Can we officially declare Rodrick Markus' tenure as the best-kept secret on the Chicago culinary scene over? For at least half a dozen years as the owner of Rare Tea Cellars, he's been the guy behind the guy, the supplier of exotic secret flavors to chefs all around the area; you'll find fans in half the kitchens in town who swear by the Kentucky-made soy sauce or the pu-erh teas that he sources. But his media profile has taken a big swing up between print pieces and the recent Chicago episode of Bizarre Foods, and the next step is going into business with one of his clients, pioneering mixologist Adam Seger of Hum fame. As Lauren Viera reports at the Trib, Seger turned to Markus for new botanical flavors starting nearly a decade ago, and they've now decided to start their own line of bitters, Rare Botanical Bitters Co., with very expensive and unusual accoutrements for the trendy bartender including truffle-based bitters, Tonga Island Vanilla Extract, and:
a kind of deconstructed vermouth dubbed Balsam: a botanical infusion of typical vermouth ingredients (herbs, spices, extracts) minus the wine — a formula that will naturally give the product a long shelf life.