A Step Above
In all of our bar slutting about town, we’ve realized that what this city lacks is a bit of bartender flair. We’re not talking about oh-so-’80s bottle flippage, like Tom Cruise in Cocktail. But some cool hippy-hippy-shake action — like a stacking of the glasses or the multiple pour — would be appreciated every once in a while. Call us cheap or say we’re trying to drink on a journalist’s salary, but when we pay more than $6 for a cocktail, we would like some sort of Flaming Moe show.
Which is why we were so intrigued by Pierpont’s Library Ladder. At Pierpont’s, the très chichi restaurant at Union Station, we found ourselves surrounded by suitcase-toting business guys (mmm … suits) who looked as though they were set to board a train at the just-opened Amtrak station. This gave us hope that Union Station might someday bustle again. Then there were slightly older ladies, with big hair and short skirts, whose general mien was lurid. Still, the most beautiful thing at Pierpont’s is Pierpont’s itself. The place is filled with many lovely art deco touches, and the most impressive feature is behind the bar: eight tall shelves of softly backlit bottles and the huge ladder bartenders ascend to reach all that liquory goodness. The concoction named in honor of this tool, the Library Ladder, can be ordered as a shot or on the rocks. It has the most cryptic description on the menu: “Watch the bartender climb the ladder to prepare this drink.” No hint what it’s made of — nothing! It could have been Prairie Fire-esque, but hey, if it involved possible circus acrobatics with shots and ladders, we wanted it.
“We don’t slide,” said the harried bartender, his Santa hat askew.
He waved a hand at the other bartender on duty. “Neither of us slides down the ladder. That’s the gimmick.”
Undeterred, we ordered the Library Ladder anyway. And we weren’t disappointed, despite the nonslideage. Made from Grand Marnier, Bailey’s and Licor 43 — a Spanish vanilla liquor — one bartender had described it to us as “Dreamcicle-y.” We thought it tasted more like a York Chocolate Orange in liquid form. The creamy Bailey’s and the vanilla were its overriding flavors, and the faint hint of orange in the Grand Marnier was subtle, reminiscent of the orange oil used in the candy. It was smooth and velvety.
Hoping to find a bartender who did slide, we returned for a second visit and were duly rewarded. Our guy scampered up the ladder to the top shelf, mixed the drink in a shaker and then, after safely tucking it in his apron pocket, pulled a ninjalike move in which, still facing the back shelves, he hooked his feet around the sides of the ladder, squeezed his knees and let go. It was Crouching Tiger-rific, Hidden Dragon-licious.