We all know about the infamous wine dinners. You sit down, enjoy a scrumptious meal and sip on one too many glasses of wine. Almost till the point where you forget where you are. Just kidding, it should never get too that point.

But what if I told you, you could substitute the wine for cocktails for an even more delicious experience?

For all you wine lovers, hear me out for a second. I want to make the case for why cocktail pairing dinners are a must-do.  And for your first cocktail pairing experience you need to check out RAISED Bar Chicago.

There are many wines that bring out the flavors of a dish from dry reds to crisp whites.  However, there’s something about the flavor combinations that one can make with cocktails that makes it ideal for many dishes. In fact, I would argue that a cocktail provides you with even more versatility and it was incredibly apparent during the cocktail pairing dinner at RAISED.

The Valentine’s Day Massacre

For Valentine’s Day, RAISED Bar Chicago hosted a Valentine’s Day Massacre inspired dinner. On February 14th, 1929 7 Irish men were murdered on the north side of Chicago during the peak of the Prohibition Era. It was the culimination of a rivalry between the Irish and Al-Capone’s gang in Chicago. While most dinners opted for your typical romantic and rose covered tables for Valentine’s Day, RAISED decided to pay homage to a murderous day in Chicago history. The mood was subdued and dark but the food was anything but. My tastebuds were in for a treat.

Upon entering we received a glass of my favorite cocktail. The refreshing and effervescent French 1975. The champagne and lemon juice was a great cleanser for the palate ahead of our meal. Since there would be an abundance of cocktails, this was a great warm-up.

Course 1 – Divine Scallop

For the first course, we received Scallop Crudo.  This dish comprised of shaved fennel, cucumber-habanero granite, and lime oil. It was accompanied by the 1934 cocktail Bees Knees. This classic cocktail comprised of gin, lemon and honey.  It wasn’t too much of a departure from the French 1975. It perfectly complimented the light seasoning that accompanied the Scallop Crudo.

This dish featured a wondrous medley of flavors. Let’s just say that I think it lasted on my plate for 1 whole minute.

Course 2 – The Perfect Octopus

Next is the Crispy Octopus. The first bite revealed the chef’s immaculate preparation of this dish. Not too crispy and not too soft. The amount of crunch was just right. The octopus lay with roasted beets seasoned with blood orange, caraway and chicory. It was accompanied by the Scofflaw 1924. Cocktails are getting slightly docker and this featured lemon, orange grenadine bitters with the main feature being bourbon.

See how the blood orange and the citrus notes in the cocktail are perfect compliments to one another. That’s a perfect pairing right there.

Course 3 – Gnocchi Oh My!

Oh the Gnocchi! Another dish that was devoured in less than a minute.

This dish comprised of braised rabbit, cognac butter, and parmesan.  The parmesan and butter was blended immaculately. Cheese and butter is a ok in my book and is great for seasoning.

This dish was paired with everyone’s favorite Sidecar 1922. This is a drink that will always have a special place in my heart and I still order it to this day.The lemon, orange liquer and cognac is a perfect combination for the Gnocchi. It still allows you to enjoy the dish without the alcohol completely taking over.

Course 4 – A Little Delicious Lamb

Lamb is easily hit or miss but in this case it was a hit. The Olive Crusted Lamb Loin was prepared to perfection. It featured the crisp kale three ways that is sure to win over even the non kale lover. The lamb featured just the right amount of tenderness and the black garlic jus was the perfect addition.

This tender selection was paired with the 1916 Last Word. This cocktail has gin, green chartreause, maraschino liquer and lime juice. Another standout cocktail. So far I’m learning that citrus based cocktails are ideal for food pairings because they don’t overwhelm the palate. Noted.

Course 5 – Make Room for Cannoli

For the final course we had the most beautiful as well as intricately displayed dessert I had ever seen. In fact, it looked so beautiful I had no idea where to begin. I was also pretty tipsy at this point as well so that may be a factor.

The Cannoli Noodles comprised of pistachio tuille, candied citrus, chocolate chip gelato topped off with a delightful macaron. The citrus, chocolate and pistachio flavor notes surprisingly turned out to be a great pairing. You can tell that the chefs at RAISED know what they are doing when they put something as divine as this together.

It was paired with the 1925 Hanky Panky this was another drink where gin and citrus notes reigned supreme. I would say it was a fitting finale drink.


Cocktails Over Wine

All in all, I have now converted to cocktail pairing dinners over wine. The cocktails definitely enhance the dining experience. In this case, the citrus served as a perfect cleanser for the palate and never distracted from the dish itself. Sometimes we can drink something that completely alters the dish but that was not the case.

So what do you say, cocktail pairings over wine? If so, check out one of the many fabulous chef’s table experiences at RAISED Bar Chicago.