The new Chicago Style conference is focused on inclusivity and community, but one event during the symposium promising to present these elements alongside a competitive edge. The hugely popular (and equally raucous) Bar Fight will be returning from hiatus during the May event.
“Bar Fight is really just a celebration of the bar scene in our country at any given time—not just who’s creating great cocktails but who’s upping their game as far as hospitality,” explained Chicago Style cofounder Sharon Bronstein. “Healthy competition is always welcome and its part of the Bar Fight spirit.”
The premise is simple. Six bars are each given equally sized footprints within the event space. They are then tasked with creating a pop-up worthy of the hospitality of their home bar—including decor, menu, and sometimes entertainment or food—in said space. The only real rule is there menus must include a couple drinks based on sponsor spirits Ford’s Gin and Del Maguey Mezcal.
The goal of the historically rowdy event is to take home the Judge’s or the People’s Prize (and a trip to the Ford’s distillery in England.) And, sometimes, that requires some good-natured trash talk along the way.
Chicago Style’s socially conscious spirit extended to the selection process. “Because Bar Fight hadn’t happened in a few years and in the spirit of inclusion, we put out an open call for participants,” said Bronstein. “We looked not just for quality programs but sustainability, inclusion, and actively engaging in their communities.”
Don’t fret, these programs all offer some top notch drinks. Headlining the bill is the much ballyhooed barmini from culinary icon José Andrés. barmini is renowned for their unique sense of innovation, fusing classic cocktails with molecular gastronomy and post-modern presentation. Andrés is also no slouch on the activism front; his work to help storm ravaged Puerto Ricans (and numerous other persons in need) earned him accolades from Time and the 2018 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award.
Minneapolis’ Spoon and Stable restaurant will also bring Beard winning pedigree to the fight. “Their team is comprised of people from all walks of life. Very little turnover [attesting to staff satisfaction,]” Bronstein told NP. “Their community engagement is really something; it’s above and beyond their award winning program. They even donate their food waste to a program that feeds pigs and makes compost for plants.”
Of course, if you’re talking about progressive thought, the Bay Area is on the vanguard. Oakland’s Starline Social Club will also their hats in the ring Their bar is a veritable model of activism respected for their role in the community and numerous charitable events including food drives and collecting books for prisoners.
Navy Strength will bring some serious tiki bonafides to the table. “They’re also a great example of a bar that is actively trying to incorporate sustainability into their bar program,” added Bronstein. “When they filled out their application they talked about pineapples and how they can get so many uses out of them: juice, using the fronds for garnish, making a Tepache out of the skins.”
As implied by the name, Denver’s RiNO Yacht Club will only add to the night’s progressive vibe. “The bar itself is a space where all are welcome,” Bronstein noted. “They’ve taken the notion of a club and turned it on its head. Instead of being exclusive, it’s inclusive.”
Finally, The Drifter will repping the event’s hometown of Chicago. Woman owned and woman managed, the destination has made a name for itself through a rotating drink menu printed on 100 plus tarot cards.
The six competitors will gather at Chicago’s Fulton Market Kitchen On May 7. From 10 p.m.until 2 a.m., a $20 ticket will give you the opportunity to experience all of the bar programs in one spot. Tickets are available on Chicago Style’s website and (of course) all proceeds go to charity, specifically the James Beard Foundation’s Women Leadership Program and Chicago Period Project.
Photo by Jennifer Mitchell Photography.