current assignments: Punch City Guide: Chicago (Winter 2018); Ice Programs (Plate, March/April)

Trend: Punch at Tales of the Cocktail

I’ve been attending the annual Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans since 2011, so I raised my hand to do a bit of trend scouting & report back for T Magazine’s blog. The verdict? Punch. The post and related recipe were picked up to run in the following week’s Sunday Styles.

New York Times
July 28, 2013

Profile: Irish Whiskey

Pegged to big news in the Irish whiskey industry — the 2012 purchase by Beam Inc. of the historic Kilbeggan distillery, the expansion of the Jameson distillery in Fall 2013 — I pitched a survey of the growing number of Irish whiskies available in the national market.

Chicago Tribune
May 5, 2013

Conrad Hotels & Resorts: Conrad Magazine

For the Conrad Hotels & Resorts launch of guest-centric Conrad Magazine, I was tapped to tell the story of what I deemed the libations concierge: the hotel bartender.

Conrad Magazine

Profile: Craig Schoettler

As the inaugural beverage director of The Aviary, Chef Grant Achatz’s molecular-gastronomic cocktail lounge, Craig Schoettler was something of a prodigy among Chicago’s drinks industry. After leaving that dream post unexpectedly, Schoettler reached out to me to talk about his next move.

Time Out Chicago
December 20, 2012

Parce Rum: Launch

Based on my spirits writing expertise, I was hired onto the Parce Rum launch team to tell the story of a new Colombian rum dreamed up by a Chicago entrepreneur. I developed the language and tone for everything from the company’s business plan to the bottle’s hang tag, as well as all web content.

Parce Rum
launched Spring 2014

Profile: Batavia Arrack

Inspired by the resurgence of classic punch, Imbibe assigned me to tell the story behind one of its main–and oldest–ingredients: Batavia Arrack. The research took me back a half-century to a time when potable bitters were much (much!) more pungent.

November/December 2012

Profile: Knob Creek Rye

After sampling Knob Creek Rye at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail convention, I knew it would make a great “MJ Approved” for Men’s Journal: gents love and trust the Knob Creek brand, and the rye is one of the best I’ve had in its price-point. Knob Creek wound up quoting this article in its marketing materials thereafter.
October 5, 2012

Feature: Best of Chicago

Having rounding up the best cocktails in town for Chicago Magazine’s Drinker’s Guide six months prior, I was asked to name the best new bars in categories of my choosing.

Chicago Magazine
August 2012

Profile: Art in the Age SAGE

Following the success of SNAP and ROOT, Art in the Age introduced SAGE — a kind of un-gin that I felt was perfect for Men’s Journal’s “MJ Approved” series.
August 24, 2012

Profile: Barrelhouse Flat's house cocktails

Barrelhouse Flat, a gem among Chicago’s craft cocktail bars, impressively augmented its house-made cocktail program in Summer 2012 — perfect fodder for Tasting Table’s audience.

Tasting Table Chicago
August 8, 2012

Trend: Lillet Rose

As a huge advocate for Lillet blanc (& rouge, too), my anticipation for Lillet Rose was borderline ridiculous. I blame the build-up: the product debuted at Tales of the Cocktail 2011 almost a full year before it went on sale. Predicting it’d be a hit, I pitched a story on Lillet Rose cocktails several months in advance of its Midwestern release.

Chicago Magazine
July 2012

Feature: Al fresco bars

For Chicago Magazine’s annual al fresco issue, I was asked to compile the city’s best waterside and rooftop bars. I suggested we organize them based on feet from the water and the number of stories into the air.

Chicago Magazine
July 2012

Feature: Feather Down Farms

Inspired by gorgeous photos taken by a contributing photographer, Chicago Magazine asked me to tell the story behind Feather Down Farms, a Dutch company that has recently expanded to the Midwest to host farm-stays a short drive from urban areas.

Chicago Magazine
July 2012

Feature: Whiskey cocktails

For Men’s Book’s July edition, I was charged with compiling a top-ten list of summer cocktails based in whiskey. Fortunately, drinking only “white” spirits between Memorial Day and Labor Day is a thing of the past, and Chicago has embraced warm-weather whiskey cocktails of all stripes.


CS Men's Book
July 2012

Profile: Koval Sunchoke spirit

As a longtime fan of Koval, one of Chicago’s first craft spirits distilleries, I was curious to try the bespoke liqueur maker’s summer release: sunchoke. It’s an acquired taste, for sure, but one that Tasting Table readers would dig.

Tasting Table Chicago
July 20, 2012

Feature: Summer Drinking

For Time Out’s annual summer drinking issue, my assignment was simple: tackle the flavored ice-cubes trend (“Rock stars”). And for the Shopping section, I pitched a story inspired by my visit to the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, where I spied a Chicago bartender carrying his lime-juicer on his belt (“Tools of the trade”).

Time Out Chicago
July 12, 2012

Profile: Pisco Porton

Intrigued by a meeting with Johnny Schuler, one of the preeminent experts on Peruvian pisco, I pitched a profile of his newly launched brand, Porton.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
July 8, 2012

Profile: Bow Truss

One of Chicago’s newest independent coffee makers recently opened a retail counter in the front of its roasting storefront, with a few notable features: minimalist vintage-industrial aesthetics, a pleasantly low-key soundtrack, and — gasp — no wifi.

July 6, 2012

Profile: Belvedere Lemon Tea vodka

Seldom do I write about vodka, for reasons far too many in number to explain here. But after learning about how Belvedere distills its flavored vodkas — au naturale, as opposed to fructose-substitute injections — I found it newsworthy. And, of course, it’s quite delicious.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
June 17, 2012

Profile: The Plant

What do a kambucha brewery, an artisanal bakery and a tilapia fish farm have in common? They’re all tenants of The Plant, an organic sustainable food-and-drink incubator on Chicago’s South Side.

May 31, 2012

Essay: "Harry's Bar"

Tied to the hundredth anniversary of Harry’s Bar, an eponymous coffee-table book was released, offering an opportunity to delve into the history of one of the most famous expatriate cocktail bars in the world.

Chicago Tribune | Printers Row
April 15, 2012

Profile: Monkey Shoulder

I’d been hearing about this product for months before it was available Stateside. Intrigued, I sought to find what makes this blended scotch as drool-worthy as most single-malts.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
April 15, 2012

Profile: Jane Addams Hull-House art lending library

Founded on the merits of helping everyday citizens have access to arts and culture, the Jane Addams Hull-House museum recently reopened its century-old lending library, tapping curators tied to Chicago’s up-and-coming gallery scene.

April 11, 2012

Essay: "Mother's Ruin"

Pegged to the opening of Chicago’s its first-ever gin-centric cocktail lounge, I wrote an essay about the state of the city’s drinks scene, primarily arguing that it should take more risks. What followed was the most passionate reaction I’ve ever received from any story I’ve ever written, complete with cross-media rebuttals, mentions on the local NPR affiliate, etc. Which, in my mind, is encouraging: Cocktails are, apparently, a hot-button issue in Chicago.

Chicago Reader
March 21, 2012

Essay: Vegetarian contrarian

In the summer of 2011, I took a bite of a friend’s cheeseburger — my first real taste of beef since going vegetarian as an angst-ridden teen in the early 1990s. And I haven’t looked back since, in part because in my mind, there are more ethical meat options now than ever. Clearly, not everyone shares my opinion, hence the peg for this essay: Time Out Chicago’s popular “Contrarian” feature.

Time Out Chicago
March 8, 2012

Trend: Amaro

Taking notice of a handful of new restaurants offering amaro, I pitched a story on the Italian digestif trend, which grew much larger than I or my editor imagined. By the time the story ran a month later, the stuff was everywhere.

Time Out Chicago
March 8, 2012

CB2: Spring 2012

I was hired to write copy for CB2’s Spring 2012 catalog, focusing primarily on textiles and serving ware. The voice is smart, hip and stylish — the younger sibling of Crate & Barrel’s traditionally modern tone.

Spring 2012

Profile: St. George Spirits gin trifecta

I am an unapologetic gin enthusiast. So when I heard St. George was releasing three at once, I signed up to learn the story behind each, and why they were being introduced to the market simultaneously.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
February 12, 2012

Cover: Drinker's Guide

This was the assignment that lured me to quit my day-job. I was tapped to write the lion’s share of Chicago Magazine’s 2012 drinking guide, which included naming the 20 best cocktails in town. With my deadline three weeks out, I managed to sample about 60 before narrowing down the best of the best.


Chicago Magazine
February 2012

Feature: Single-malt scotch

Assigned to run in the Tribune’s Wednesday Good Eating section, this survey of single-malt scotch whiskies was whittled down from an initial list of more than 60. I spent about two months researching, and the semi-finalists were sampled by my cocktail club over a paired dinner with courses complementing each region.

Chicago Tribune | Good Eating
January 25, 2012

Feature: Holiday entertaining

How to throw a last-minute holiday party without looking like it was thrown last-minute. To force the issue, the story ran dangerously close to the holidays.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
December 11, 2011

Feature: 12 drinks of Christmas

For a light-hearted holiday drinks roundup, I asked a dozen local bartenders to pick their favorite “day of Christmas” and design an inspired drink. Corresponding bars and restaurants featured their employee’s cocktail through December, so readers could drink their way through the carol.

Chicago Tribune | Dining
December 1, 2011

Profile: The King's Ginger

Just in time for the chilly holiday season, a Stateside distributor reintroduced a ginger-based elixir originally prescribed for King Edward VII in 1903. The most fascinating discovery? It had never gone out of production in the first place; it just went unnoticed.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
November 6, 2011

Feature: The Aviary

As part of a larger package on chef Grant Achatz’s new side-by-side restaurant and bar, I featured Achatz and rising-star mixologist Craig Schoettler behind the scenes on the brink of opening The Aviary.

Chicago Tribune | Dining
March 10, 2011

Trend: Beer cocktails

Published as a syndicated piece to run in Tribune newspapers, this roundup of beer cocktails featured recipes from all over the country and ran in the hottest peak of summer.

Chicago Tribune | Good Eating
July 13, 2011

Feature: Veggie burgers

As a long time vegetarian, I am passionate about veggie burgers — both in finding the most delicious, and calling bullshit on those that don’t meet basic standards. To set the record straight, I penned a veggie burger manifesto, and published the findings of my quest with the Tribune’s dining critic to name the best new ones in town.

Chicago Tribune | Dining
June 30, 2011

Feature: Perseids meteor shower

My annual summer ritual of camping during the Perseids meteor shower — one of the most visible of the year — yielded a story on where to seek the best stargazing within reasonable driving distance of the Chicago Loop.

Chicago Tribune | Travel
August 1, 2010

Feature: Vermouth

With the goal of educating readers on which to drink when and how, I surveyed this often misunderstood category of fortified wine to pinpoint the best for each scenario. My editor and I tried every last one of them neat…so you don’t have to.

Chicago Tribune | Good Eating
August 1, 2010

Feature: Home bar

One of the first stories I wrote when the Tribune began regularly covering spirits, this story proved as helpful for me as it was for readers: I polled bartenders around the country on what they’d stock their home bars with if starting from scratch. That’s my bar in the photo.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
May 2, 2010

Trend: Violet liqueur

Tied to the Stateside release of Creme Yvette, a lovely spirit that was discontinued in the wake of the mid-century vodka boom, I wrote a trend piece on violet liqueur.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
May 2, 2010

Trend: Old Tom gin cocktails

Shortly after the 21st Century gin craze emerged, a handful of distilleries and distributors began reintroducing an old friend from the original 18th Century craze: Old Tom. Chicago bartenders dug it.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
April 29, 2010

Feature: Classic hotel bars

My mission: Find classic hotel bars in Chicago that served equally classic cocktails. The results? Not at all what I expected.

Chicago Tribune | Play
March 10, 2010

Profile: Douglas Fir Eau de Vie

Intrigued by a cocktail sipped during the holidays in Portland, Ore., I sought out Clear Creek’s Douglas Fir Eau de Vie for a profile.

Chicago Tribune | Sunday Magazine
February 21, 2010

Feature: Lighthouse vacation

By far, this was one of the most unique travel experiences for which I’ve volunteered. I opted for a weeklong stay on the tip-top of a Michigan peninsula on the brink of winter, which was both beautiful and eerie. Next time, summer. For sure.

Chicago Tribune | Travel
May 31, 2009

Feature: Dominica

One of my first international assignments: explore the so-called adventure island of Dominica, in the Caribbean’s lesser antilles. I spent a handful of days and nights driving a Jeep over windy, jungle-clad roads no wider than Chicago alleys, familiarizing myself with one of the healthiest cultures I’ve ever experienced.

Chicago Tribune | Travel
June 8, 2008

Feature: Baja

For the Tribune’s annual, obligatory Mexico coverage, my plan was to drive the length of Baja Mexico, camping and staying in small inns along the way. But in early 2008, the State Department had another agenda: discouraging American travel in Baja Norte due to a rash of cartel kidnappings and beheadings. In the end, I flew directly to Los Cabos and stuck to the sur, which was plenty for a weeklong trip.

Chicago Tribune | Travel
April 6, 2008

LAUREN VIERA has written articles on the arts, culture, style, dining, drinking, travel and leisure for publications including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, T Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Men’s Journal, Imbibe, Forbes Travel Guide and many others. She landed in Chicago after a stint in New York on the launch staff of Lucky Magazine at Condé Nast Publications, where she also contributed to the company’s Special Editorial Projects division. She teaches English at Columbia College, and daydreams about resurrecting her monthly cocktail club and/or getting the band back together. She is a graduate of Oberlin College where she studied music and architecture, but spent most of her time in the basement office of The Oberlin Review falling in love with journalism.

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