Chicago Food Magazine recently caught up with Apologue Liqueur Founder, Robby Haynes, to discuss why its important to source ingredients from local farmers and where his favorite Apologue-based cocktails are being mixed up around the city.
CFM: How did Apologue get started and what was your inspiration behind it?
Haynes: We launched in fall of 2017 - it’s a bit of a blur. My wife Eden introduced my partner Jordan and I. He has a background in consulting and strategy and I’ve been making cocktails, spirits and liqueurs for the last 10-25 years (originally at The Violet Hour and then on to now-closed Anologue). While at The Violet Hour, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experiment with syrups, bitters and (when I was feeling particularly inspired) liqueurs. I’ve always been drawn to the medium. It’s very expressive. You can build complexity and nuance and showcase flavors in a thoughtful way so that each sip unfolds with a beginning, middle and end. At Apologue, we use the highest quality, all-natural fruits, roots, herbs and barks to create delicious liqueurs for the home or back bar.
CFM: Why did you choose to create a liqueur as opposed to a regular spirit?
Haynes: Liqueurs are interesting in that they can be enjoyed neat, over ice or in a cocktail. That diversity of experience is exciting. When used creatively, they can take a classic cocktail to the next level. Take the Persimmon Negroni for example. By using our bittersweet Persimmon liqueur in lieu of your traditional red aperitif, you can create your own modern classic. On the flip side, you can make a really simple highball with soda and an orange peel and have a much more casual, yet equally stimulating drink. And in the summer, you spritz it of course.
CFM: How did you settle on your three profiles (Aronia, Persimmon, Celery Root)?
Haynes: There’s amazing produce right here in the Midwest and lesser known fruits like Persimmon and Aronia berry border on the exotic. They are often difficult to come by, may be challenging to cultivate, ripen quickly or have short growing seasons. We like being able to make these interesting flavors more accessible. We’re very thankful for our suppliers hard working efforts to deliver such high-quality ingredients for us to work with. We take a progressive approach to traditional production methods to capture the essence of these ingredients in liqueur form, making them available year-round.
CFM: Where do you source your all-natural ingredients from?
Haynes: A few different places! We get our aronia berries from Coldbrook Farm in Kankakee County, IL. We get our persimmon from Twin Tykes in Orleans, IN. It’s a beautiful place. Historically we’ve gotten our celery root from Nichols Farm, a certified sustainable, family farm located in Marengo, IL and have recently been working with a local non-profit to grow it at their vocational farm on the West side of Chicago. Also, Epic Spices consistently provides us with the best spices and herbs. Their shop is open to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Definitely check them out.
CFM: How do you directly support your chosen community-based organizations?
Haynes: We make a conscious effort to support organizations that are positively impacting our communities. Urban agriculture, social justice initiatives and the arts are core areas that are close to the Apologue's heart. We do what we can to support through direct and in-kind contributions along with service days and charitable drives. Some of the organizations we’ve been fortunate enough to work with are Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Growing Solutions Farm, Plant Chicago and Chicago Period Project.
CFM: Why should readers choose Apologue over another liqueur?
Haynes: Our liqueurs are experiential. They unfold on the palate. Every ingredient is hand selected and the liqueurs themselves are painstakingly crafted to be nuanced and complex while still being versatile, fun and easy to use. Also, people can feel good about knowing exactly what’s in their drink. We are big on transparency and list every ingredient on the back of the bottle. Plus, they’re delicious. We also work hard to help people make better cocktails, build stronger communities and support organizations that share a similar ethos.
CFM: What are some of the best Apologue-based cocktails that you’ve seen mixologists do at restaurants around the city?
Haynes: These days, I try to cocktail responsibly, and have been preferring “lower impact” adult beverages. I had a stunning spritz at All Together Now! in West Town. Apologue Aronia, Prosecco and orange shrub topped with a little Topo Chico and garnished with an orange peel. It’s the first time I’ve had orange shrub and Aronia together and it was delightful.
CFM: What are your recommended food pairings with the above suggestions or make-at-home cocktails?
Haynes: Spritzes play well with snacks and apps. I like olives and really nice cheese (All Together Now! has a great selection). To be honest, spritzes are great with just about anything.
CFM: What have been the biggest challenges and successes so far?
Haynes: We are constantly working to demystify the cocktail making process and empower folks at home to get creative and come up with their own favorite drink. We do a considerable amount of educational workshops to encourage aspiring home bartenders. On the success front? Every time someone enjoys an Apologue cocktail at home or at a restaurant or bar it feels like success. The absolute best part of this job is seeing someone make a cocktail with our product, whether it’s a 10-touch tiki drink, remastered classic cocktail or at-home highball. We’re always excited to see people put their own spin on things.
CFM: What are you currently working on and what’s next for Apologue?
Haynes: We’re always looking ahead to the future, and are excited to introduce a new, savory expression to the portfolio later this summer. Stay tuned!