Summer cocktails carry-out farm-to-table concept

I've found lots of cocktail recipes and photos popping up my inbox this week and boy, am I getting thirsty. This e-mail talks about the new J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar and how the cocktails incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables that are plentiful this season. Take a look below, sounds like a great place to stop for an after-work cocktail:

This summer, Chicagoans are in for a refreshing treat at the recently opened J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar (749 N. Clark St.) with the restaurant's in-house hydroponic garden being in full bloom and providing fresh, in season ingredients. The mixology program at J. Rocco, which is overseen by the seasoned Kristianna Cross focuses on incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables and hand-picked herbs from the restaurant's hydroponic garden, to offer fresh flavors, in line with Chef Steve Chiappetti's "honest Italian" cuisine concept. From the hand crushed watermelon in the Parasole, the house-made strawberry-rhubarb grenadine in the Agrodolce, and the rosemary syrup in the Calabreeze, the flavors of each craft cocktail revolve around the seasonal produce and flavorful herbs, offering a variety of vibrant concoctions to accompany Chiappetti's hearty Italian fare.

Designed and installed by Arash Amini of FarmTower Co. (, the living wall was purposed to bring food production to the site of consumption - providing a flat form for zero-food mile diets, better-than-organic cultivation and year-round harvests. While the herbs produced by the living wall, including rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil, mint and more, are used by Cross to freshen up cocktails all year long, summertime is the perfect season to enjoy light, herbaceous flavors.

Cross, who has been a vegan for three years, says limiting her diet to only plant-based ingredients has opened up an entire universe of different spices, fruits and vegetables from around the world. She uses this knowledge and applies it to the cocktail program. Cross approaches mixology with a DIY attitude, making her own ginger ale, grenadines, bar cherries, sour mix, limoncellos and more. "Classic cocktails are classic for a reason," she believes, "they have a history in our culture, even if just a memory." She loves taking classic cocktails and giving them a modern, fun twist with fresh ingredients.

The summer cocktail menu at J. Rocco is as follows:

Pepper-infused vodka, limoncello, fresh oj, housemade grenadine

Peach puree, vanilla bean syrup, prosecco

Mandarin vodka, cranberry juice, ginger syrup, macerated mint

Don q anejo rum, meyer lemon, watermelon, basil

Rocco Highball
Smooth ambler old scout straight bourbon whiskey and house-made ginger ale

Koval rye whiskey, lemon/lime juice, strawberry-rhubarb grenadine

Scarlet Harlot
Breckenridge bourbon, meletti amaro, blood orange and brandied cherries

Comb 9 gin, Campari, grapefruit juice, rosemary syrup
J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar is open seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday from 5:00pm to 10:00pm and Friday and Saturday from 5:00pm to 1:00am. Valet parking is available during all hours of operation. Reservations are available by or by calling (312) 475-0271.
About J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar
J. Rocco, in its entirety, pays homage to partners' Joseph Frasca and Chef Steve Chiappetti's Calabrian heritage, and all of the relatives who have enriched their lives over countless, memorable meals. The experience and dynamic cooking style of Chef Chiappetti (Rhapsody, Mango, Viand and Costa d'Oro ) are now brought to life on what he describes as an "honest Italian" menu - where pure and seasonal ingredients star in a showcase of genuine, bold flavor. Chef Chiappetti's menu of regional signatures includes nearly ten house made pastas, pizzas, enticing entrĂ©es hearty soups and several meatball preparations, complemented by robust Italian wines and fine cocktails. A true farm-to-table experience stems from Chef Chiappetti's family background of Chiappetti Meats, with multiple generations of butchers on both parents' sides, plus an expertly installed hydroponic garden where he hand-picks lettuces, herbs and other items for the freshest flavor possible. J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar's two-level space in River North includes an 80-seat dining room on the first floor, including the traditional Italian family table and bar seating for 12, plus an extended bar area on the second floor ideal for imbibing, light bites and socializing.