‘We wanted to give people an alternative, a place to wear what you want, drink what you want,” says Benjamin Schiller, lauded cocktail connoisseur and beverage director at the recently opened Berkshire Room. The classic cocktail bar, named for the Berkshire Hotel (which occupied the spot’s current Acme Hotel digs, just off Michigan Avenue, during the 1920s), is the brainchild of Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner of Fifty/50 restaurant group.
The duo joined forces with Schiller and executive chef Chris Curren to create the elegant yet approachable space, where you’ll find quirky craft cocktails alongside more traditional drinks — and some substantial snacks. “There’s not a lot of places in the city where you can get a craft cocktail with a friend who wants something as simple as a Hamm’s,” says Schiller. Here’s what you else you’ll find at The Berkshire Room:
Chef stats: Previously, Schiller was in charge of cocktails for hot spots Boka, GT Fish & Oyster and Girl & the Goat. Curren is currently helming the kitchen at Homestead, and prior to that, he co-owned and cooked for the popular Blue 13 while concurrently serving as executive chef at Elate.
Vibe: If it weren’t for the modern touches, the lounge could have been plucked from the original hotel. White, curved ceilings complement an expansive bar and terrazzo composite flooring, an authentic piece of history uncovered during renovations. Plush banquettes are scattered throughout the intimate space and surrounded by dark wood whiskey crates and overhead copper Edison bulb lighting. “We wanted a chill, come-as-you-are kind of spot focused on great cocktails,” Schiller says.
Must-try drink: Schiller has created a handful of barrel-finished drinks, like the continuous Negroni ($15), a mix of gin, Campari and carpano antica finished in a Pappy Van Winkle barrel. For something a little edgier, take a sip of the weston ($12), a mix of wheated bourbon, Dark Matter coffee essence and pipe tobacco.
Learn something new: The wildly popular dealer’s choice ($13) allows patrons to choose their base spirit, profile flavor and glass type — and the bartenders take it from there. “It’s our opportunity to engage customers and educate them on various types of liquor and glassware,” says Schiller.
Something to nosh on: Although drinks take center stage, Curren’s snacks are no understudy. “The menu complements what’s going on behind the bar,” he says. Try the bison tartare with egg “jam” that oozes onto crisp crostini ($12). The caviar, a favorite of Curren’s, comes with accoutrements like horseradish-potato espuma, buckwheat blinis and Champagne granita.
The playlist: When DJs aren’t spinning on the weekends, expect to hear a mix of Black Sabbath, The Roots, Common and Led Zeppelin. “You know, elevator music,” Schiller jokes.
15 E. Ohio, (312) 894-0800; Theberkshireroom.com