It’s no surprise that Alexander Bachman, the mastermind behind the libations at Chicago’s Billy Sunday, cites Japan as a main inspiration for his effortlessly executed cocktails that fuse tradition with artisanship. A cross between a turn-of-the-century sitting room and a secret speakeasy, the cozy joint in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood has been racking up national acclaim thanks to his creative spins on well-loved drink standards (not to mention homemade bitters and tonics).
We chatted with Bachman about redefining the classics, balancing taste, and why scotch and soda don’t always mix.
How would you describe your bartending style, and how have you honed that at Billy Sunday?
We draw our style from a plethora of influences. As far as our actual technique, we utilize fluid and direct motions that are very Japanese in origin. Our service style is one founded in open dialogue, humility, and respect with our guests and purveyors. At the end on the day, we are open to using any base spirits/products as long as it meets its end goal of being rich in flavor and can be balanced and enforced with other ingredients.
What is your definition of a perfect cocktail?
A perfect cocktail has to achieve two things. The first is balance, not just in the sense of sweetness and sugar but balanced bitterness, concentration, alcoholic content, and temperature. The second is respect for its base spirit and expanding on that flavor profile while maintaining its true character.
What is your favorite item on the menu?
We love them all, but the Bijou is probably at the top. Stirred agricole-rum drinks are still pretty foreign to people, but this one is delightful and abides by the classic build of a Bijou with the addition of bitters and Centerbe instead of Chartreuse.
What is the strangest drink request you’ve received?
Have had a lot of strange requests over the years, but off the top of my head: someone once requested scotch and grape soda from me, though it was years ago.
Billy Sunday’s Bijou
Traditionally made with three parts gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part green Chartreuse, Bachman’s take on the classic Bijou (French for “gin”) skips the gin for Neisson agricole rum, uses Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, swaps the Chartreuse for Centerbe, and adds a dash of Angelica Bitters.