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Leopold's schnapps.

Schnapps, that potent Old World European libation most often associated with peppermint, is getting renewed attention at Leopold, a Belgian-inspired restaurant that opened at the start of 2011 in Chicago's West Town neighborhood. The cocktails and spirits section of the beverage menu highlights a handful of house-made schnapps, including sasparilla (the most popular), blackberry, mint and orange and basil-honey.

Manager Scott Chrisler concocts these after-dinner drinks, usually with vodka, which he then infuses with seasonal fruits and herbs and natural sweeteners, like raw sugar, honey or simple syrup. He serves the schnapps, all priced at $8, in Cordial or Grappa glasses if ordered neat, or in a Collin glass if ordered with ice or soda.

"We found a niche. It's something that most people don't take the time to do," Chrisler says. He can make a variety like sarsaparilla in an afternoon that will be drinkable in a day or two. Schnapps made with fruit needs four-to-six weeks to ferment properly.

Leopold, owned by Christie and Don Agee, is primarily beer focused, but servers skilled at "reading" the customer often sell schnapps, both before and after dinner. Chrisler likes his sarsaparilla schnapps with the smoked rabbit entree.

For fall and winter, Chrisler is contemplating using other seasonal ingredients in schnapps, such as apples, licorice root, gingerbread or possibly even peppermint.

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Title Annotation:DRINK CULTURE
Author:Walkup, Carolyn
Date:Nov 1, 2011
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