Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas are, at the moment, putting the finishing touches on the upcoming El Bulli menu at Next, but Achatz tells us that the year ahead means probable expansion for the duo’s Chicago cocktail bar, Aviary: "Nick and I looked at 2012 and made a list of places where we’d want to open, including New York, Miami or South Beach, L.A., Shanghai, Singapore, and Las Vegas. After hearing about some spaces in New York, we literally jumped on a plane, flew to the city and looked around."
Aviary, of course, has been known for its boundary-pushing drinks since it opened last spring — toddies are percolated table-side; a dark ‘n’ stormy arrives in a sealed, brown-bagged bottle. The place has been such a success that Chicago Reader critic Mike Sula even went so far as to say that a visit to the bar "could become one of those rare but essential activities that, along with a game at Wrigley, a trip up the Willis Tower — or dinner at Alinea — are defining Chicago experiences."
But Achatz says Aviary is actually the easiest concept to reproduce outside of the Windy City: "We’ve learned a lot from running Alinea, Next, and the Aviary. If there’s any one concept that’s scalable, it’s the Aviary." Achatz adds, "The thing with making drinks is that they are consistent around the world. If you buy Beefeater gin in Des Moines, for example, it’s going to be the same Beefeater you buy in Singapore. That consistency of product is huge."
The team hasn’t nailed down a location yet, but Achatz says he’s seen several spaces, including one in the Flatiron Building. "It’s been exciting trying to envision being a part of the New York restaurant community," Achatz says. "New York has always been intriguing. I think this would be a lot of fun."