After an 18-month hiatus, The Whistler (2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.) reopened its doors Wednesday, Sept. 29, just in time to celebrate 13 years of serving up some of the city’s best cocktails and independent music acts.
Making his debut is new head bartender Alex Barbatsis, a James Beard Award nominee whose repertoire includes Rivera and Good Housekeeping in Los Angeles and Machine in Wicker Park. Founders and co-owners Billy Helmkamp and Rob Brenner brought in Barbatsis just days before The Whistler closed last year. While the bar offered cocktails to go after closing to in-person service, Barbatsis used this time to immerse himself in developing dozens of new cocktails.
Guests to the reopened Whistler can expect a rotating menu of innovative, seasonal creations, such as Barbatsis’ personal favorite, Big Pimmin’. He described it as “an herbaceous twist on the refreshing Pimm’s cup. It combines a bright Bianco vermouth, the French spiced-honey liqueur Benedictine, dry gin, fresh lemon juice, mint, cucumber and ginger beer to make for a zesty and delicious cocktail.”
As much as The Whistler is a cocktail destination, it is an equally beloved music venue. Excited to resurrect the bar’s vibrant music programming, Helmkamp said, “I’m most looking forward to welcoming bands and DJs back onto our stage and catching up with all of our regulars. A lot has happened in the 18 months we’ve been closed!”
Helmkamp said he’s especially pleased with The Whistler’s continued support for the city’s independent music community. “We’re proud of the fact that in 13 years, we haven’t changed our mission or how we go about things at The Whistler,” he said. “We’re still here presenting high-caliber music and making some of the most creative and affordable cocktails in the country.”
Guests can look forward to a jam-packed calendar of programs, like live “wild card” sets on Thursdays, resident DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, and the return of the “Relax Attack Jazz Series” on Wednesdays, which The Whistler has hosted weekly since 2008. Helmkamp said he’s particularly looking forward to welcoming back the long-running jazz series. “We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to continue with this iconic series in a city so rich with talented musicians and appreciative audiences,” he said.
The Whistler has been a mainstay of Logan Square’s social scene since the bar first opened its doors 13 years ago, and owners Helmkamp and Brenner hope it stays that way for the next 13. Brenner said, “The neighborhood has always been an integral part of The Whistler. I moved here over 20 years ago, so it’s home to me. I live and work here. Logan Square has such a strong sense of community. I’ve seen it change drastically over the years, but it’s always welcomed us with open arms. I’m proud that The Whistler has become a fixture of the landscape over the last 13 years.”
For more details and information on The Whistler’s return, including cocktail menus and the program calendar, visit the bar’s website.
The Whistler will open at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays at reduced capacity. Guests are required to be fully vaccinated and must provide proof of vaccination before entering. Proof can include a physical copy of your vaccination card, a photo or photocopy of it, or tools like Vax Verify and MyChart.
Photo credit: The Whistler