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Issue 44 - Whiskey works in the windy city

Whisky Magazine Issue 44
November 2004

 

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Whiskey works in the windy city

Chicago has its fair share of whiskey bars. Scott Longmantakes a tour

Let the Italians and the Norwegians fight about who found the place to begin with: it was a bunch of malcontents from Plymouth, England who first settled the United States. And somehow, that early Anglo influence impacted everything downstream, including Chicago's taste in whisky bars 400 years later.

Or at least that's what you'd think to review the best whisky bars in Carl Sandberg's city today.

The Red Lion might as well have been torn off its foundation in, say, Knightsbridge, trundled into a freight plane and dropped out at 2446 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago.

It bristles with more artwork and artefacts than something off Walton Street. There's dark wood panelling, glass-fronted bookcases, mugs on the beams and cubbyholes filled with bottles of wine.

Some of it has a flavour of pleasant affectation: the second floor features RAF recruiting posters, pictures of Churchill and a Duxford Air Museum banner, and the first floor has a full sized, bright red London phone booth, a map of the tube, and a 1647 Thames bankside sketch by Wenceslaus Hollar.

But then, you learn the story of the original owner, and find out he came by it all honestly.

John Cordwell had been a native of London. He got his start in international travel by taking trips to Germany (without stopping) courtesy of the RAF. He pursued that with enough relish that he eventually took a flak round and spent the rest of the war eating German rations, pausing only long enough to take part in The Great Escape.

The...

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