Jessica Lambert and Janice Bond are two women putting their distinct stamp on Chicago’s brand-new Kimpton Gray Hotel. The former is the head bartender overseeing the vibrant cocktail programs at both Vol. 39, the second-floor lobby bar, and South American-accented Boleo on the roof. Janice, meanwhile, heads up the hotel’s music and social programming. That groovy Latin tune that has you tapping your toe? You have Janice to thank for that.
Jessica first got into the bar industry rather fortuitously, when a bartender at a wine bar she was working at quit right before service. Her boss asked her if she wanted to bartend and she leapt at the opportunity. Turns out Jessica was a natural, and she’s been bartending ever since.
For both Vol. 39 and Boleo, Jessica curates beverage programs designed to transport guests to another world. Downstairs at Vol. 39, the menu is bursting with Cognac, Calvados, Armagnac and brandies, along with ample Champagne and wine. It’s a nod to the Mad Men-era of drinking in America, with cocktails rooted in classics but elevated and nuanced with beautiful sugars and rare ingredients. Check out three of her recipes below.
One example Jessica points to is a 2010 Vintage Caramel Pu-erh Tea that she makes into a syrup for a Cognac Old Fashioned. There’s even a version of a Mudslide, made with Germain-Robin brandy, NOLA coffee liqueur and housemade Irish cream with Middleton Very Rare.
For Boleo, Jessica went the extra mile—or rather, thousands of miles—by traveling to Peru for research and inspiration. “My grandmother is Peruvian, so I grew up with a bit of Peruvian culture and food in my family,” explains Jessica. “One of the biggest discoveries was the various types of citrus available from the Amazon. There are so many different types, like camu camu and lucuma that have different acidities, PH levels and sugars.” The citrus discovery was a game-changer for Jessica. Her trip inspired her to create a custom blend of citrus for Boleo by measuring PH levels and combining various citrus juices to achieve the desired flavor balance and acidity for cocktails.
Collaboration with the kitchen is familiar territory, as she often applies a bit of a culinary approach to her cocktails. Most of her recipes start in the kitchen with a flavor combination, which she builds out in a syrup, infusion or shrub.
Janice is a Houston native who moved to Chicago 10 years ago. Her segue into the visual arts and music came about when Janice took a job as the director of arts and culture for a non-profit, a role that saw her directing concerts and music festivals in places like Detroit, NYC, Washington, D.C. and here in Chicago.
Now all of Janice’s longtime passions have converged into one at The Gray, where she serves as the director of music and social programming. This means fine-tuning the music to give each in the hotel its own welcoming vibe.
For Vol. 39, this means a soundtrack that’s a fusion of contemporary and classic with a touch of whimsy. In conceptualizing the music for Vol. 39, Janice took into account everything about the lobby bar, from the leathers and the smell to the general warmth of the room. The most important thing is to have people feel good,” she says. “We’re welcoming them into our home, our space. We want them to feel like there’s something for them here.” This means music that’s upbeat and inviting, from contemporaries like Glass Animals and hip hop to old jazz standbys. In the living room, a cellist plays during social hour from 5-6 PM on weekdays, a first for Kimpton.
Upstairs at Boleo, Janice exemplifies the Latin lounge motif with sound that’s really tailored to fit. From Calypso instrumentals to Chicago hip hop infused with South American beats, this place has it all, and it’s guaranteed to be a good time. For the DJ program, which runs Wednesdays through Saturdays, The Gray employs two resident DJs: Sadie Woods and Rebel Betty. Describing the DJs as more like artists or “connoisseurs of music,” Janice sees her DJ residency program as a good representation of their work, the local talent in Chicago and the music programming of the hotel.
Vol. 39, Chicago, IL
- 2 oz. Roger Grout 12-year Calvados
- 3/4 oz. crème de peche
- 3/4 oz. lemon juice
- 1 egg white
- Disco Dust, for garnish
Boleo, Chicago, IL
- 5 oz. coconut-infused Kappa Pisco
- 3/4 oz. Campari
- 3/4 oz. Carpano Antica
- Fresh oil of orange, for garnish
Adulting is Hard
Boleo, Chicago, IL
- 1 oz. Angostura 7
- 1 oz. Mistral Nobel Extra Anejo
- 1/4 oz. Lustau Oloroso
- 5 oz. chai-spiced cereal milk (made with 3/4 c. whole milk and 1/2 c. chai-spiced granola)
- 1/2 oz. honey
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Black lime, for garnish
To prepare the Delicious Sour:
- Combine all ingredients (except the disco dust) in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly.
- Strain into a coupe glass.
- Garnish the rim with disco dust. Serve immediately.
To prepare the Coconut Negroni:
- Wash the orange and, using a vegetable peeler, slice off a long, wide piece of peel. Be careful to only remove the colored peel, without getting any of the bitter white pith underneath.
- Combine all ingredients (except the orange peel) in the bottom part of a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, and add ice cubes until the container is about 3/4 full.
- Stir with a bar spoon or other long-handled spoon and allow the mixture to “rest” for about half a minute. Stir again and strain into a rocks glass.
- To garnish, firmly squeeze the orange peel over the glass to add fragrant orange oil to the cocktail. Discard the peel. Serve immediately.
To prepare the Adulting is Hard:
For the chai-spiced cereal milk:
- In a mixing bowl with spouted lip, combine 3/4 c. whole milk and 1/2 c. chai-spiced granola, or other chai-flavored cereal.
- Allow the mixture to steep for 20 minutes at room temperature, until the milk has absorbed the flavor of the cereal.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, using gentle pressure to extract the milk but not so much force that the cereal crumbs fall through the strainer.
- Store the flavored milk in the refrigerator until ready to use, and discard the cereal.
For the cocktail:
- Combine all ingredients (except the black lime) in a heavy cut glass, and add crushed ice.
- To “swizzle”, add a swizzle stick and rotate by rapidly sliding your hands back and forth against the stem. (You can substitute a bar spoon if you don’t have a swizzle stick on hand.)
- To garnish, grate the black lime with a microplaner and lightly sprinkle over the top. Serve immediately.