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Cocktails in the sky with Apogee

dana hotel and spa partners with The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group for an updated rooftop

Summer weather is here, at last, so Chicagoans are heading to the rooftops! Patio season means lingering in the sun with friends, cocktail in hand. Certain cocktails you won’t want to miss this season are the creative and colorful offerings from Apogee at the dana hotel and spa {660 North State Street, Chicago; 312.202.6000}. The newly updated rooftop cocktail lounge comes from a delicious partnership with The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, offering unique drinks for all to enjoy. We caught up with Benjamin Schiller, Beverage Director of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, to get our summer cocktail order in line…

DiningOut: the dana hotel has always been known for its iconic rooftop. What led to the update?

Benjamin Schiller: dana hotel and spa continuously evolves to meet and exceed guests’ expectations, and our goal with the launch of Apogee is to present newly inspired experiences for guests, while also becoming the ultimate rooftop destination in Chicago.

What’s behind the name of the concept?

Apogee is an astronomical term which defines a place furthest from the earth. It’s the apex or highest point in the development of our cocktail culture at the highest point in dana.


How has the experience changed from what people might expect?

The venue itself has been completely transformed. It is beautiful and elegant but there is high energy and fun exuding from the space. The cocktails incorporate glass blowing, ice sculptures, electricity, ceramics, and more. Needless to say, our guests are in for quite a few surprises.

We also serve over-the-top, large format cocktails, with options for groups of three to four or six to eight guests, as well as single drinks. Many of the exotic garnishes, such as dehydrated star fruit, are inspired by Chris Teixeira, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s Executive Pastry Chef. Cocktails include Panda Party, (Blackstrap rum, cognac, lime, ginger, and absinthe garnished with dehydrated citrus, pineapple leaves, orange powder, mint powder, and sesame seeds) and Fifth Char (Jim Beam Rye, Falernum, Demerara, Burnt Manhattan Marshmallow, Anise & Coconut Ash).

Which one is your favorite for the season?

We are putting the final touches on a very seasonal Paloma that tastes and feels all things spring and summer in Chicago, especially when overlooking the heart of River North.

Will the menu be changing seasonally?

My cocktail lists typically change three to four times per year and at The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, we treat our bars like a chef’s kitchen. We take advantage of local produce and unique ingredients but there are also several drinks, typically our most popular, that are available throughout the year. The Weston and usually a barrel-aged cocktail, such as Old Money, being examples of such.

How will the food menu accompany and compliment the drinks?

In the beginning, we will offer some fun and lighthearted bar snacks, some of them for free, along with a few accouterments to complement our bottle service. Apogee will have snacks to keep our guests’ hunger at bay during happy hour.

Part of dana’s overall approach to hospitality is the emphasis on personal touches and recruiting the best staff. How will this translate to Apogee?

The culture that dana hotel is known for is one of the reasons the partnership with Fifty/50 works so well. The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group is known throughout the industry for creating a strong culture with little employee turnover. This is the foundation for creating warm hospitality and personal touches that delight guests.

By Kaleigh Glaza, Online Editor