At The Aviary, Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas' cocktail venture in Chicago, the experience, from sense of place to taste, is achieved with playfulness, authenticity, and even restraint — creating one of America's most interesting cocktail pilgrimages.
The Ginger has to be considered one of the best cocktails at The Aviary. It consists of Peychaud's, shiso, lime, vodka, and a light, quasi-powdery "ice" that's more like snow, the lightest snow you can imagine. And are those tracing-paper thin slices of hot pepper? You're instructed to pour in the vodka, then mix the drink using the lemongrass swizzle stick.
The texture approximately puts the Ginger in a genre of ice slushie that also includes the Commonwealth Narwhal in San Francisco, and the amazing liquid nitrogen caipirinha at The Bazaar in L.A. But it's in a class of its own. It's the best cocktail I've ever had. Besides its flavor and texture, there are fingerling lime vesicles that burst in your mouth while you're drinking and then even after you've finished the drink. During a seven-flight cocktail tasting, this effect of flavor lingering seemed to occur several times — amazing. And for these reasons this dish made my list of most memorable meals of 2011.