It comes as no surprise that when luxury hotel The Peninsula Chicago debuts a new bar, it arrives with all the bells and whistles. Perched high above Michigan Avenue, with expansive views of the city and a gorgeous wrap-around terrace, lies Z Bar, and it’s all the rage for Chicago’s power-player crowd. Perhaps it’s the expertly dressed guests, or the cushy booths perfect for a first date, but something tells us it’s also the globally-inspired cocktails from Director of Cocktails and Culture Vlad Novikov. With a background in chemistry and classics, Novikov uses luxe ingredients (think gold leaf, caviar and world-sourced spices) in his drinkable works of art. Below, we chat with him about how he became Chicago’s most buzzed-about mixologist.
How did you get your start?
“My first job at a bar was actually as a doorman and bar back at a venue called RIBCO in Rock Island, Ill., where I went to college. I majored in Chemistry and Classics, which helped inspire my passion for mixology and to this day plays into my cocktail creation.”
Why did you jump at the chance to hop on board to Z Bar?
“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work at the prestigious Peninsula Hotel! It also seemed like an amazing opportunity to have a platform on which to create cocktails and make my mark on the craft cocktail world.”
What is the vibe inside Z Bar, and what experience are you looking to create?
“The vibe is relaxed in the early afternoon, and as the sun sets it picks up the pace and can turn into a lively nightspot by the evening! We are hoping to create an experience where people can come here before or after dinner to enjoy delicious cocktails and time with their friends.”
Your cocktails are so fun. Which cocktail gets the best reaction from guests?
“The Z cocktail gets a lot of positive response as it’s in the most eye-catching glass, but the small delights people get from finding out that the garnish on the Paralia is a peach and not an olive, or that the maple leaf is edible on the True North, are the ones that bring me the most joy.”
What are some of your other favorites?
“I’ll always love the old fashioned—it was the first cocktail I made for this menu. That and the Pappersflygplan are two of my favorites from the menu. The PFP is just so complex and interesting, it’s the most overlooked cocktail on the menu.”