during Prohibition

7,304,040 – Number of minutes Prohibition lasted

18,000,000 – Number of U.S. citizens who currently live in a dry county

Seven Reasons Why Chicago’s New Alcohol-Free Bar The Other Side Is Worth Visiting Even If You Drink

I write about booze and nightlife all the time, but you’ll almost never see me making jokes about drunkenness and reckless behavior. There are several reasons for this, some of them selfish (I don’t want to turn off advertisers), some of them journalistic (I find most drunk jokes juvenile and unfunny), and some downright responsible (I honestly don’t want to encourage dangerous activity). And yet, writing solely about the flavors of the different spirits I sample does make me a bit of a fraud. Yes, I’ll review a spirit like whiskey because I like the taste, but I tend to leave out the part about how I also like how it makes me feel. So let’s put it out there: Alcohol is a drug, and a powerful one at that. It’s a potentially dangerous drug. It’s a drug that a lot of people have trouble with. It’s a drug that causes damage. And yet it’s the most glamorous, socially acceptable drug history has ever seen.

Think about bars and nightclubs. I love them, and spend my share of time in them, but they’re essentially places to purchase and consume the drug known as alcohol. Everything else is window dressing. Elaborate, fabulous window dressing with a good beat. People would never flock to the top nightclubs in a city like New York, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas if they were exactly the same, minus the alcohol.

Or would they? New Directions Recovery Services in Chicago is about to find out. They’re the force behind The Other Side, a new spot in the suburb of Crystal Lake that aims to be everything a great bar can be, minus the alcohol. Its stated goals are to unify the sober community, provide a fun environment for people living substance-free lifestyles, and change the stigma associated with sober living. But, according to founder and recovering addict Chris Reed, it’s not limited to people in recovery. It’s open to anybody who’s into a sober night out, whether it’s a one-off for people who just don’t feel like drinking, or the first step toward a life of sobriety.

I have the deepest respect for people who are getting help with their addictions–think about everything they face in our alcohol-celebrating society–but I can only see it from a drinker’s perspective. Regardless, the more I think about it, the more it sounds like a great idea. And if I was in the Chicago area, I’d drop by just to see if it’s really possible to replicate the experience of going out and partying, minus the liquor.

Something tells me it is. First of all, there’s some science to the idea that the enjoyment of alcohol is a shared contextual experience. I read about an experiment once where a group was together drinking, but one of the members was served non-alcoholic cocktails. While he had a blood alcohol content of zero, he acted just as loud and silly as his legitimately drunk friends. And perhaps there is something to the lights, music, and general atmosphere of a great bar that gives one a euphoric feeling that makes chemical enhancement superfluous. Maybe it’s possible to get high on your thoughts alone.

But I can think of a few other reasons that a party at The Other Side, or other alcohol-free bars (there have to be a few), might be superior to a "normal" night out.

1. No more crutch. People who need the self-confidence that alcohol supposedly gives you would have to dig into their reserves of inner courage to chat up that attractive guy or girl, and would probably be all the more emboldened for it. (Your sexual performance would probably be better, too.)

2. You’d remember your conversations. The long, heart-to-heart talks with friends and lovers would still be sharp in your mind the next morning, follow-up plans would be kept (one hopes), and you’d know any emotional connections you made were real.

3. If you’re really into music and dancing, you could focus on it. I hear that major DJ’s and noteworthy live bands will perform at The Other Side. You’d be able to pay attention to their art and artistry, and be able to look them up the next day.

4. You wouldn’t blow all your money. While this is the part of the equation that makes me worried for The Other Side’s future (will they be able to pay the rent over the long term?), it would be nice to wake up the next morning with four out of those five twenties you took out of the ATM still in your wallet.

5. Less chance of a fight or some other barroom nonsense breaking out. No lager louts, no loutish behavior.

6. The general feeling of good health that a night off provides. Your liver is important. Be nice to it.

7. No drunk driving. As a New Yorker who exclusively takes public transportation or taxis, I’m befuddled by how people in car-centric cities are able to party the way they do without driving drunk. My conclusion: With some rare exceptions, they don’t. Just ask my friend Paul, who was a passenger in a car that got demolished by an extremely drunk driver just two days ago in Dallas. (He’s fine. Seat belts, people!)

And so, stylish Chicago-area people of both the drinking and non-drinking variety, take a look at The Other Side and think about dropping by for a sober night of music, dancing, fun, and possibly hooking up. It’s unlikely that the booze-free bar concept will put much of a dent in Chicago nightlife, but it’s nice to know there’s a cool place to hang out that doesn’t have alcohol but also isn’t another boring coffee shop. 

[Related: BlackBook Chicago Guide; Listing for The Other Side; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Here’s A Perplexing Pothole Press Release Pundown

At the end of last week, the communications team for the Chicago Department of Transportation was tasked with making citizens aware of the campaign to report potholes in need of repair. Getting people to care about and be proactive potholes is not always easy, and although it is important to make those who can fix the potholes aware of the problem, it’s not always the most fun or engaging topic to write about. So the PR person for CDOT did what any normal communications professional needing to spice up a topic would do: ride the heels of a more popular Chicago event (Lollapalooza, whose lineup had just been announced) and lay on the band name puns as thick as possible. The result? The most ridiculous press release we’ve seen in a while.

"Tired of Drivin ‘N Cryin’ in Traffic over the Minor Threat of potholes in the Pavement?  Ready to see nothing but The White Stripes on the roadway and not worry about The Cars swerving to avoid potholes?

This weekend, if you are motorist or a Motörhead, participate in the first-ever “Potholepalooza,”  the Chicago Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) call to Chicagoans to report as many street potholes as possible.  Then watch the show next week as CDOT has The Cure for your Moody Blues and fills all of the potholes reported from Friday, April 5 through Sunday April 6 so that your car doesn’t do the Harlem Shake and give you Divine Fits."

Wow. As a lover of bad wordplay, this is a goldmine. But I feel like by working with mostly only band names, even if there are some truly masterful stretches ("Men At Work gave Blood, Sweat and Tears"), the writer really missed out on some quality references. Like, you’re really going to do a music reference-packed press release about potholes and not include a nod to De La Soul’s classic, "Potholes In My Lawn?" Or maybe the writer knew that’s what people who pay too much attention to things like this were expecting and decided to deviate.

Maybe this could become a series for CDOT. Maybe the next one will be all covert references to the raunchiest tracks in the writer’s iTunes catalog. "When you’re on the road and feel a little ‘Bump ‘n’ Grind’ in your tires, be sure to let us know." "Be careful with potholes, or whiplash may have you screaming ‘My Neck, My Back!’" It would certainly get people talking about the important issue of local infrastructure. 

Are Secret Colours Britpop’s Next Great Hope?

Well, they used the "correct" spelling of “colours,” so I suppose they can have the job. Self-identifying as “the bastard seed of ’60s psychedelia and ’90s Britpop bloodlines,” they’ve certainly got the level of self-aggrandizement about right. And hey, they’re all wearing black in their group photo. That’ll work. 

Except, what the shit? They’re from Chicago. Sorry, United Kingdom, I guess Middle America is the new Manchester. How, under all this affectation, does the music itself sound? Not half-bad: get a load of the chugging rave-up “Blackbird (Only One),” which features on Peach, their sophomore album, out in late May.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Martin Scorsese Making ‘Gangs of New York’ Into a TV Series, Because Why Not?

Television programs based on movies are usually hit-or-miss (actually, usually miss—for every M*A*S*H* there are a thousand My Big Fat Greek Lives), but if Martin Scorsese thinks he’s got an idea here, it may be worth listening. Gangs of New York was hyped like crazy before and upon its release but fell short of expectations during award season. It’s not his best movie by any means, not his most memorable, and maybe not even the best fodder for a TV show. But with the diverse history and dramatic tensions of mid-19th-century New York City, Scorsese saw an opportunity to revisit the world of Amsterdam Vallon and Bill the Butcher, and he’s working with Miramax and GK Films to make Gangs a TV series. As he writes

“This time and era of America’s history and heritage is rich with characters and stories that we could not fully explore in a two-hour film. A television series allows us the time and creative freedom to bring this colorful world, and all the implications it had and still does on our society, to life.”
The show, according to the Deadline report linked above, would focus on the advent of organized crime in America, not just in New York, of course, but in other major story-rich and scandal-rich cities like Chicago and New Orleans and Atlantic Ci—oh wait, he already did that one with Boardwalk Empire. Obviously, this show would be best as a varying-location ensemble sitcom, in the style of Seinfeld. Can you imagine this scene with a little slap-bass action behind it? 

Mixing Alcohol & Literature At Chicago’s New Secret: The Library At Gilt Bar

Perhaps it’s true – eventually, we become our parents. And after a couple of generations of drinking-establishment evolution, there certainly are a lot of "daddy’s old club" places popping up. The latest: The Library at Gilt Bar. Tucked below the swanky River North dining hotspot (yes, Gilt Bar is actually a restaurant), it makes no small work of cultivating old-world atmosphere, with exposed brick, plush velvet booths, and vintage crystal glassware. The name is to be taken literally as there’s a collection of classic literature on hand, though the low lighting would seem to hinder more bookish activities.

There’s no dedicated menu at The Library, but the space begs a careful editing of the selections from Gilt. We’d recommend the foie gras and pork liver mousse toast, or maybe a sausage & gruyere fondue. As for the drinks, make like dad would and order a few rounds of the classics: whiskey sours, Pimm’s Cups, Moscow Mules, or better still, Old Fitzgerald Manhattans. There are just twenty seats, so reservations are a must.

Know every inch of this city by visiting BlackBook’s Chicago City Guides.

Chicago Opening: American Junkie

Continuing the curious postmodern trend of nightclubby sports bars–see BlackBook‘s coverage of the new Heraea in Vegas–Chicago’s new two-story American Junkie (no, it’s not also a Courtney Love album title) arrives in River North awash in high tech features. To wit, a staggeringly massive high-def screen, a retractable roof, furnishings that electronically adjust from dining height to lounge comfort as the night goes on, and a supersonic sound system–indeed, DJs will entertain once the games have come to a conclusion. A prodigious American flag reminds you what country you’re in, just in case a soccer match is on the screen. 

And no mozzarella sticks here. Rather, highly regarded Chicago chef Kendal Duque has put together a mouth-watering menu that runs the gamut from venison tartare to pork belly sliders to the distinctly un-sports-bar-like foie gras and pineapple flatbread. (Okay, there are wings and nachos, for the unwavering traditionalists). Clever cocktails like the Cheating Tiger (Jim Beam Black, combier peach, tea, lemon) will complement a significant selection of suds, including local favorite Goose Island Sofie. A rollout of the brand is planned across the US. 

[Related: BlackBook Chicago Guide; Listing for American Junkie; More by Ken Scrudato; Follow Ken on Twitter]