When Ardit Dizdari got his hands on a copy of “The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book 1935,” he was inspired to create what’s now a weekend jazz destination in Chicago, Speakeasy Fridays at Southport & Irving.
The bar and most of the decor at Southport & Irving (also called SIP) is vintage Art Deco, complementing the Prohibition-era cocktail menu created by Dizdari, SIP’s General Manger and Beverage Director. And, since it’s Chicago, live jazz is de rigeur.
Dizdari’s discerning ingredients frequently include The Perfect Purée Raspberry, which he turns into a rich raspberry syrup by dissolving sugar in water and mixing it with the puree. He says raspberry syrup replaced grenadine in a lot of cocktails from the turn of the 20th century, like the Clover Club and Whiskey Daisy featured at Speakeasy Fridays.
According to SIP’s Web site, the Waldorf Astoria book is a bar guide of pre-Prohibition cocktails popularized post-Prohibition at the iconic New York City hotel. Dizdari stays true to the original recipes but updates them with superior ingredients and handcrafted spirits from the 21st century. Seasonality drives his evolving cocktail menu.
“I’m very selective about the liquors and juice used in the cocktails,” he says. “I love classic cocktails, and do like to use them as an inspiration to make something very different out of them.”
Reviews of Southport & Irving regularly describe outstanding food and stellar service with a chill vibe. The restaurant features globally-inspired American cuisine with craft beers, international wines and a long list of handcrafted cocktails, which garner high marks for being generous and creative.
Before arriving at SIP in 2014, Dizdari, 29, spent eight years at Cafe 28, a Chicago institution that’s since closed. He says he’d heard about The Perfect Purée at other restaurants and was happy to find them at SIP, where he plans to expand usage.
“Come spring I’ll be using more fruit components in my cocktail list,” he said.