Strawberry-allspice-quassia purl
  • Julia Thiel
  • Strawberry-allspice-quassia purl

Analogue, the new Logan Square cocktail bar and restaurant from Violet Hour vets Robert Haynes and Henry Prendergast, has been open for about a month now, but I didn’t make it there until last Friday. It’s a modern, minimalist joint, almost as well hidden as the Violet Hour: there’s no sign outside, and the windows are painted black, making it look a lot like an abandoned storefront. No one seems to be having much trouble finding it, though. A little before 7 PM, it was still about half empty, but by the time we left a couple hours later, the place was packed.

I met Haynes and Prendergast when I interviewed them for a feature story I did about Analogue last year, so there wasn’t much chance that I’d be anonymous (full disclosure: they not only recognized me, but also comped a couple of our drinks). While I was working on the story, the two let me taste several concoctions of the type they were envisioning for Analogue. Arguably the most unusual were the purls, essentially house-made bitters mixed with beer (historically, bittering agents like wormwood were used to preserve beer).

At the time, I found them bracingly bitter—not in the league of Malort, but enough to make you sit up and take notice. The first drink I ordered at Analogue was a strawberry-allspice-quassia purl, and I realized that what I’d missed at the first tasting, because I’d only had a few sips, was the way the drink developed over time. My palate slowly adjusted to the aggressive bitterness and I was able to taste the strawberry and allspice (and, I assume, the quassia, but I don’t know what that tastes like). The sweet, floral aroma of the strip of lemon peel served in the drink helped to offset the bitterness of the purl.

My friend started off with the Radio Flyer cocktail, and I liked it so much that I ordered my own after I finished the purl. Made with Yahara Bay V bourbon, lemon, smoked brown sugar, and pumpkin bitters, it smells remarkably similar to bacon. That smokiness carries through to the flavor, which is sweet and tart, with some subtle pumpkin on the finish. I wouldn’t have expected smoky pumpkin to mesh well with the sweet tanginess of the cocktail, but it does.

The flavor combinations in the End of the Century (New Holland Freshwater Huron Rum, lime, house cacao, and Gaslight coffee) were even more unexpected—and equally successful. It smelled like cacao and coffee, and the bright, sweet rum and lime flavors were balanced out by creamy cacao. The coffee came through only in a slight bitterness on the finish (although I only had a few sips, since it was my friend’s drink). It’s a weird cocktail, but I’d drink it again any day.

Julia Thiel writes about booze on Wednesdays.