Travel Through Time at The Milk Room, a Brooding Cocktail Environment

This is a guest blog post by cocktail connoisseur and dear friend, Arvin Dang of Logan Square.  While I enjoy cocktails, Arvin’s knowledge of cocktail quality surpasses the typical cocktail drinker.  Take a break and transport yourself to his magical night at The Milk Room.  

Neighborhood: The Loop

Affordability: ★★ 

Ambience: ★★★★1/2

Service: ★★★★★

Food Quality: ★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★1/2

Ol Pal, Photo: Arvin Dang

I’m an expensive date, and for those like me, interested in refined cocktails, with a personal experience between you, your date, and your bartender— I invite you to check out The Milk Room.

Situated between The Game Room and the lobby at the Chicago Athletic Association, The Milk Room is an 8-seater, with spirits dating back to actual speakeasy times. Think of Milk Room as you would a tasting menu through time, and with cocktails curated for you. Milk Room, like many culinary experiences in Chicago is a ticketed event through Tock. Tock, if you’re unfamiliar is a reservation system created by Aviary, Alinea and Next owner Nick Kokanas. Tickets purchased through Tock are applied to your final bill.

We waited patiently in the lobby, enjoying a glass of water before being ushered into the Milk Room for our 7:30pm reservation. We’d purchased a ticketed reservation for two of us, $50 per person. It’s date night, and we had a birthday to celebrate— so we assumed more than two cocktails a person were to come. Expect cocktails to be at minimum $20, with a higher average close to $40 per drink.

Turf Club Martini and Black Cat, Photo: Arvin Dang

Overall experience

Sitting in the corner between the bar and lofty-brick wall, your eyes adjust to a plethora of bottles that are familiar, but dated. Speaking with Steve, our friendly bartender, we explained our typical flavor profiles: herbaceous, bitter, smokey— but not all at once.

He was able to pick out familiar cocktails, and adjust them to match his collection of spirits, and to our tastes.

Ol Pal, Photo: Arvin Dang

The snacks are light, think charcuterie light. We shared a cheese plate (yummy) with a variety of four to taste, fresh bread and house made butter (also yummy)— they pair well with your cocktails, without overpowering them, help mellow a sharp buzz, but not enough to sustain you for a whole meal. The drinks come out frosted, clean, in beautiful glasses— all asking to be sipped slowly, as they’re as strong as they are expensive.

Menu, Photo: Arvin Dang

Like Aviary, and other specialty cocktail spots, plan to come prepared to spend at Milk Room.  In need of a special occasion, I would recommend adding Milk Room following a delicious meal, where you can relax in its brooding environment. And if you’re still up for adventure after, you can swing by the Game Room, or stop downstairs for a milkshake at Shake Shack.

Apéritif, an opener to stimulate your experience

Steven started us with a surprise, welcoming cocktail. Straight up, in beautifully curved shooters, each sip was bitter like a digestif, with a sweet note at the end.

First Course

Ol Pal and Rusty Nail, Photo: Arvin Dang

Steve perused his library of spirits, and returned with two ideas for us, an Ol Pal and Rusty Nail.

Traditional Ol Pal:
  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Campari
  • Garnish: lemon twist
Traditional Rusty Nail:
  • 2 ounces blended Scotch, such as Famous Grouse
  • 1/2 ounce Drambuie
  • 1 dash of Angostura bitters (optional)

Steve’s twist on both were excellent recommendations. With the Rusty Nail, he swapped Drambuie with a bottle from the 1960’s.

Second Course

Turf Club Martini and Black Cat, Photo: Arvin Dang

Mixing up our tastes, from bitter and herbaceous— to smokey and bitter, Steve recommended a Turf Club Martini and a Black Cat.

Traditional Turf Club Martini:
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce maraschino
  • 1 dash absinthe
  • 1 dash orange bitters
Traditional Black Cat:
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz kirschwasser (or other cherry brandy)
  • 2 oz cola
  • 2 oz cranberry juice

The Black Cat was very different than described above. Steve swapped vodka with an herbaceous gin, swapped brandy choices, used amaro in place of cola, and didn’t add any cranberry.

Cheers!

Ol Pal, Photo: Arvin Dang

All told, four cocktails, and an aperitif in— we had a delicious buzz, and decided to follow our prix fixe with a heartier meal. Milk Room feels hidden, casual, and it’s a great environment for a special occasion, fancy date night, or celebration. If you’re a fan of the CAA, it’s aesthetic, Milk Room is worth booking.

Blog Post Written by Arvin Dang

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