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Cheers! Mad scientist at Grand Rapids speakeasy SideBar

Nic Morgan holding drink
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Nic Morgan is a bartender at SideBar.
When you see this door, you're there.

It’s hard to find. The address is 80 Ottawa Avenue NW in Grand Rapids.

But unless someone has told you about it, you probably would never realize that once you take those concrete steps down from the sidewalk, enter a door into an entryway, turn your back to the pizza place, and enter yet another door, you’ve arrived.

This is SideBar. It’s a tiny 18 seat bar where people who love craft cocktails gather.

“Cutest little bar ever,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings exclaimed. Even when the bar is full, it really doesn’t seem crowded, just cozy.

Nic Morgan was behind the bar the first time Cheers! visited. He's welcoming, funny, and as it turns out, inventive.

It happens to bartenders. Someone orders a drink and you realize, “Okay, I’m out of a key ingredient." Necessity really is the mother of invention.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Nic Morgan, peeking around the corner.

Morgan said it was late one night. Someone ordered a sweet tasting cocktail. It called for an egg. No eggs. He basically asked the patron to trust him.

He thought,"Hmmm, chocolate soda. Let’s go with that." He says he used his “mad scientist brain” and came up with a drink he calls the Anjelica Huston.

Morgan said it’s become a pretty popular cocktail at SideBar.

Coxen sipped the cocktail. “When Nic was telling me about this drink, I was really intrigued,” she said, adding, “Frangelico can be really sweet, but Fernet Branca is, of course, is this really bitter, bracing, assertive menthol, almost medicinal kind of liqueur from Italy. This drink is an amazing introduction to people for Fernet.  It brings out those sort of chocolatey menthol flavors that hide in Fernet behind that bitterness."

Coxen said she was also amazed at how light the drink is because of the club soda that’s added.

Anjelica Huston

½ oz Fernet Branca

½ oz St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur

½ oz Frangelico (a hazelnut liqueur)

¾ oz heavy whipping cream

Club soda

Fill a tall collins glass 2/3 full of crushed ice. Add the first four ingredients, saving the cream for last. Mix the ingredients in the glass with a swizzle stick. Top with club soda. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.


Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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