Local Jewish bar and business owners bring happy hour home

Drinking has taken on a new dimension during the pandemic.

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Temperance Beer Co., in Evanston, offers both a socially-distanced beer garden and a drive-through option.

For many bars and restaurants across the Chicago area, the pandemic meant an unexpected closing time. However, Pam Spritz and her family-- owners of Spritzology, a bar and liquid catering service in Chicago-- took it as a time to break out, literally.

"I took the bars off the windows of my restaurant that have been on there for 20 years, and now we have a to-go window on Tuesdays and Wednesdays," Spritz said. She and her four adult children who help run Spritzology and the family's catering company, Jordan's Foods of Distinction, transformed the unassuming facade of their kitchen space in Wicker Park into a high-end snack bar, complete with elegant lighting, flowers, and music.

Jordan's Foods of Distinction has been in business for two decades, while little sister company Spritzology was a more recent offshoot. "Spritz is our last name, and it just made sense for us to have this company. We call it the intelligent bar because we use all local products that are less expensive and better quality" said Jamie Grumet, Spritz's daughter.

The pandemic, which shut down most large-scale gatherings and events, gave Spritzology a unique opportunity to pivot. "This was our chance to break out and bring our cocktails to people who couldn't go out," Pam said. Now, their online menu of custom, chef-inspired cocktails changes every three weeks and can be purchased through the website or at the to-go window.

With alcohol consumption up by 14 percent since last year, according to a recent report in the JAMA Network Open , local Jews in the bar and liquor industries, like the Spritz family, are finding new ways to reach their customers.

Josh Gilbert, owner of Temperance Beer Co. in Evanston, also retooled his business plan to continue serving during the pandemic.

"We have had to be nimble and be creative on very short notice," Gilbert said. Immediately after Temperance shut its taproom doors on March 13 due to government orders, they started offering drive-thru service to customers.

Gilbert, an Evanston native, said his company has continued to expand COVID-safe options to remain afloat. "We have a big private lot that we share with other businesses where we created a socially distant tailgate," he said. The brewery also offers beer garden reservations, and, for those who are thirsty for a beer but can't make it to Temperance, they just launched local delivery service. 

Shoppers can also find Temperance at Chicago-area grocery and liquor stores, including Whole Foods, Mariano's, and Binny's. These same retailers carry Vitani, a line of premium, bottled martini beverages, created by Northbrook native Jackie Gichner and her husband, Eric.

Gichner explained the inspiration for her product, "I love dirty martinis, and I said one night with friends, it would be so great to open up a dirty martini the way you can open up a beer."

Vitani, named for the Gichners' three children, David, Taylor, and Dani, brings the quality and strength of a bartender-prepared martini home in a convenient bottle. "People want what they've always had," Gichner said. "They want to be able to go out, and they want to be able to drink; so now, we can bring that home to them."

Offering another solution for isolated drinkers craving a specialty cocktail, North Shore mixologist Cheryl Rich Heisler now brings her signature sips into home kitchens and bars through virtual events. Think of it like an online cooking class but for custom cocktails.

"Zoom mixology demos have become a new way to get people in, to make it fun, to make it light, and to bring community back," Heisler said. Her company, Mixed MetaPours, helps clients--ranging from bridal parties to local synagogues to large corporations--bring guests together to socialize and sip on personalized preparations.

Simchas aren't canceled, and as Heisler points out, "Jews are always celebrating life." So, why not do it with a delicious drink? The options abound, even during a pandemic.


"Midwest Manhattan"

2.5 oz. KOVAL Four Grain

.5 oz. Apologue Persimmon Liqueur

1-2 Dashes Bitters (plum or orange)

Build in iced, rocks glass. Mix well.

Garnish with Morello or Luxardo Cherry.

© Mixed metaPours: signature cocktails by design 312-613-7499 www.mixedmetapours.com

Leslie Hill Hirschfeld is a freelance writer living in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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