Ludlow Liquors in Chicago, Ill. [Photo by Nick Murway]

It’s a bold move to reinvent a favorite neighborhood bar, especially one as beloved as the Orbit Room. When Jeff Donahue and Wade McElroy purchased the Avondale stalwart (which they briefly continued operating as the Orbit Room before closing for the reboot earlier this year), it was the end of an era for the room. But the duo—which also owns popular cocktail spots Estereo and Sportsman’s Club—has given neighbors reason to accept the change. They’ve caught the attention of drinkers from other corners of the city, too.

The concept is charmingly unconventional. For starters, Ludlow Liquors is the first bar in the city to host a permanent food installation: Old Habits, serving Filipino-inspired snacks, operates as a separate entity inside the space. But perhaps even more intriguing is a seemingly simple innovation—the option to order cocktails by the ounce.

“We liked the idea of letting guests try a variety of our cocktails without having to commit to a full-sized boozy beverage each round,” Donahue says. In essence, Ludlow’s customers chart their own drinking adventure.

“Sipping on a one-ounce cocktail with a beer is my preferred way to drink,” Donahue adds.

Cocktails are batched and bottled, then served as the guest chooses, ranging from a one-ounce undiluted pour to a full-sized drink with specialty ice and garnish. This method takes a bit of extra preparation at the start of the night but, according to Donahue, it’s actually a time-saver: “In the execution of service, it’s considerably faster, with the added benefit of consistency,” he says.

The early verdict? It’s a hit.

“Guests like being able to go big on the drinks they love or to enjoy one more small sip of a favorite when they’re closing out their tab,” Donahue says.

Ludlow Liquors in Chicago, Ill. [Photo by Nick Murway]


“We wanted to create a counterpoint stirred whisky cocktail—one that doesn’t sit heavy and bitter on the palate,” Donahue says. “Delicate Japanese whisky is the perfect foundation to let the brightness of the sherry accentuate the bittersweet persimmon liqueur.”

1 oz Suntory Toki whisky

1 oz Lustau Fino Sherry

1 oz Apologue Persimmon

2 dashes Bittermen’s Hopped Grapefruit Bitters

Stir together all ingredients and serve in a coupe.


Ludlow Liquors

2959 N. California Ave.

Chicago, IL 60618

(773) 754-7492