Restaurants & Bars | January 6, 2023 6:48 am

This Michelin-Starred Restaurant Now Serves a 135-Year-Old Brandy

To complement the aged pour, Sepia's head bartender shares his favorite old-school Chicago spots

Sepia beverage manager Keith Meicher
Sepia beverage manager Keith Meicher.

Chicago’s Michelin-starred Sepia gets its name, and aesthetic, from the building’s past as a print shop dating to the 19th century. In the kitchen is chef Andrew Zimmerman, whose rustic, seasonal dishes have just enough modernity to fit right into the dining room of brick and wood. The man behind the bar, meanwhile, is head bartender Keith Meicher. And he takes his role in such a historic spot seriously.

In collaboration with Bhakta Armagnac, Sepia has recently begun serving a special brandy tasting flight, with bottles dating to 2001, 1971 and (not a typo here) 1888 — two years before the original print shop even opened. It’s one of just 25 such collections available in the world, a flight that Meicher is justifiably proud to pour.

“It’s extremely rare to be able to drink something that’s been aging since the 1800s,” he says. “Just think, the oldest vintage in this flight predates the invention of movies, television, even radio!”

It’s even rarer, he says, to compare and contrast such a storied vintage with more modern Armagnacs. “It’s really a life-changing experience to literally be drinking history,” he adds. And that’s not the only way he considers history when it comes to drinking and dining experiences.

Inspired by the decades-old drinks, we spoke to Meicher about his favorite old-school spots in the city. (Which you can visit while Sepia undergoes renovations through January 26, after which you should make plans for that brandy flight.) Authentic Chicago never tasted so good.

The Old-School Bar He Loves: The Green Mill

“It’s a jazz club and bar that’s been in business for over 100 years. During Prohibition, it was famously a favorite hangout for Capone and his crew. Walking into that bar is like stepping into a time machine. The aesthetics are perfect and the music has been swinging hard for over a century.”

The Dining Experience That Transports You: Bavette’s

“Chicago is known for steakhouses, and I think there is none greater than Bavette’s. Taking a seat in a booth at Bavette’s is what I imagine 1955 Chicago must have felt like.”

The Classic Chicago Staple: Vienna Beef Dogs

“Chicago is known for its Italian beef and deep-dish pizza — as well as other foods invented here like jibaritos, flaming saganaki and chicken Vesuvio — but my favorite is and will always be the humble Chicago hot dog. And when I get a craving, I’m heading to any corner shop that has a Vienna Beef poster on the wall and looks like the health department should’ve shut it down. The more grime the better! If a hot dog spot has a clean floor, just keep on walkin’.”