Daniel De Oliveira knows a thing or two about stirring things up on Chicago’s nightlife scene, having poured exotic, sexy beverages at local urban hotspots like National 27 and Crimson Lounge. Using flavors as varied as caramelized pineapple, fresh passion fruit, habanero chile, canela and a diverse array of spirits (“I love tequila; it’s a cool, versatile spirit that can be used with any combination of flavors,” says De Oliveira”), the Windy City native has create quite a name for himself.
De Oliveira – who counts his German mother and Brazilian father as his greatest support and inspiration – first started working in the restaurant business as a bus boy when he was 17. He loved the buzz of the restaurant and thriving with its energy worked his way up to bartender as soon as he reached 21. Pouring beers wasn’t enough to fulfill his creative side and so under the mentorship of Adam Seger – whose bar, National 27 was known as the only place in Chicago to get a great drink until just five years ago, explains De Oliveira – he began to learn about the techniques, flavor combinations and spirit pairings that he uses nine years later.
“I’m not about going crazy with bubbles, measured shots, strange bitters,” says De Oliveira, who cites blue cheese olives as his least favorite cocktail ingredient and citrus as his preferred basic. “Instead, I learned that I’m really inspired by inspired basics with great Latin flavors – delicious drinks that are simple and cool.”
Since leaving the tutelage of Segar behind at National 27, De Oliveira went on to write the menus for a variety of cocktail-driven establishment and helped open Latin watering hole, Mercadito. Now the 30-year-old owns a cocktail consulting company, High Proof Chicago, and has been tapped to work as a brand ambassador for Altos Tequila.
As for what he’ll be sipping on Labor Day Weekend, De Oliveira says that he’ll likely mix up one of his favorite cocktails, a pineapple and guajillo chili-infused delight named “Mexican Steel” after a set of armor he picked out during his last trip south of the border.
“The tequila is the superstar of this drink – and all the flavors meld together beautifully,” says De Oliveira. Delicate and sweet with the ripe notes of pineapple and the smooth body of tequila, this drink embodies all that summer should be and serves as a fitting aperitif with which to toast to its end.
2oz Olmeca Altos plata tequila
Bar spoon of Green Chartreuse
.75 oz fresh pineapple purée
.75 Guajillo chili syrup
1oz fresh lime juice
Prep: Shake all ingredients (except mist and cilantro) hard and fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Spray the top of the cocktail with Mezcal (Del Maguey Chichicapa is preferred) and garnish with a single cilantro leaf.
*To make guajillo chili syrup combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar and bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Add 4-5 dried guajillo chilis to the mix and let sit on a very low simmer, stirring occasionally. Taste until your desired spice is achieved. Normally 5-7 minutes.