Simply Marvelous

The north loop’s new Marvel Bar ups the quality of the classic cocktail.

Sally Hedberg

The 20-somethings of the prohibition era had a different kind of nightlife, thatâÄôs for sure.

But itâÄôs not like the âÄúNoble ExperimentâÄù actually eradicated the drinking, selling and transporting of alcohol. They just had to be sneaky (not unlike flask-yielding under-agers).

While the poor prohibitionists had no choice but to drink at secret speakeasies, in 2011 itâÄôs about making history trendy, and brothers Andrew and Eric Dayton (yep, the sons of our governor) have latched on to that very sensation in the creation of their new venture, Marvel Bar.

As youâÄôre led around the back of the Bachelor Farmer (the Dayton brothersâÄô North Loop restaurant) itâÄôs hard to know what to expect. ThereâÄôs no sign of a bar anywhere, provoking a panicky moment of  âÄúWhatâÄôs going on here?âÄù Next youâÄôre dumped into a dimly-lit, unassuming hallway.

ItâÄôs silent in the corridor, marked by several doors âÄî some institutional grey and one plum-colored. ThereâÄôs a brief moment of Lewis Carrol-esque whimsy but your gut tells you to go with the purple door and with a simple twist of the handle youâÄôve entered a realm of elegant underground leisure.

Aesthetically, Marvel Bar is about relaxation and class. ItâÄôs not a big space but itâÄôs a space that, if youâÄôre lucky enough to snag one of the leather easy chairs, dares you to order another martini.

ItâÄôs a visually pleasing room made intimate with dim yellow lighting and a peek into the wine cellar (the whole back wall is glass). Drink in hand, it feels more like youâÄôre in the living room of some âÄô20s business tycoon.

 Ambience aside, Marvel Bar is first and foremost a bar. And here, crafting cocktails is a form of high art. Head bartender Pip Hanson takes the chemistry of bartending very seriously, but only for the best results. At the receiving end of a Hanson Gimlet, one should have nothing less than great expectations. After all, he didnâÄôt spend time perfecting his trade under a Japanese cocktail master for nothing.

The drink menu at Marvel, which Hanson worked for nearly a year to construct, offers options both modern and classic, each crafted with meticulous precision.

âÄúI wanted to create a menu that was deceptively simple,âÄù Hanson said. âÄúI approach it like music. If you have an awesome bassist and an awesome guitarist, you donâÄôt always need to work with anything else.âÄù

 Original concoctions like the popular Olivetto, which combines egg white, gin, olive oil and lemon juice prove his theory completely.

Also unique to the Marvel is the craftsmanship that goes into each cocktail. Hand chipped ice is prepared for each drink as every individual ingredient is mixed and prepped in separate beakers. ItâÄôs made to look scientific, and though itâÄôs odd to watch someone prep your drink for nearly 10 minutes, the resulting product says it all.

Averaging at about $12 a cocktail, Marvel may seem inaccessible for the college budget, but Hanson doesnâÄôt want to be exclusive.

âÄúWe want everyone in here,âÄù he said. âÄúWe also offer $3 cans of Hamms, some tap beer and $1 bags of Cheetos. We donâÄôt want to leave anyone out.âÄù