Sleep No More Moves Up to the Roof With Gallow Green

By now, if you haven’t heard of Sleep No More, a macabre, interactive version of Macbeth by the British theatrical group Punchdrunk, you are probably living under a rock. But while many of the mysteries of the show have been revealed via blogs and Yelp, the folks behind the performance keep adding new bits.

Their most recent addition is Gallow Green, a rooftop space above the masked madness below. Right now, the airy bar is in previews, so forgive them if the older lady in white stumbles, both on her words and the uneven terrine—it’s still 100 percent worth checking out. First, it’s on a roof, which always makes things more exciting, especially at sunset after a heavy rainstorm. Luckily, even if it rains, the majority of the space is sheltered in airy tarps. On one end they have a glorious old train car, gutted and rusted with delicate lace curtains hanging in the windows and a long, wooden table in the center. The rest of Gallow Green is a mesh of tables situated around pentagonal structure with rows of fresh herbs growing and white clad waiters running around. The whole thing brings to mind a fairy tale or some Shakespearian sonnet, perhaps it’s an urban version of Midsummer’s Night Dream?

Now, as for the acting part: like Sleep No More, there is a vague plot to Gallow Green, as well as an ominous elevator. This one is named Miranda, and the groans and squeaks that emanate from her make you wonder if the noises are for real or a soundtrack hidden in the paneling. Once you arrive upstairs, a hostess running the “fresh” flower stall (ask her for a stem, she will let you have it) greets you and leads you upstairs. We were graciously seated and poured over the menu of punches like the Sleep Bowmore Punch (made with Madeira wine, Bowmore single-malt whisky, nutmeg, and orange Curacao), which were created by cocktail expert David Wondrich. They also have a nice house cocktail list with appropriately themed names like Damned Spot (with Famous Grouse whisky, limes, Fentiman’s ginger beer, and a “spot” of Petchaud’s bitters) and Third Degree (with gin, dry vermouth, absinthe, and orange bitters). For food, the plates are small but succulent and run from three to seventeen dollars. We loved the warm pretzels with spicy mustard, Scotch quail eggs, the fun jar of summer pickles, and rich pulled brisket toast with tomato jam.

Once we settled into our cocktails and nibbles, that’s when we realized Gallow Green is a play. It became clear after a mysterious lady in a white satin gown came around and told us she and her husband threw this party for an important woman every night, just in case she showed up. The husband came by and said the same thing, and wispy girls flitted about the place looking lost, sad, and in love. Apparently, none were the one the couple was waiting for, but I did leave wondering who she was and what would happen if she did show, which, undoubtedly, at some point she does. With Gallow Green, at every turn you get the sense of the mystery and finesse that made Sleep So More so popular, and, if they play their cards right, it will be just as successful—at least until winter comes. 

How About a Nice Chicago Punch?

Remember hanging out by the punch bowl at your high school sock hop, praying for the cutie from chemistry class to ask you to slow dance? If you weren’t brought up in 1950s Mayberry, probably not, but punch, particularly the spiked kind, is back in a big way, making its way into an eclectic range of high-end bars and restaurants across the nation, and introducing contemporary drinkers to the pleasures of the fun, fruity concoction. While it’s originally from India, by way of England, Chicago is wasting no time in making punch its own, as some of the city’s top bartenders are slinging sublime versions for local drinkers looking for a new spin on the classic beverage.

Perhaps no one loves a good punch as much as David Wondrich, historian, cocktail aficionado and author of 2010’s Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl. His lovingly-researched tome helped kick off the latest punch craze, and the Chicago drinking landscape is better for it. Since every other restaurant in town offers a communal table and shared plates, why not add a festive, eminently shareable beverage to get the night going? Some for me, some for you, a little more for me, and did I ever tell you how beautiful your eyes are? Yes, we’d take a refreshing bowl of punch over a bottle of vodka and four boring mixers at our VIP table any day. “Punch and parties have always been a happy marriage,” says Joe Proulx, who tends bar at Nightwood. “Trends are trends, but I wasn’t just riding the wave,” he says. “I was inspired by other restaurant that were doing punches.” This mix-master brings took cues from the classic drink concept that dates back to the 17th century. Rather than masking the alcohol taste in punch with juicy pineapple sweetness, Nightwood’s two springtime punch offerings use tea—mint and rooibos—as a base. Proulx describes them as “less boozy, more tea-forward.” Sounds daintier than deep-dish Chicago pie, eh? Consider it Chicago punch for the 21st century.

No hulking crystal punch bowls here, but you can take your pick of carafes. There’s the Butterfield 8, which was inspired by the 1960 film of the same name, in which Liz Taylor starts the film brushing her teeth with whiskey. It’s a sophisticated mix of Jim Beam rye, rooibos tea, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, lemon juice, simple syrup, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters, and a splash of sparkling wine. Paying tribute to notorious gin-lover and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? co-star Richard Burton, the Virginia Woolf (pictured) mixes Broker’s gin, mint tea, ginger syrup, lime juice, absinthe, Angostura bitters, and a splash of sparkling wine. Both options serve two ($22) or four ($44), and Proulx plans to mix up the flavors this summer. image

Other places packing a punch:

The Polynesian theme is in full swing – along with the imported palm trees – at the Terrace at Trump. Order one of two fruity options that serve six to eight people: the Motu Ahe ($175), which is made with Cruzan dark rum and mango, papaya, and guava juices and garnished with chunks of fruit ($175). Grape-lovers will go for The Maeva ($150), which is made with white wine, herb-infused simple syrup, and frozen grapes, and garnished with star fruit and fresh mint leaves. Feeling money? Head to Wicker Park’s brand-new Bedford, housed in a former bank, and take your pals for a ride with the Pisco Punch. Inspired by the traditional punch served at the San Francisco restaurant from which GM and mixologist Pete Gugni most recently hails, Gugni’s spin includes Encanto pisco, muddled pineapple, lime and orange juice, limoncello, five-spice simple syrup, and ginger beer. You’ll get about five glasses from this guy, which makes it a bargain at just $28. Nothing goes better with grits and fried chicken at The Southern than a lowball full of fruity punch. Sidle up to the swanky lounge area upstairs and suck down one of three variations, all garnished with fresh fruit and serving about 10-15 pours for a reasonable $56. Go holy with the Preacher’s Wife, Sauvignon Blanc, Tuaca, fresh fruit juices and fruit garnish. Take down some tequila with the Agave y Flores, a blend of Sauza 100% blue agave tequila, triple sec, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, lime juice and sour mix, garnished with fresh cut limes and lemons. Or keep it extra light with the Southern 75, a mix of Beefeater gin, lemon, simple syrup and prosecco, and garnished with fresh limes and lemons.

Of course, you could always try your hand at mixing up a batch at home. Wondrich’s book is filled with great recipes. But perhaps punch is best left to the experts, who draw upon 300 years of boozy history to create what may be the most communal drink of them all. Pass the ladle.