Ahead of its June opening, the rooftop oasis showcases a debut menu featuring fine spirits, luxe ingredients and imaginative presentation
Z Bar presents cocktail and cuisine enthusiasts with an incomparably chic experience rich in flavor, texture, adventure and international flair. From rare spirits used in uncommon ways, to small-batch bitters unavailable elsewhere in the nation, Z Bar is a veritable goldmine of ingredients of exceptional quality and craftsmanship.
THE COCKTAILS: Designed by Vlad Novikov, Z Bar’s Director of Cocktails & Culture, some cocktails riff on the classics while others enter bold new territory, drawing on Novikov’s travels abroad and his study of chemistry. Examples include the Manhattan Royale, sure to be a conversation-starter, which stars rare Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Bourbon or Whistle Pig 15-year-old Rye — at the guest’s choice. Garnished tableside with truffle or saffron bitters, the drink is served in handmade crystal over ice laced with 24-karat gold. The Old-Fashioned showcases small-batch American Bourbon at its best. The classic cocktail is softened by unrefined cane syrup and barrel-aged tobacco bitters from Bitter Queens, an artisanal San Francisco producer. Z Bar has purchased the entire supply of barrel-aged bitters from Bitter Queens and is the only destination in the United States to use them.
Carbonated, bottled CoZmos (or Cosmopolitans) can be ordered five at a time in a Champagne bucket. The floral- and berry-forward Sunday Spritz, featuring a magnolia aperitif wine, as well as Disco Fever, an Absolut Elyx-based drink, come in large format — the latter in a rotating disco ball. It’s a drinkable showpiece tailor-made for getting your groove on.
The Paralia, a breezy drink that combines the ancient Greek spirit mastiha with lemon verbena, peach and tsipouro, another Greek liquor, was inspired by Novikov’s memories of Greece. Garnishes enhance the elements of surprise and delight in these lush libations. For example, Australian finger lime (aka citrus caviar) provides a unique accent to a classic cocktail, while “ants-on-a-log” are made with creme fraiche and caviar.
Tableside preparations at Z Bar deepen the connection between guests and the team. On Saturdays and Sundays, mojitos and caipirinhas are made to order from a cart holding a selection of fresh fruits and herbs such as pineapple mint, basil and hyssop.
“We want to introduce our bar patrons to tastes and fresh produce they may not be familiar with,” says Novikov. “Every ingredient we use is of exceptional quality. Whether cocktails or cuisine, our experience is designed to dazzle.”
THE WINE AND BEER: Z Bar’s wine and beer menu, curated by Bar Director Benjamin Robertson, highlights fine varietals from around the world and encourages the discovery of under-the-radar wines; such as Piquentum Rouge from the Teran grape, native to Croatia. The extensive list of wines by-the-glass are chosen for their ability to pair seamlessly with the food. Champagnes by the glass represent the most distinguished houses and come with interesting stories. Lanson, for instance, has long been a favorite of the British Royal Family, and is the only Champagne served at Wimbledon. The vintage reserve Champagne list is a collection of exclusive finds that are extremely limited in production.
Similarly, the beer menu provides a global tour of best-in-class offerings from Japan, England, Germany, France and beyond. Through a special relationship with Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company, Z Bar offers many of the brewery’s limited-production and reserve beers on draft.
THE CUISINE: To complement the range of beverages, Executive Chef Toni Robertson has designed a playful and inventive menu of small plates and shared platters, refining beloved bar snacks into an assortment of bold-flavored creations that she describes as “borderless.”
Robertson’s Burmese background shines in a dish dubbed High Tea: coconut chicken broth poured tableside from a teapot over lime- and cilantro-flecked egg noodles with pickled mustard. Sarawak Satays, presented warm on a tabletop grill, incorporate the Malaysian Sarawak peppercorn and the Southeast Asian flavors of lemongrass, ginger and galangal.
Marrow Poppers are Robertson’s take on tater tots, and hide a decadent filling of bone marrow and Bordelaise. Sprinkled with malt vinegar and Hawaiian pink salt, Beef Cracklings, made with beef tendon are similar to beer-friendly pork rinds, while Daikon Frites dressed with Chinese lap cheong, garlic chives and a spiced tomato jam dial up the umami levels. The Mozzarella Tasting is visually striking, and features a twisted mound of hand-pulled mozzarella di bufala from Campagna arranged on a platter with barrel-aged balsamic vinegar, heirloom Toy Box tomatoes and other accoutrements. Many dishes on Robertson’s menu also feature a suggested spirit pairing.
On the sweet side, the Zaa dessert pays homage to Chicago as a pizza mecca. The warm crust of chocolate brioche is topped with Nutella, hazelnuts, coconut and a chocolate Z-shaped garnish.
The rooftop oasis that boasts iconic views of Michigan Avenue opens in June at The Peninsula Chicago.