Leading up to its May 16 grand opening, Arbella relied on more than just word of mouth to get the message out. The global cocktail lounge in Chicago’s River North enjoyed plenty of “word of drink” when building anticipation throughout the month of April.
Teaming up with Cocktail Courier, a premiere online cocktail delivery service, guests were able to sample one of the concept’s upcoming signature drinks before the doors even opened.
“It just seemed like a great idea to let the public peek into what we were planning without actually having to be opened, and from the comfort of their own home, which was even better,” says Diego Pilares, the general manager.
Arbella picked lead mixologist Tona Palomino’s Hanky Panky to offer a literal taste of what was coming. The drink is made with 2.5 ounces of Tanqueray London Dry Gin, 1.5 ounces of Carpano Antica Formula, half an ounce of Fernet-Branca, and orange zest to garnish. Four of these could be made from one order off Cocktail Courier’s site, which also allowed Pilares to begin marketing his concept in other ways. Information on Palomino, a picture of the drink, recipe, and a discount for the restaurant were included—encouraging the consumers to stop by the brick-and-mortar location. When Pilares decided to link up with Cocktail Courier, he considered the audience. The Hanky Panky had to represent Arbella’s complex cocktail program in one sample. “We wanted something that would appeal to different palates. The Hanky Panky is what we chose because it gives a little bit more depth, and a little bit more of a different twist for a gin cocktail. And it helps to, I think, broaden the message as to what we’re trying to deliver. Not just an average cocktail, but something a little bit more elaborate, but still approachable, which is what the cocktail ends up being. It’s not just something for one type of drinker.”
Cocktail Courier lets consumers order à la carte on the site, in sets of four, six or 12, as well as weekly, monthly, and bi-monthly subscription packages.
The restaurant is part of VBD Hospitality, alongside team members from Chicago Peruvian restaurant Tanta. It’s a 74-seat venue that Pilares says caters to the sophisticated, social crowd. “It’s going to have a lot of really cool art, a really nice vibe. It’s going to be a very cozy space—something really warm and inviting where the mixology is going to be the center of the conversation. We’re going to try to use as many new techniques as possible. The drinks are going to be very exciting. It’s all going to be a very global offering,” he explains.
The Arbella menu traverses the globe across Europe, Asia, the U.S., Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. Tona, with bartender Eric Trousdale, will bring a modern touch including infused ice, large-format cocktails, and dessert drinks.
The food will focus on one region and rotate on a quarterly basis. Here are some samples of the worldly drinks:
- Good Old Tom with gin, lemon, sugar, thyme, and carbonations
- Fraise d’Amor with cognac, strawberry, and liquid nitrogen
- Perfect Marty with gin, sweet vermouth, Luxardo, and orange bitters
- Tempo Bello with grapefruit-infused gin, Luxardo, and Tempus Fugit
- Hanky Panky with gin, fernet, and vermouth
- Old School, peanut butter vodka, Concord grape juice, lime, and a jelly-infused ice cube
- Doctor’s Orders with bourbon, chamomile, lemon, and honey
- Slippery Slope with rye, amaro, and cherry
- Son of a Preacher Man with rye, ginger, and carbonation
- Chicago Fire Extinguisher with BenRiach Heart of Speyside, Luxardo Amaro Abano, smoked Angostura Bitters, and infused with hickory smoke
- Push the Wood with Cedar Whisky, Dolin Dry, and Tempus Fugit Torino
- China Poblana with tequila, shiso, cucumber, and lime juice
- Queretaro with tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, liquid nitrogen, and a red wine topper
- Pal o’ Mine with mezcal, pineapple, yellow chartreuse, and absinthe
- Funky Chicken with Lollipop Rye, lemon puree, beer, and tajin rim
- La Coqueta with mezcal, ginger syrup, Yuzu, and grenadine
South America & Caribbean
- Chilcano with cucumber-infused pisco, ginger beer, simple syrup, and a cucumber and kiwi-infused ice cube
- Airmail with rum, honey syrup, lime juice, and prosecco
- Down the Hatch with pisco, sake, Cocci Rosa, and grapefruit
- Ti Punch with Rhum, lime juice, and sugar cane syrup
- Hokkaido with sake, gin, and triple sec
- Midori with Shochu, sake, and violet
- Bombay Government Punch with rum, Batavia, Demerara syrup, and lime juice
- Singapore Sling with gin, cherry herring, Benedictine, and lime juice
- Hanami with plum wine, Kinjo Shochu, Yuzu, egg white, and peach bitters
Chefs Jesus Delgado and Cristian Padilla take inspiration from the team’s diverse family backgrounds to create an elevated, yet approachable menu. Many of the small-plate selections are made with the use of a wood-fire grill, and a sample of these dishes include:
- Ahi Poke with ahi tuna marinated in soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and topped with an egg yolk
- K.F.C. (Korean Fried Chicken) with Amish Chicken drumettes, Korean spicy and sweet glaze, and peanuts
- Morcilla with grilled morcilla, piquillo, and onion escabèche, fried fingerling potatoes, and smoked aioli
- Moules Fumees with smoked mussels, butter, sea salt, parsley salad, and served on toasted bread
- Polpo with grilled octopus, roasted fingerling potatoes, spicy pesto, and green olive chimichurri
- Short Rib Bao with short rib, Thai sate sauce, squash puree, and pickled vegetables
- Cha Gio with fried egg rolls stuffed with pork, shrimp, and vegetables
- Taro Taco with taro chip tortilla, tuna tartare, avocado, and jalapeño