Chicago—the Windy City—has had a stellar reputation for producing some of the best restaurants and bars our great country has to offer. It has also produced extraordinary bartenders, mixologists and innovative cocktail programs that keep raising the standards for the industry. The Loews Hotel in Chicago is no stranger to this movement and has embraced it through out-of-the-box cocktail programming and initiatives to match the growing desire for tantalizing cocktail experiences. Most recently, the Loews brand started a pop-up experience now better known as the Traveller Bar.
To learn more about the mysterious traveling bar, Swig Contributor Kristen Oliveri sat down with Lauren Parton, the beverage program director for the property, to hear more about the concept and how it all began with the Loews Chicago.
Q: What is your background in the beverage space?
A: My roots are grounded in my culinary background as a chef, which is evident in my approach to cocktails that fuse both the food and beverage worlds to create innovative drinkable and edible cocktails. As a beverage consultant and trainer, I develop drink programs for restaurants and bars. Notably, I created the award-winning cocktail program for the W Hotels in Downtown Chicago. I currently head up the beverage program at Loews Hotel Chicago where I’m having a great time with our Traveller Bar concept.
Q: What exactly is the Traveller Bar?
A: It is the first ever “pop-up” traveling bar of its kind featuring only four bar seats to create an intimate ambiance, the Loews Hotels’ Traveller Bar makes the rounds – and serves them, too – at the 24 individual Loews destinations across the country. The cross-country tour has kicked off and is open for guests at Loews Chicago and LoewsChicago O’Hare through June 18, before making its way to Loews’ addresses along the West Coast.
Q: This bar structure is really cool and eclectic. What type of materials was it made out of? How did it arrive here in Chicago?
A: Well, it’s actually constructed from an old elevator car and its metal-framed structure is re-assembled onsite at each of our Loews properties. The contemporary concept features a zinc-topped bar, four bar stools, and a back metal mesh wall lined with shelves of bottles and an impressive library of nearly 50 vintage cocktail books, including the oldest cocktail recipe book ever written available for guests to explore on iPads.
Q: What’s the concept for the cocktail menu?
A: Well, it’s really a toast to the contemporary “Golden Age of Cocktails.” We offer a menu of 32 classic cocktails traditionally prepared using premier products from leading beverage brands, including: Goose Island Gillian, Goose Island Madame Rose, and Stella Cidre ales; Pilzner Urquell and seasonal Leinenkugel beers; Roco Patrón tequilas; Old Overholt rye whiskey, Basil Hayden’s bourbon whiskey, and various “mixed cocktail barrels;” and Cointreau, The Botanist Gin, and Mount Gay Rum.
Q: What’s your favorite cocktail on the list or one of the ones you prefer?
A: I really love the Picador, where we get today’s margarita from. I also really enjoy our Fedora and Sombrero where we use barrel-aged spirits for our cocktails.