Think You Know The Best of The Cultural Mile? | A Cocktail With A Story To Tell

27 October 2017

1000M’s unrivaled amenities package has a host of options for celebrating your favorite beverages, including a Wine Tasting Room with private wine storage, and Club 1000 with its full-service bar. But when the 1000M’s neighborhood’s collection of bars, pubs and tasting rooms calls on your inner cocktail nerd, you might find yourself drawn to the Milk Room at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (CAA).

Pete Smiler, the Director of Outlets at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, describes Milk Room as a singular experience guided by incredibly knowledgeable bartenders. “My personal favorite part of Milk Room, beyond the space, beyond the selection, is the one-on-one time with a knowledgeable bartender.”

The Chicago Athletic Association's Milk Room
The bartender experience at the Milk Room with Paul McGee.

Milk Room, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel’s ultra-intimate bar, isn’t a run-of-the-mill craft cocktail experience. It has a touch of performance art and a commitment to history rare in the ubiquitous craft cocktail scene. Once a Speakeasy during prohibition, members of the Chicago Athletic Association would discreetly drink booze in a glass of milk at Milk Room, away from prying eyes of the prohis. Today, Milk Room is a quick-service coffee and pastry café during the day and, at night, a sanctuary for cocktail lovers or anyone craving a liquor experience unlike any other in Chicago.

Entry is not by reservation, but by buying a ticket online that requires a $50 deposit, which is later applied to your bill. The eight-seat space does reserve two seats for walk-ins.

Drinks at the Milk Room in the CAA.
A specialty cocktail at the Milk Room in the CAA.

“Milk Room creates a sense of exclusivity by limiting access only to guests who are drinking and dining with us,” Smiler explains. “There won’t be anyone ‘popping in’ or giving historical tours while you’re enjoying you experience with us. This temporary escape from the hundreds of people in (CAA’s) other restaurants gives you the feeling that you’ve found something that no one else knows about.”

Milk Room elevates a night at the bar to a tasting session of rare and historic spirits and liqueurs. Single drinks range from $26 to $100. A Dollarita at Applebee’s’ they are not. Some of the liquors date back to pre-1900 when the distilling techniques were unique from the modern day, translating into a truly singular taste.

Rare and historic spirits and liqueurs at the Milk Room.
Rare and historic spirits and liqueurs at the Milk Room.

The rarity of the spirits is coupled with breathtakingly-broad bartender knowledge. Smiler believes the intimate seating lends itself to conversation and education. The personalized interaction between guests and the bartender “adds integrity to the cocktail… you’ll enjoy it better knowing why we do what we do.”

Not a cocktail connoisseur? A little overwhelmed by the intricate menu? Not a problem. Smiler suggests visitors less familiar with the world of spirits simply put their menu down. “Ask (the bartender) what they’re nuts about, or tell them what you normally drink. They’ll ask you the easy questions from there and narrow down a cocktail crafted especially for you.”

With a versatile and exciting neighborhood to explore, Milk Room at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is just one of many unexpected thrills near 1000M.

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Milk Room // 12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 // Chicago Athletic Association Hotel //

Photography by Clayton Hauck, courtesy of the Milk Room.