It took an Irish bar team to help Chicago mixologists rediscover their own city.
Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry—the gents behind the Dead Rabbit in New York City, who now run the Best Bar in the World, in Belfast, Ireland—teamed up with Danny Meyer of the Union Square Hospitality Group to open GreenRiver in September of this year.
The bar celebrates the city’s Irish heritage, but part of Muldoon and McGarry’s mission was to change the public’s perception surrounding Irish bars.
“Our raison d’êtreis based on challenging the misconception that surrounds the Irish pub,” notes Julia Momose, GreenRiver’s lead bartender, formerly of The Aviary. She adds,“the Irish experience has often been pigeonholed as a sports bar with an accent.” She envisions GreenRiver to be a bar with “an Irish soul,” but with a modern approach to drinks.
Muldoon and McGarry wanted to use an Irish narrative to guide the cocktail program and weave Chicago’s unique history into GreenRiver’s libations. “We looked at the time frame from the 1870s to the 1930s, [when] the Irish community was incredibly influential and really helped to shape Chicago into the great city it is today,” noted Momose.
The MacSwiney, from GreenRiver’s grape and apple menu section and the Peace Frog, from the sugarcane and molasses section.
An Unusual Menu
At GreenRiver, the cocktail menu is organized not by spirit but by key ingredient: corn, rye, barley, sugarcane and molasses, agave, wheat and oat, grape and apple and juniper. The menu ascribes a personality type to each key ingredient, describing barley’s personalities, for example, as “ wily and wise, unpredictable; sometimes reckless.”
“Taking the raw material as a flavor element contributed greatly to the development of the cocktails,” explains Momose.
Many of the drinks on the menu are named for some of Chicago’s most celebrated Irish-American historical figures, from entrepreneurs and journalists to politicians and publicans, who together tell a story of the influence Irish-Americans had in shaping the city.
And though there is beer on the menu (in addition to an exciting list of highballs, inspired by Momose’s native Kyoto), it’s hardly the Irish standards you’d find at your typical pub.
GreenRiver celebrates Chicago’s heritage, but in an entirely fresh way.
GreenRiver 259 East Erie, 18th floor Chicago, IL 60611 312.337.0101
This is not an Irish Pub. It should be dark, have snugs, and smell of good Irish Whiskey. I am sure this bar is none of those things. Why change something that has worked for many years. Do they have traditional music? What about the craic? Leave well enough alone!
This bar looks so nice, however, cramped. I don't care how tiny one is, there is no elbow room especially concerning the seats with the half wall on one side. There are no tables that seat more than two according to the photo.
The barstools have wooden seats and will become uncomfortable after awhile. They are not conducive to keeping the patrons in the bar.
I give this design a big "fail" as this is not a comfortable place to meet with friends or hangout for more than one drink.