The Office, the exclusive and clubby bar underneath The Aviary, has proven not to be impossible to get into... provided that you've already gotten into Next or Aviary, which is not a small matter in itself. Still, it's exclusivity wrapped in exclusivity, so your best bet for seeing what goes on in there remains the rare occasions that it opens up to someone with a camera, and that's exactly what happens in this week's Key Ingredient at the Chicago Reader. (The guy with the camera was, as you may know, ourselves, along with writer Julia Thiel.) Iliana Regan of One Sister challenged Craig Schoettler of The Aviary with the ingredient bamboo fungus, which comes of seriously stinky provenance but is used in Chinese food. Schoettler did two things with it— steep it in a simple syrup and in grain alcohol to make a tincture— and then with Office bartender Jason Cevallos, tried 30 different possible mixtures (they don't goof around in Achatzland) before coming up with one full of earthy, robust flavors which mushroom liquor would work with.
It's interesting hearing everything Schoettler has to say about how you devise a cocktail that works with an ingredient like that, but more than that, it gives you a good idea of what it would be like hanging out with him in this dark and shadowy lair as he made you a cocktail... which apparently had no budgetary restrictions as one exotic thing after another goes into it. The recipe, if you feel like whipping up one of your own, is included in Thiel's article; the video is included below. [Reader]