That's the thinking behind Guerilla Drinks, a new collaboration from bartenders Jason Strich of Hank's Oyster Bar and Owen Thomson of Bar Pilar, Cafe Saint-Ex, and Rose's Luxury. Every couple months for one night, the duo will recreate a different bar from another place and/or time. They're kicking things off on Feb. 15 from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. by replicating Chicago tiki bar Three Dots and a Dash in the basement of Cafe Saint-Ex.
Thomson says the idea was inspired in part by Next in Chicago, a restaurant that changes everything from its menu to decor every few months to reflect a new theme, whether it's 1906 Paris or a Chicago steakhouse. His travels to bars across the country have also made him realize that while lots of places make great drinks, it's the experience—the music, the decor—that makes the great places way more fun.
"I could just set up at the bar at Bar Pilar and make tiki drinks—and all kinds of places do a Tiki Tuesday," Thomson says. "But that's not the same."
To imitate Three Dots and a Dash, the bartenders are planning to bring in bamboo and straw thatching as well as a wall full of skulls. They're taking inspiration from some other tiki bars, too. Thomson once went to a place in Portland that had a volcano hooked up to a smoke machine and sound effects. The Guerilla Drinks event will have that too—plus Jell-O shots when the volcano erupts.
For all the bars they imitate, Thomson and Strich won't replicate exact drinks or recipes. Rather, they aim to just capture the spirit of the spirits. "It's like, what would this place be like if we ran it for the night," Thomson explains.
For example, Three Dots and a Dash serves one of its drinks out of a treasure chest. Thomson and Strich are building a jockey box in the shape of a treasure chest from which they can serve cocktails on draft. The menu will include 10 cocktails priced at around $10.
And in case you were wondering, Three Dots and a Dash is not involved in the event in any way.
"They don't even know about it," Thomson says.