Chicago Bartenders Offer Custom, Seasonally Inspired Cocktails

With their blog-turned-cocktail catering firm, Gina Rauch and Keri Uffelman offer custom concoctions with seasonal, and anything but standard, ingredients.

By Jenny Berg March 29, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT

Keri Uffelman (left) and Gina Rauch started Through the Liquor Glass as a blog, then expanded into a business.

Photo: Daniel Peter

Mixing vodka with soda does the liquor a giant disservice, if you ask Keri Uffelman and Gina Rauch, co-founders of cocktail catering company Through the Liquor Glass. “We’re about tasting the spirits, balancing them, and approaching them like a sommelier,” says Rauch. “We don’t mask the taste of liquor by using sodas or flavored vodkas. We prepare drinks using culinary techniques, where we’re cooking down herbs, spices, flowers, and fruits, then steaming and straining them.”

Just under a year ago, the longtime friends joined forces to launch the firm, which Rauch says “celebrates the art of the bar.” Through the Liquor Glass began in 2009 as a blog with recipes and cocktail inspiration in the form of anything from vintage photos to poetry. “It was a creative outlet for us,” Uffelman says.

The partners have experience in mixology and event planning. Uffelman tends bar at Danny’s Tavern in Wicker Park and helped create the cocktail menu at Pilsen restaurant Nightwood, where she still works. Rauch—formerly a bartender herself—is the event director for Lodge Management Group, which owns and operates 10 downtown taverns.

While standard watering holes are stocked with maraschino cherries, limes, and a couple of shakers, Uffelman and Rauch come to events bearing eyedroppers, dry ice, and seasonal ingredients ranging from pear syrup to thyme. “What excites me most about Through the Liquor Glass is the challenge of coming up with specific cocktail concepts and doing this within a specific budget,” Uffelman says. “It forces us to be really creative.”

In December, Through the Liquor Glass catered an Asian-themed holiday party for Wicker Park clothing boutique Eskell. “The girls were great at matching cocktails to the event,” says shop owner Kelly Whitesell. “They’re good at brainstorming, whether you’re bringing a few ideas to the table or none at all.” The drink list included the “Ode to Plum,” with homemade plum-pink peppercorn syrup, lemon juice, sake, and gin.

West Town vintage boutique Dovetail also enlisted Uffelman and Rauch for its holiday party. The Indian-themed event offered the “Bengal 75” cocktail, prepared with cardamom-orange simple syrup, champagne, gin, and orange bitters. “We’ve noticed that more people come to our events when Gina and Keri are bartending, because they’re eager to try their innovative cocktails,” says Dovetail owner Julie Ghatan.

For now, Uffelman and Rauch prefer parties of 10 to 100 guests. And though they hope to hire a staff, partner with a catering company to serve food, and work larger events in the future, they’re content to take things slowly. “At this point, we’ll keep the business small,” Rauch says. “We have our core values in place.”

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