Jason Baldacci

As the thirsty Reader staff fanned out across Chicago to bring you our neighborhood bar guide, we realized we had an opportunity in our hands. An excuse to go to our favorite bars is also an opportunity to ask bartenders the answers to questions we’ve always had in the back of our minds. What should I get? What’s the best way to stave off this looming hangover? What’s the worst shit that’s ever gone down at your bar? And where do I go after you close, when the last place I wanna be is home? —Asher Klein


Jason Baldacci, beverage director for the Bluebird, Telegraph Wine Bar, and Webster’s Wine Bar


Death row drink


I’d say either a Lagunitas IPA from the tasting room in Petaluma, California, or a Sazerac made by Stephen Cole of the Barrelhouse Flat


Hangover prevention


Pad kee Mao and a lot of water.


After last call


If the Tamale Guy isn’t around, I’d go for tacos from Arturo’s or the Wendy’s drive-through route.


Hair of the dog


I’ve always been a bitters-and-soda guy (I like to use both orange and Angostura bitters), but when I go to Longman & Eagle at brunch on Sundays, I’ve been having the guys over there mix Half Acre Daisy Cutter with orange juice. I call it the “Driving Miss Daisy Cutter.”


Customer apology


I did have a lady leave a Victoria’s Secret bag in the bar once. I don’t think she felt too proud when she came back in, hungover, to pick it up.


Kicked to the curb


I’m not sure how interesting it is, but it never ceases to amaze me that people think they will get served faster (or at all) when they yell and shout at you while you’re busy.


—As told to Kate Schmidt

Janada Halbisen-Gibbs


Janada Halbisen-Gibbs, bartender at Big Chicks


Death row drink


I would say this al fresco margarita that I had—fresh lime, sour, jalapeño, cilantro, and a ton of good tequila—in Hawaii, sitting in the sunshine by an infinity pool. You don’t see the rim of the pool; it just looks like it keeps going off into the water.


Hangover prevention


Eating something. You have to set up a solid foundation, eating food that absorbs alcohol—soup and salad won’t do. Drink lots of water. Don’t mix your alcohol, and stay away from sugary drinks. I think that if you avoid excess you’re not going to have hangovers. Pace yourself. If you start doing shots late at night, you’re going to have a hangover.


After last call


I usually come home and [my partner] just makes me something. I’m a fan of—man, what is my favorite? Homemade mac and cheese.


Hangover cure


Again, lots of water. I like coconut water. Coconut water has more electrolytes in it than Gatorade and Powerade. It’s like the magic drink, and it rehydrates you faster than water. Definitely that, or you can get the little Pedialyte powder packets, which you can just squirt in a glass of water. One of the other tricks is to drink that before you go to bed. And regarding eating off a hangover, I have to say that even though you’re not necessarily craving it, my two favorites are a classic BLT or a Cobb salad, which hits the spot. It’s pretty hearty, but you’re also getting nutrients back into your body. Probably with a side of hash browns.


Customer apology


The question is, actually apologizing for it? People do a lot of hilarious or wretched things, but they never say they’re sorry. So there was a guy who was making an ass of himself. He was definitely drunk, with his friends, and then he lost it on our coat-check guy, saying that he had stolen the coat—you know, all of his stuff, his car keys and his credit card and his phone was in it, and—he’s drunk. He’s going on and on about these things. He came in the next day, wearing his coat—uh huh—and had forgotten that he’d actually left it in his friend’s car. He was extremely rude, but he did come in and apologize. He also left an envelope with a tip in it for the guy that he lost it on.


Banned customer


I’ve never actually had to ban anybody. I’ve had to enforce it for people. But I’ve never actually had to do it myself—well, because I usually have to work the daytime shift. I have a really great crowd, and I’ve been blessed to never have to do it myself, but I will put it out there that it does happen, and the word spreads really fast. The things that will get you kicked out—violence, drugs, and being disrespectful—will get you banned without our batting an eye. We’re all there to have a good time. We don’t settle for any sort of homophobia, obviously, working at a gay bar.

I’ve definitely had guys come in and be like, yeah, you know, we’re here to pick up chicks, and they look around and they’re like, wow, there’s a lot of guys here. Mostly funny, funny phone calls that I’ll get—people being like, “Hey, you have a lot of big chicks there?” I’ll be like, “Not so much chicks, but tonight’s Bear Night. There’s a lot of handsome, big, burly, hairy guys.”


—As told to Sam Worley

Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda


Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda of Drinking & Writing Theater


Death row drink


I would be sitting at the Edgewater Lounge, drinking a delicious hoppy double IPA and a shot of Jameson. That would be my dream on death row.


Hangover prevention


After extensive research I would say it would have to be cabbage. It contains a chemical called glutamine, which is a natural stimulant. When we drink, the body stops producing it, which is why we get drowsy. But when we stop drinking the body tries to make up for this lack of glutamine and produces more than we need. This makes it impossible to sleep more than a few hours. I need sleep to cure my hangovers.


After last call


Anything with lots of cheese. I’d eat a shoe if it were covered in cheese.


Hair of the dog


I would go with the ultimate cure we found while self-experimenting for our show To Cure a Hangover: a wheat beer with all its revitalizing vitamins, chorizo and eggs wrapped in cabbage (see above), and watching the original Planet of the Apes. Charlton Heston is actually good for hangovers.


Kicked to the curb


I remember a while ago being kicked out of a bar when I tickled a server’s underarm as she passed by with a trayful of drinks over her head. She didn’t spill them, but the bouncer spilled me out the door.

I’ve been kicked out of bars on several occasions. I like to believe that most of the time it was because I came to the aid of a friend who was being kicked out and then was kicked out by association. I like to believe that. But my most memorable time was when I was underage and was using my brother’s fake ID. I went into Desperate Annie’s in Saratoga Springs, New York (my hometown), and the bouncer looked at my ID and asked, “So you’re Mark Benjamin, huh?” I said confidently, “Yes, I am.” And the large, biker bouncer pointed across the room and asked, “Then which Mark Benjamin is that?” “That would be my brother. What’s he doing here?” And then . . . I was removed.


—As told to Julia Thiel

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Ken Ellis, bartender at the Rainbo Club


Death row drink


My death row drink would be on a beach in Saint John’s, Virgin Islands, and it would be a Mudslide (Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and vodka).


Hangover prevention


Drinking responsibly is the best way to avoid a hangover.


After last call


Home is where I head after closing.


Hangover cure


I don’t have hangovers, because I’m not a drinker.


Customer apology


I can’t really remember any—most folks are too drunk to remember what they did. The most you will get after telling them what an ass they were is a “Sorry, dude.”


Banned customer


We recently banned a customer for being a jackass. Fighting will get you banned—I remember having to ban a customer from every bar I’ve ever worked at—La Mere in 1978, O’Banion’s in ’79, NEO in ’81, and the Rainbo in ’87. I also remember banning people in cowboy hats at La Mere.


—As told to Kate Schmidt

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Julia Rosenwinkel, bartender at Huettenbar


Death row drink


I would like to make my own Bloody Mary and drink it in my cell.


Hangover prevention


When I drink I don’t try to prevent anything.


After last call


Fernet, at home.


Hangover cure


Coconut water, a power bar, and a two-hour roller-derby practice.


Customer apology


I’m the one who relays the interesting/funny things they did the day before!


Banned customer


I once had to tell an elderly gentleman that I really enjoyed his daily company, but that if he wanted to come again he would have to shower before each and every visit. He kindly complied.


—As told to Mike Sula

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Commander Bill Nowlin, 80, emcee of karaoke nights at VFW Post 7975


Death row drink


A Julio—a Jose Cuervo with lime, in the summertime, sitting on the seashore, looking at water.


Hangover prevention


Empirin compound. You buy it right at the counter and drink it like any other drink.


After last call


White Palace at Ashland and North. I get the steak and shrimp. I’m usually there at 5:30, 6 AM.


Hair of the dog


The same one that got you there.


Customer apology


How do you leave your purse? How do you leave your pocketbook? I’ve never been that drunk. We have a good record of returning them, though.


Banned customer


We had a band in here a week ago Thursday. One of the members took off all his clothes except his shorts. I told him and the band, “No more.”


—As told to Asher Klein