Some things you should know about the Speakeasy Throwback on Thursday at the Palmer House Hilton:
The centerpiece (physically speaking) of the gathering of local distilleries and some of Chicago's top chefs will be a bathtub filled with booze.
The base of the concoction -- the only word suitable here -- will be tea from Rodrick Markus of Rare Tea Cellars. Spirits from Death's Door, Koval, North Shore, Hum and Templeton Rye will fill out the mixture, says Lockwood's Phillip Foss, one of the chief organizers of the event. Forner Sepia cocktail slinger Peter Vestinos will preside over the bathtub. There may or may not be a slushie version of the bathtub beverage; Foss is experimenting.
The person for whom this event has been organized, bartender Shawn Koch, however, doesn't much care for booze right now, only red wine, and only a half a glass at most -- though that won't stop him from at least sampling all the night will have to offer.
This time last year, Koch was working the bar at the Paramount Room, 415 N. Milwaukee. Around the holidays, he started losing dexterity in one arm and became increasingly forgetful -- though he kept on tending bar with the good arm. In late January, when one of his legs quit working on him, his wife, Katie, took him to the doctor. They found three brain tumors in his brain, the largest the size of a golf ball, and diagnosed him with a rare form of brain cancer.
"There are only 58 people in the world with this cancer," Katie Koch says.
Since then, Koch, 33, has had brain surgery, seven weeks of chemo and radiation therapy -- and a blissful four-week vacation in Arizona and Iowa with his wife and 20-month-old daughter Charlie. He's now in the early stages of a six-round cycle of chemo.
This week, while momentum has been building about the Speakeasy and its amazing lineup, Koch and his family were en route to Detroit to bury his grandmother. And this latest round of chemo has left him feeling pretty crappy on top of that.
"You never know when you have treatment, when it's really gonna hit you. And it hit me this week," Koch says.
Koch will be at the Palmer House tomorrow. He may not stay the entire evening, like the rest of us, but he'll be there.
"I'm a bartender and I was really serious about it, so I definitely want to go around and taste everybody's cocktails paired with the food," he says.
All proceeds from the evening will go toward the Shawn Koch Foundation. Tickets -- $95 -- can be bought at the door. See you there.