Monday, February 25, 2013


Recently, Luxe File Chicago hit Drumbar, one of the city’s most intoxicating rooftop bars, to check out the new, sexy beverage menu. Comfortably ensconced on the roof of the Raffaello Hotel, the Gold Coast hotspot features some of the most creative speak-easy style cocktails dreamed up by the brilliant Craig Schoettler, the newly minted beverage director of Drumbar.

Craig Schoettler

While sipping and snapping pics of hand-crafted cocktails with innovative titles like Smoke, A Shoe In, and Hot Chocolate (our favorite), we wondered how easy it might be to recreate these inventive concoctions at home – or would it require an MBA in advanced bartending. 

Luxe File Chicago tapped a few of the town’s top mixologists for their craftiest cocktails and the inspirations behind them. From top shelf scotch to mango sorbet, these liquid crowd-pleasers are sure to bring out your inner Sir Mix-A-Lot.  

Benjamin Augustine
Beverage Manager
Cocktail name: Blood and Sand
Inspiration: The drink was named for Rudolph Valentino's 1922 bullfighter movie, Blood and Sand, about a successful bullfighter who is destroyed by a ruinous woman. 

Augustine makes the drink his own by adding a nice blended scotch whiskey such as The Famous Grouse, to really kick it up a notch.

Blood and Sand 
1 oz Blended Scotch Whiskey
1 oz Cherry Heering (or comparable cherry brandy)
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz orange juice (preferably blood orange)

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake for ten seconds. Strain the ingredients into a cocktail coupe with no ice (shown above). Garnish with an orange wheel.

Nikki Friar
Cocktail name: Le Petite Passion
Inspiration: Friar's cocktail is an ode to sparkly people who don’t need an excuse to celebrate.

Le Petite Passion
3/4 oz Skyy Passion Fruit Vodka
4 1/2 oz Moët & Chandon Imperial Champagne
1 tsp mango sorbet
1 pineapple wedge

Pour vodka into a Champagne flute; add Champagne. Top with a teaspoon of mango sorbet and garnish with a fresh pineapple wedge.

Lynn House
Cocktail name: Pablo’s Daughter
Inspiration: House crafted this cocktail in honor of her favorite artist Pablo Picasso and his daughter, Paloma. 

Pablo’s Daughter
1 1/2 oz Arette Blanco
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz Champagne Gastrique
1 1/2 oz fresh grapefruit 
1/4 oz Bittermens celery shrub
1/2 oz Sanbitter

Combine all ingredients except Sanbitter into a shaker. Shake. Pour into a Collins glass with crushed ice and float Sanbitter on top. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Benjamin Newby
Brand Architect
Moët Hennessy
Cocktail name: Privilege in Exile
Inspiration: Created for the House Of Hennessy Ambassador, Cyrille Gautier Auriol, and showcased at Nellcôte, the cocktail is a hark back to the classic age of cocktails and given a modern Chicago twist. 

Privilege in Exile
2 oz Hennessy Privilege V.S.O.P
1 oz honey coriander syrup
1 oz blood orange juice
1 dash of Peychaud's Bitters

In a shaker, add all ingredients and ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into Tulip glass (10 oz) or cocktail glass rimmed with blood orange juice and white sugar.

Honey Coriander Syrup 
1 cup water
1 cup honey
3 tbsps coriander seeds

In a saucepan, bring water to a simmer. Add honey, stir until dissolved. Add coriander seeds then simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and store. Strain coriander seeds after 24 hours.

Paul Sauter
Head Bartender
Double A, Mercadito Chicago & Miami
Cocktail name: Old Smashion
Inspiration: A lover of Mezcal and classic cocktails, Sauter's Old Smashion is a tribute to the Old Fashioned and its smoky, potent flavors.

Old Smashion
2 oz Mezcal
1 oz Cinzano
1/2 oz Dry Amontillado Sherry
2 dashes of whisky barrel aged bitters
7-8 dashes of Angostura bitters

Splash 7-8 dashes of Angostura bitters in a cocktail glass and coat the inside completely. Drain glass. With a flambé torch, flame the inside of the glass until warm. If you don't have a flambé torch, heat bitters in a microwave-safe bowl for 45 seconds, and follow the same process as above.

Add all ingredients to pint glass and stir. Pour into a warm cocktail glass and garnish with a lime peel (flame zest).

Photo Credit:
Nikki Friar courtesy of Jamie Berg
Privilege In Exile courtesy of
Benjamin Newby, part of Burberry's Art of the Trench campaign, courtesy of Tim Klein

Written by Sally Shorr

Thursday, February 14, 2013

CUPID CATCHER: Chicago Pros Share Easy Ways To Tip The Romance Scale This Valentine's Day (Part 3 of 3)

Luxe File loves Valentine’s Day gift-giving. Here we’ve handpicked a few of our favorite things from four of the city’s leading designers – a jeweler, an illustrator, a pinup photographer, and a lingerie designer. Don’t worry about keeping the receipt. These gifts won’t ever be returned.

For The Sex Kitten

Stephanie Kuhr
Lingerie Designer
Dottie’s Delights

Kuhr: It's the perfect bedroom piece that's comfortable and completely scandalous at the same time (so everyone's happy). It's inspired by the great pin-up artists so you can feel like you just walked out of a Vargas painting.

Kuhr: A good black lace set is always a classic and the exquisite details will make her feel truly special. Add a lacy garter belt to complete the look.

For The Girl Who Has Everything

Jules Vance
Owner and Jewelry Designer

Vance: These necklaces are one of our most popular, and personal, designs. I created these tags to represent loved ones.

Vance: There's nothing more sexy, or intimate, than a secret message between lovers. My husband made me one for my wedding band that says "Brian loves Jules" and his bears my name.

For The Scene Maker

Rosemary Fanti
Fashion, Wedding, Event Illustrationist
Rosemary Fanti

Every illustration Fanti designs is an original work of art. Ready to commit? Here’s what you need to know:

1. For Fanti, she will need a few good facial photos of the subject. One or two full body photos and a physical description of the person. Also include how subject should be dressed (ie, in an elegant ball gown vs. jeans and a t-shirt).

2. No background in the photo reference is necessary. Fanti keeps the focus of the illustration solely on the subject.

3. Illustrations are hand-sketched. Fanti uses color pencils and ink on quality grade, 11"x16" paper.

4. Lead time is 7 business days. Fanti delivers to Downtown/Gold Coast area or artwork will be shipped.

For The Voyeur

Heather Stumpf
Co-Owner and Photographer

Pinup photographer extraordinaire, Heather Stumpf gives us a behind-the-scenes peek of what we can expect at a Vavoom photo shoot.

1. The shoots are fun, sexy, and always tasteful. Ladies are pampered by a team of expert hair and makeup stylists; they can bring their own clothing options or cherry pick through Vavoom’s wardrobe of dresses, shoes, skirts, and peep toe shoes.

2. At Vavoom, the focus is about the glamour and classic beauty of the 1940’s "All American Pin-Up". Women can choose to express themselves in one of two looks: a classic, vintage pinup or boudoir-style.

3. Props are encouraged (dogs are welcome). Models receive step-by-step pose coaching throughout their shoot.

4. Want more than a standard 8”x10” picture? Vavoom can print your pinup image on almost anything – from 'Vargas style' calendars to playing cards.

5. Vavoom shoots start at $250 for individuals. Contact Vavoom for additional pricing and group rates.

P.S. I Love You 

To quote Carrie Bradshaw, you have finally found that ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can't-live-without-each-other love and you’re jumping for joy.

We tapped Kevin Chmura, aka Spencer Burnett, a self-proclaimed “art of the pickup” expert, for advice on keeping things extra steamy at home. We’ll leave the happy endings up to you.

Kevin Chmura
Sex & Relationship Guru
Spencer Burnett

Know what you like. It’s important to know what you want in terms of personality, chemistry and sex, and to be able to communicate it to a potential partner. Reflecting back on past relationships or sexual escapades can help you get a better understanding of what works best for you.

Be willing and ready to try new bed. Write down your fantasies and try one when things start to go stale.

Avoid relationship ruts. After a while dating can turn into eating a frozen pizza at the apartment and having sex. While the sex part is great, keeping the sparks flying is key. To keep things fresh, here are some recommendations: a weekly “date” night; try new activities together; set a mutual goal that engages both of you.

Make each other better. If you want to create and maintain a relationship that perpetuates positivity and personal happiness, you need to partake in activities that make you a better person and engage you as a couple. Try working out or reading a book together.

See them for who they really are. At the end of the day, we all just want to connect. Be yourself and allow your partner to do the same. By dropping your personal agenda and taking the time to really get to know someone, you will build more meaningful relationships and take existing relationships to a deeper level.

Stimulate all the senses. In the bedroom on dates as well. Stimulate all five of the senses. Play different music, eat different foods and go to new places.

Relive old times. Try reliving some of the great memories you’ve had in the past. This type of role playing could actually be a new experience...if you think about it.

Shake up your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment. Stepping outside your comfort zone will build trust and intimacy with whomever you do it with. Life is too short to be bored. Get creative and be bold.

Photo Credit
Stephanie Kuhr photo courtesy of Emspace Photography
Jules Vance photo courtesy of Weber Photography
Rosemary Fanti photo courtesy of Ashley Hamm Photography
Kevin Chmura/Spencer Burnett photo courtesy of Lenny Gilmore/RedEye

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CUPID CATCHER: Chicago Pros Share Easy Ways To Tip The Romance Scale This Valentine's Day (Part 2 of 3)

2013's sexiest holiday is days away and it's that one little question that has us stumped: What to wear? Sweet and sexy. That’s what we told Evolve founder, Jessi Sheehan, how we wanted to dress on Valentine’s Day. Just her cup of sin. Here, her fashion secrets and two head-to-toe looks for a very beguiling night in or out.

Jessi Sheehan
Founder and head stylist

Open up. Resist wearing anything that restricts a man from seeing your real beauty. Skip the Spanx, bright lipstick or hair extensions. Embrace the color red. Why? Because men think women look sexier in red than any other color.

Be creative. Do something out of the norm. If you regularly go out to dinner, stay in and cook his favorite meal or vice versa. Keep him on his toes (and yours!) by changing your outfit between each course.

Bling it on. Wear something that reminds you of your lover. If it was a gift from him, don’t wait for a special occasion. Wearing a token of his affection is romantic and will pull at his heart string

What To Wear: An Evening Out. This bare-shoulder dress by Amanda Uprichard is a trendy way to show some bare skin without being too risque. Pair with platform sandals, bold earrings and a statement ring. 

Cold Shoulder Dress 
Amanda Uprichard
DV by Dolce Vita

Jill Feather Earrings

Kendra Scott

Club Monaco

Luxe File Loves: Agent Provocateur! Back home, it's naughty time. Have him remove your Birthday Suit bra and briefs. Blindfolded!

Agent Provocateur

Agent Provocateur

Agent Provocateur

What To Wear: An Evening In. If you aren’t fond of a little red dress, try a bold color in a similar family like purple. This James & Joy’s long sleeve "Savannah" dress is the perfect silhouette for a romantic night at home. Complete the look with metal capped pumps and a pair of Rebecca Zeman’s hand-hammered sterling silver earrings
Jeffrey Campbell

Shooting Star Dangles
Rebecca Zemans

Luxe File Loves: Need something naughty underneath? Treat yourself to a pair of sequin pasties. Meow!

Sequin Pasties
Agent Provocateur

Sunday, February 10, 2013

CUPID CATCHER: Chicago Pros Share Easy Ways To Tip The Romance Scale This Valentine's Day (Part 1 of 3)

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and love is in the air. While the world’s most famous matchmaker, Cupid, is organizing his singles hit list (are you on it?) for the big day, Luxe File Chicago compiled a love rolodex of the town’s sweetest party planners, fashion stylists, lingerie designers, illustrationists and pinup photographers to get the inside peek on how to maximize every sumptuous second of the most romantic day of the year.

Hide the chocolate truffles and check out these hot tips – from DIY aphrodisiac dinners to sigh-inspiring gifts – to really show how much you love the one you’re with.

First up! Two of Chicago’s most creative caterers, Marina Birch and Rachel De Marte, each contributed an inspired Valentine’s Day concept that will surely heat things up at home.

Marina Birch
Principal Event Designer

The Concept – Gastronomic Bouquet: A Floral Inspired Valentine’s Day Dinner for Two

Marina’s take: A home-cooked meal is truly the most romantic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I would embrace the spirit completely for your date by creating a warm and inviting ambience but without seeming like you tried too hard.

Love Potion #9: Prepare an aphrodisiac-inspired elixir like La Violette. Fill two chilled glasses with Billecart-Salmon Rosé and a splash of Crème de Violette (violet liquor).

Love In 4 Courses

Course 1: Spring Vegetable Pot Au Feu in Chrysanthemum Broth 
(Adapted from Naturally Peninsula Tea Flavours cookbook)

2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 oz chrysanthemum tea flowers
baby turnips
baby yellow beets
thumbelina carrots
asparagus tips
sugar snap peas
broad beans
red capsicums
new potatoes
(Vegetables should total about 1 lb)
salt to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot.
  3. Remove from heat and add chrysanthemum flowers.
  4. Allow to steep for 2 minutes, then strain.
  5. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Peel and wash vegetables as necessary.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt.
  8. Cook each vegetable separately until just tender, then plunge into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process.
  9. Drain well and pat dry.
  10. Arrange vegetables in oven-safe serving dish.
  11. Pour stock over vegetables and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes until hot.
  12. Serve immediately.

Course 2: Lavender Fettuccine with Lemon and Burrata
Click HERE for recipe. Pappardelle's Lavender Fettucine may be purchased online HERE.

Course 3: Hibiscus-Marinated Leg of Lamb
Click HERE for recipe.

Course 4: Tea-Braised Rhubarb with Plum Sorbet and Rose Hip Syrup
(Adapted from Naturally Peninsula Tea Flavours cookbook)

Rose hip syrup
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 oz rose hip tea
1 2/3 oz sugar
1 pinch of agar powder
1 coffee filter
1 pinch of rose hip tea
3 oz sugar
1/3 lb rhubarb, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
plum sorbet and plum slices

Rose hip syrup:
  1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat. Add tea and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain through a coffee filter back into the pan.
  3. In a bowl, combine sugar with agar powder.
  4. Add rose hip infusion and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  1. Sprinkle tea and sugar over rhubarb and allow to stand for 2 hours. Place rhubarb on a baking tray and pour grenadine syrup over. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.
  2. Serve rhubarb with sorbet and rose hip syrup.
  3. Garnish with plum slices.

Chic Tip: Champagne may be cliché, but I love how celebratory it feels. When you serve dessert, pop open a bottle (or half-bottle) to add a festive flair to the end of your meal. My favorite is Billecart-Salmon Rose because it’s pink and perfectly bubbly.

Music Tip: I would go one of two ways: “Duets” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong because the songs are classic or anything by Carla Bruni. She is a modern-day crooner and her music is very romantic.

Lighting Tips: You need to have functional light in the kitchen for cooking but here’s a trick you can use in any room: replace your usual light bulbs with pink ones. Pink light is softer and gives the skin a pretty glow.

Candlelight cannot be overstated and adds a heightened intimacy to any space. On the dinner table, set out masses of candles in varying sizes. For a sophisticated look, intersperse tea lights with small floral groupings in a single color.

Heavenly Scent: Instead of floral arrangements, I prefer to mix up herbs and place them in a vase in the kitchen. They smell great and you can casually toss them into the sauce while you are cooking.

Setting the table: Use whatever dinnerware you have on hand. Glassware should be spot-free and crisp cloth napkins always make a lovely touch.

Rachel De Marte
Principal Planner & Stylist

The Concept - Hosting a Valentine's Party For Friends and Loved Ones at Home

Rachel’s take: Valentine’s Day is a bit of a Hallmark holiday so why not have fun with it and host one big celebration for your lover AND your friends?

Décor Tip: While the go-to colors are clearly red, white, and pink, I always include some metallics. Gold or silver branches work well. Buy them as-is or spray paint yourself. Go old school and cut hearts out of paper and hang from branches or make garland out of heart-shaped doilies and Christmas lights. Lots of candles, of course, and don't forget Cupid. He's gotta go somewhere.

Entertainment Tip: Rachel’s recommends Valentine's Day-themed charades; t-shirt making with love stamps and lover lingo; and tag team cooking efforts in the kitchen.

Food Tip: Incorporate aphrodisiacs into your dishes like figs, honey, arugula, oysters, garlic, pine nuts, truffles, fennel, mustard, and blackberries - there are many to choose from.

Love Potion #9: Prepare something sweet, like Lover Lay Down!, which pairs honey vodka, honey syrup, and muddled blackberries (see recipe below).

Lover Lay Down!
(Makes 1 cocktail)

3/4 oz honey syrup
2 oz honey vodka (or regular vodka)
3 blackberries
3/4 oz lemon juice

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously.
  3. Pour into a rocks glass. 

Party Favors Tip: Surprise your female guests with a bottle of pink or red nail polish. Guys can score major “Romeo” points by painting her toes. For the guys? They take home the girl, of course!

Photo Credits: 
Marina Birch, part of Burberry's Art of the Trench campaign, was photographed by Tim Klein
Rachel De Marte photographed by Christopher Free