Now for something completely different – party with #CHEtours

Chicago downtown from the sky
Chicago downtown from the sky

Always wondered what it would be like to ride in a helicopter. Had the vague idea – probably from watching too many shoot-’em-up big-city crime and spy movies – that it would be a wild ride. Loud. Choppy. Rough. Maybe thrilling – if I wasn’t too scared.

Guess what? When you ride with the right people, the only adjective you need is thrilling. Chicago Helicopter Experience, 2420 S. Halsted, (#CHEtours) is proud and pleased, as one of the only privately owned helicopter heliports in any major US city, to offer anyone the chance to see and feel what it’s like. And I gotta tell ya, it’s a cool way to celebrate just about any occasion, from a romantic night for two, a quick air transfer to or from O’Hare or Midway Airports – you surely know the horror of gridlock on our highways – to a party for a gang of friends or workmates.
The friendly folks at CHE are passionate about what they do. We felt especially comfortable as we were taken through the strictly enforced safety routines that cover every aspect of each trip – including weighing and assigning seats to every passenger to ensure a perfect balance for a smooth ride. But the #CHEcrew also offers a slew of ways to make your experience fun. You can invite friends and loved ones to enjoy each others’ company in the spacious reception area, complete with coffee and cookies and games – like both a regular-size and a jumbo-size Jenga game, checkers and more. And if you’ve brought a crowd or it’s just plain a busy night – the helicopters hold up to six at a time – everybody has time to interact while awaiting their turn. If you want alcohol, drink it before you come, unless you let #CHEtours organize a catered party that includes it.
It might actually be loud riding in a helicopter, but with #CHEtours, you won’t notice it. Every rider puts on his/her own pair of Bose headphones that cancel noise and sport voice-activated mics that make it easy to talk to the pilot or fellow passengers. The views from the helicopter are just spectacular. Catching the sun at different angles on the beautiful buildings and landmarks of downtown Chicago and all down the north shore to Wrigley Field (unless there’s a game on) is an unforgettable experience. Imagine looking down the Chicago River in a corridor between Chicago’s gorgeous skyscrapers. We found most everybody was so entranced with the experience that there wasn’t a lot of talking outside the pilot’s FAQs on various high points.
The company is on the move. CHE’s founder and CEO, Trevor Heffernan, says he founded the company after deciding he was sick of the traffic jams constantly gumming up his trips to visit relatives near Wisconsin. Read more about what he went through to get his CHE business going in this nice article in the Chicago Tribune. They’re offering lots of exciting options for folks who want to go play golf, say, on a course within a 30-minute helicopter trip but don’t want to waste time driving there and back. They’re planning to ferry people, too, to an upcoming Goo Goo Dolls concert and to the city’s hugely popular Lollapalooza event.

So if you’ve ever dreamed about riding a helicopter – whether to escape the crazy traffic or to get a fabulously unique view of your city – you can do it in Chicago. Prices start around $150 per person for the 15-minute tour to Wrigley and with many optional add-on packages. People, what a great way to give yourself and/or clients or loved ones a truly memorable experience.


8 wines and spirits to make Dad – and you – smile

Not everybody consumers alcoholic beverages, but those who do may enjoy receiving something unusual on special occasions. Below are ideas for 8 beverages to consider giving for Father’s Day. Of course, if you don’t have a dad or a father figure to celebrate with, you can always consider giving them to yourself. Your friends will enjoy sharing!

Wines to consider

Luxurious Italian red wines. Brunello di Montalcino, in Tuscany, is the home of the some of the finest, most robust and complex red wines Italy has to offer, all made with 100% Sangiovese grapes. Almost any wine from here will make a meal special or an evening with a friend or two memorable. Be aware that the “Rosso” expressions of this wine are the younger versions. They are often extremely high quality yet generally cost a great deal less – up to 50% less – than the more mature wines. Here are a few we sampled at this year’s US visit by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello de Montalcino, held in the gracious spaces of The Drake Hotel:
Brunello di Montalcino - home of fabulous rich Tuscany reds. Credit: Wikipedia
Brunello di Montalcino – home of fabulous rich Tuscany reds. Credit: Wikipedia
  • Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2013. Made from clones of Sangiovese grapes grown on this 100% organic estate, this wine is generous and fruity as a result of a very dry, hot summer after a cold wet spring. Well balanced.  Alc. 14.5%. Affordable for a Brunello at ~$50.
  • Paradisone Colle Degli Angeli Brunello di Montalcino 2013. A family farm run by Concetta and her husband, who lovingly tended the soil, living solely on its produce and bartering eggs, goat’s milk and fruit in exchange for what they could not produce. This wine is fresh with high acidity, deep, rich color, dark berry flavors, a hint of lemon rind, and a beautiful balance. Alc. 15%.
  • Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2012. The vines this year were stressed with a very dry, cool spring followed by a huge heat wave in August, when there was no rain and no water reserves. But the winemakers really made hay with this harvest. This wine has great depth, while it’s fruity and floral and has a broad mid-palette.
  • One of the Rosso versions we really liked: Il Paradiso di Frassina Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2016 (organic). Only 8000 bottles produced, this is a younger version of the 2012 Riserva and the DOCG 2013. May be hard to find in the U.S. Only ~$20 rather than the $48 and $78 prices of the more mature versions.
Port wine. Cockburn’s has been a hallowed name in the business of making fine port wines for 200 years and counting. To celebrate this two-century history of innovative vineyard practices, they’re labeling their bottles with a commemorative seal so they look extra cool. Consider Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port, a rich, lush, fruit-forward deep red port with aromas of red cherry and hints of plum and strawberry. On the palate it’s lightly sweet, well-rounded with luscious red berry flavors. Pair it with nutty or chocolate desserts and with strong cheeses. Good for six weeks after opening. 20% alc. $18.
Spirits to consider
  • Tinkerman’s Gin is the new signature line of gins made by A. Smith Bowman Distillery. They’re already known for Whisky Magazine’s 2016 and 2017 World’s Best Bourbons, and now they’re introducing Tinkerman’s in three expressions: Citrus Supreme, Sweet Spice and Curiously Bright & Complex. The new expressions are the result of Master Distiller Brian Prewitt’s “tinkering” with combinations of juniper and various varieties of herbs, flowers, spices, fruits and vegetables. Each one brings a special touch to your cocktails and yet they’re smooth enough to drink on their own. 46% alc (92 proof). $29.99
  • Till Vodka came visiting Chicago this spring at the dark, almost speakeasy-styled cave of the city’s newest champagne and caviar restaurant, Marchesa. Till Vodka is born in the heartland – The Midwest we Chicagoans know and love. It’s that place where folks take hard work and craftsmanship seriously. Made with the finest local ingredients, Till is an exceptional vodka with a crisp taste and smooth finish, The distillers craft Till with one thing in mind: to make you proud of your heritage. Use their store locator to find Chicago retail locations (hint: it’s sold at many Binny’s stores). .
  • GEORGE REMUS® Bourbon introduced several expressions of its “King of the Bootleggers” bourbon at that same Marchesa event. Bourbon is a favorite of many guys, and this line of spirits is sure to have a type that will appeal to most any bourbon lover. Memorable rye-infused bourbons that dad – or you – may want to come back to again and again.
  • The Dark, made by Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky. This delicious spirit matures in first-fill, sherry-seasoned European oak casks. The end result is a nicely balanced whisky loaded with flavors of dried fruits, cinnamon, toasted almonds, cedar wood, fruitcake and light peat smoke. Out in a limited release of only 4500 bottle in the US, look for it at your favorite retailer. SRP ~$300. @HighlandParkUS

    The Dark - just one of many to get for Dad - or treat yourself to
    The Dark – Scotch with a Viking Soul

TimeOut Chicago names city’s best bars for 2018!

Every year, the Time Out Bar Awards celebrate outstanding achievements in the bar community in cities around the world. The point is to give the best bars, best crews and best drinks the spotlight they deserve. This year on Tuesday June 11, 2018, the Time Out Chicago Bar Awards took place for the third year—presented in association with William Grant & Sons, the independent family-owned distiller—and here’s the list of winners. Perfect time to schedule your next bar crawl!

Lost Lake was crowned Chicago’s Bar of the Year at the Time Out Bar Awards celebration. Helmed by Paul McGee and Shelby Allison, the Logan Square tiki bar has become an institution since opening in 2015, offering playful rum-based cocktails, funky vibes and a roster of crave-worthy bar snacks.

Other venues in high spirits: Golden Teardrops—a dark and mysterious basement bar below Lonesome Rose—was honored as the city’s Best New Bar; Todos Santos—the mescal den led by Jay Schroeder—picked up the award for Best Speciality Bar; and the Spanish-Style Gin and Tonic at Cindy’s—a refreshing play on the classic that includes fennel-calamansi tonic—bagged the Sexiest Cocktail in Chicago title.

The full list of Time Out New York Bar Awards 2018 winners:

To pick the award winners, Time Out assembled an industry-renowned panel of high-profile drinks experts and top bartenders. The panel included Julia Momose, beverage director at Oriole; James Beard Award-winning sommelier Belinda Chang; Benjamin Schiller, beverage director at The Fifty/50 Group;  Hendrick’s Gin Ambassador Mattias Horseman; Monkey Shoulder Ambassador Vance Henderson; and Morgan Olsen, the editor of Time Out Chicago. More info at