Attention cocktail nerds: Common Good opening in downtown Glen Ellyn
If you're a cocktail nerd, then you're eagerly awaiting the Friday opening of Common Good in downtown Glen Ellyn.
If you're new to craft cocktails and had no idea a centrifuge is actually a bartender's coolest toy, you might think the sophisticated and inventive drinks are a little intimidating.
But the owners of the new cocktail house across from the Metra station want you to check all those kinds of assumptions at the door.
"When someone comes in and is like 'I don't know anything about cocktails,' that to me is a very sacred thing," said Mike Melazzo, one of the owners. "It's like you're giving a lot of trust in us and me and the work that we do."
So don't worry if you're not a mezcal expert. The process of ordering drinks at Common Good has everything to do with engaging with the bartenders and nothing to do with trying to impress them.
"We're going to try to craft the design of every cocktail as beautifully as we possibly can, and we really do want people, like our mission statement says, to have the best cocktails that they've ever tasted," says Chad Hauge, another owner with his wife, Alicia, the director of operations. "But it's more important that all of that craft is in service of a community, and that's the community of our employees. That's the community here of the people who we serve."
In advance of the bar's opening, we asked Melazzo and Hauge to tell us about the community they're trying to create, their favorite drinks of the moment and their backgrounds in some of Chicago's most revered drinking establishments.
Melazzo and Hauge are the former beverage directors of Chicago's Mott St. and Longman & Eagle, respectively. Alicia Hauge previously was director of catering and public relations at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits. They all live in the city's Logan Square neighborhood, but they have suburban connections: Melazzo is a Wheaton Academy grad, and Hauge graduated from Wheaton College. He's also an actor in Wheaton's Shakespeare in the Park productions.
Melazzo's favorite menu item -- the Seersucker Samurai -- is perfect for fall, made with White Oak Akashi Japanese whiskey, burdock root, muddled tarragon and Lot No. 40 Canadian whiskey.
"It's kind of like a savory julep. It's a julep that's not super sweet. It's got the savory, herbaceous qualities to it, served on crushed ice."
Hauge says the house Sazerac is the best he's ever tasted -- and he used to run a whiskey bar known for its whiskey cocktails.
"We're using a 25-year-old Armagnac in it, an Armagnac that has been noted in the Wine and Spirits Journal as being one of the top 10 spirits ever made," he said.
And despite such a distinguished ingredient, Common Good is charging a relatively reasonable $12 for its Sazerac.
A 17-foot bench custom-made by a Chicago upholsterer provides communal seating with a view of the bar and a wall mosaic hand-tiled by Hauge in a former fly-fishing shop at 560 Crescent Blvd.
"We think there is a little bit of a sexy vibe in here, but it's not so dimly lit, and it's not so focused on the drink itself that it becomes precious," he said. "I'd like to think this bar's design is in service of the craft for the community."
The owners each gave examples of the kind of community they fostered in Chicago.
Hauge: "At Longman, one of my favorite things is I get to know not just the entire neighborhood of Logan Square, but I'd see two people belonging in communities that would never overlap in normal circumstances. They get to know each and become friends, and I love the idea of cultivating and curating an atmosphere where that can happen."
Melazzo: "The moments I remember most from being behind the bar aren't when someone's like, 'Oh I love this cocktail' or talking about the drink. That's fine. We've had moments at Mott where people come, they meet at the bar, and then I've had people come in a few months later, 'We're getting engaged now. We met here.'"
To understand the hospitality behind the bar, Melazzo compares the role of the bartender to that of an old-school tailor.
"They're not going to pick something off a rack," he said. "They're making something just for you, and while our seasonal cocktail menu I think is where I would point most people to at first, I think the exciting part of a bar like this is the ability to improvise and introduce other things."
To improvise, bartenders can ask a series of questions: What's your mood? Do you want to be refreshed or satisfied? Do you want a spirit-forward cocktail or something light and easily drinkable? What flavors are you craving? Spicy? Smoky? Sour? Herbal?
"It's just engagement with the bartender in the same way that we want to be engaged with when we're sitting down at the bar," Hauge said.