SideTour revives ‘real interaction’ with customized events
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org December 11, 2012 7:10PM
Revae Schneider makes 60's cocktails for guests during a SideTour event at her apartment in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, November 16, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
◆ 7 p.m. Wednesday
◆ Tickets, $50
Updated: January 13, 2013 6:09AM
The dizzy world of social media has resulted in a search for authenticity and intimacy.
Inspired by the ambience of underground supper clubs and secret speakeasies, SideTour launched Oct. 15 in Chicago.
SideTour calls on compelling experts to curate a meaningful experience for guests. The company launched in New York in 2011 with scheduled events like having dinner with a monk who used to be an investment banker. Chicago SideTour hosts include Carrie Nahabedian, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Naha, who creates a private tasting menu and a private tasting with Himalayan Tea expert Rodrick Markus, proprietor of the North Side’s Rare Tea Cellar.
On a Friday night in mid-November, Revae Schneider mixed classic ’60s-inspired cocktails in her Mag Mile apartment.
It was much like attending a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” party.
The SideTour event was sold out, attracting 10 people, eight of whom were women. Guests stood around circular cocktail tables while Schneider made and explained vintage drinks like a Madomesille (champagne with blueberry-lavender syrup, vodka, lemon and peach juice) and Whiskey Sours with Knob Creek bourbon, lemon juice, winter spice syrup, ginger liqueur and bitters. By standing, the guests are encouraged to move around the room as opposed to sitting and getting sloshed on a sofa. Wearing a cream-colored party dress, accented with bold, red Taylor Swift-type lipstick, Schneider deployed vintage bar accesories like a metal Boston Shaker and a Hawthorne Strainer.
“People are interested in the romance behind the classic cocktail,” said Schneider, a 28-year-old native of Indianapolis. “Typically people in their late 20s and early 30s. I’m obsessed with ‘Mad Men,’ and that’s where I get a lot of my inspiration. I enjoy that revivial. I get the most requests for an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan.”
A former bartender at Gilt Bar, Schneider was named to Zagat’s “30 Under 30: Chicago’s Hottest Up-and-Comers” list this year. Femme Du Coupe (Ladies Cup) is her bar-styling company which offers custom cocktail designs, mixology classses and recently launched a line of cocktail syrups. Schneider’s apartment is flavored with a Kodak camera (circa the 1940s) and more than 200 bottles of alcohol. That is not a typo.
SideTour found Schneider.
“We have a team whose role is to identify the most interesting people in the city and craft experiences people will enjoy,” said SideTour co-founder and CEO Vipin Goyal. “We want to make it personal. The people who are part of the experience define it. You are connecting with like-minded people around a shared passion. Everything is online in this world. Even when you’re walking around, your smart phone is welded to your hand. This brings back real interaction.”
Currently, SideTour Chicago has about 20 hosts, but are working toward expanding on its success in New York — where people can experience more than 120 different events.
“We are trying to figure out how to show you the 20 experiences that will be most relevant and interesting,” Goyal said. “But we will definitely have hundreds of hosts in Chicago.”
Sarah Morton, 29, is a project research manager for the non-for-profit Trust for Public Land in Chicago. She stood in a corner of Schneider’s apartment with her friend Stefanie Seskin, talking about “The Dave.”
What’s not to like about that?
“The Dave” is Bullit bourbon, lime juice and and Diet Coke on the rocks, a favorite of Morton’s husband, Dave.
Morton and Seskin learned of SideTour through an online Chicago news blog. The retro theme interested them.
“I liked that it was a female leading the class. It wouldn’t be intimidating. The smaller class size appeals, and it is not in a public place or some place where you feel pressured to buy other things,” Morton said. “I have a list of things to do before I turn 30. Learning how to make good cocktails is one of them.”
In a separate conversation Schneider said, “At times there’s a big disconnect between people being able to go to a restaurant and have a great drink, and coming home and trying to re-create that. We just try and give people some knowledge so they can make a good drink at home.”
Morton had a good time.
“By the end, the instructor had a drink and everyone got to be friends.”