I like the first part of winter. You know, the part with the Christmas lights and New Year’s parties, but January-March are more what defines a Chicago winter, and makes the summer all the better when it hits.
I’m crossing my fingers more and more everyday that I’ll look out the window and see a bit of sun and a patch of green grass. Are we there yet?
But deny it or not, Chicago is 3 months and a snowstorm-and-a-half away from T-shirt weather.
And there’s no better time for a post about a stiff drink and a story.
Cut to Mount Gay Rum and their new offering: Mount Gay Black Barrel. A legit drink for our aforementioned authentic winter.
I got connected to Mount Gay Rum because of an event they had in the city late last year- An evening of cocktails with a Mixologist and the founder of local shop, Vividbraille.
Any excuse to add a new spirit to the liquor cabinet is not to be avoided. And I’m ashamed to say, I had no idea that Mount Gay Rum is the oldest existing brand of rum in the world. Their history goes back to 1703 (when Mount Gay Rum was establishing it’s roots, literal Pirates of the Caribbean were a real threat to the seas, which I find impressive). And from what I read, not much has changed in the style and process since then (impressive as well). In a city where breweries and distilleries pop up, and either succeed or fail, with the seasons and/or hipness of the neighborhood, it’s something I’m not used to.
An Original Spirit
Vividbraille, a clothing and design label, brought Mount Gay Rum to Chicago. Founder, Brock Willsey, was one of a handful of artful crafters selected for a nation-wide spotlight:
“When we live in a time where products are mass produced, or we trust the latest gadget to tell us how and when to make our every next move, it’s crucial to remember the importance of honoring history, process and tradition. Amidst the masses there are still those few who move against the status quo. Those preserving what it means to craft products with their hands, and remembering that in order to revel in the outcome you must first take the time to enjoy the process.
We call them Original Spirits.“
You can watch the short feature below:
Brock and I set up a time for me to stop by Vividbraille (near North and Damen) for a piece of a snowy afternoon. It’s not the type of store I’d ever really enter on my own for 2 reasons: I’ve never heard of the store or brand, and it looks far too hip and cool for me.
And at face, it probably is too hip and cool for me, but I’ve set out this year to have an open mind and new experiences. And I like hearing people’s stories. The history runs down each Chicago street, and the background that leads to every local storefront, almost always has a tale worth documenting.
It took Brock years of hard work, creating and building a brand in Detroit, designing his work from the ground up, connecting with other entrepreneurs, re-locating and branching out, all the while staying rooted in the practices and principles that got him here.
The sketch above is the blueprint to one of his creations, very raw work from the inital stages of an idea. It’s a part of the process that most designers are much more conservative about sharing. Brock proudly displays the portfolio, front and center on the counter.
What started as a passion and raw idea sketched in a Detroit garage, turned into a brick and mortar store, design shop, and production site for Vividbraille. The new setting is a polished display of hard work and an idea, and customers to see and feel the effort that goes into each piece.
Something that lasts and something with a story.
Vividbraille is at a great location, I’ve actually walked by the shop dozens of times without thinking twice, some of you probably have too. Or at least your neighborhood equivalent to Vividbraille.
It’s winter, open a new door, even if it’s just to get out of the cold.
And try a new drink, as we wait for a new season.
You can visit Vividbraille in Bucktown at
Monday: 11am – 7pm
Wednesday: 11am – 7pm
Thursday: 11am – 7pm
Friday: 11am – 7pm
Saturday: 11am – 7pm
And below are a list of bars in Chicago that serve Mount Gay Black Barrel.
The Hubbard Inn
10 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
111 W Hubbard St
Chicago, IL 60654
110 W Illinois St
Chicago, IL 60654