Oct 25, 2023 - News

North Loop bar Public Domain features made-to-order cocktails — and no menu

Public Domain and its mystery cocktails. Photos: Audrey Kennedy/Axios

In late October, I stopped by North Loop's newest and buzziest bar for a few specialty cocktails — without ever taking a look at a menu.

What's happening: Public Domain, which opens in early November on North Washington Avenue, describes itself as an entirely verbal bar.

  • Instead of a written cocktail list, patrons describe what they're in the mood for, and the bartenders take it from there.

What we ordered: I asked for a botanical-inspired drink with any kind of liquor, while my dining partner requested "something slightly sweet," but with a rye base.

What we got: I was handed what the bartender called a "Sunflower," a light and sweet gin-based cocktail with honey, elderflower, and ginger.

  • The second drink, nicknamed the "Bellshire," was a spin on an Old Fashioned that combined rye, cognac, and Bénédictine, an herbal liqueur, with a touch of honey syrup.

The intrigue: Public Domain doesn't offer, or even stock, any vodka because it's a "flavorless spirit" that can be easily replaced by a better one, our bartender told us.

My thought bubble: As someone who tends to order the same kinds of cocktails, this was a great way to get out of my comfort zone — and the drinks were better than I expected. We stayed for another just to try something new.

  • Of note: No menu means no listed prices, and our four cocktails came out to $73 before tip.

Visit: Public Domain is still in a soft opening phase before its official debut in early November, but this week, you can visit Thursday-Saturday from 5pm to 1am.

  • Tip: Go as early as possible. Staff told me capacity was limited to keep from overwhelming bartenders, so wait times to get in have been up to 90 minutes.

What we're watching: Public Domain is also opening an "elevated dive bar" in the back of its building called Neon Tiger, which will have its own entrance and is also expected in November.

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