Like most great ideas, it came to him after finishing a bottle of Great Lakes Distillery's Amerique 1912 Absinthe Rouge. The spirit had been a gift and after a month of imbibing with friends, Gary Czaplewski finally took a closer look at the bottle. Three words on the label stuck out: Made in Milwaukee.
"I just knew I had to do something with this absinthe," says Czaplewski, a long-time manager at Club Anything in Walker's Point. Teaming up with Great Lakes Distillery founder Guy Rehorst, Czaplewski and his business partner John Verbos are doing something, indeed.
Friday, May 21 marks the grand opening of Elixir, the new absinthe lounge located in the back bar at Club Anything, 807 S. 5th St.
As many Milwaukeeans know, Club Anything has retained its rank as Milwaukee's premier Goth and industrial club since opening a decade ago, something Czaplewski says will fit right in with his new venture.
"Many of the club's customers are already fans of absinthe," he says. "But we wanted to make it welcoming for everybody. Even if you're not into industrial Gothic music or alternative rock, you'll enjoy the absinthe bar."
The lounge will have a different feel than the dark dance dungeon of Club Anything. Dubbing it "the chill out room," he plans to show old movies, play mellow music -- down tempo or period tunes from the '20s and '30s -- and maintain a relaxed environment for those looking to escape the dance floor for a bit. The bar will be stocked as any full bar would, with a plethora of spirits and bottled beer, but locally made absinthe is obviously the star here.
"Absinthe has been legal here for three years now and no one's really done anything with it. Other bars in Milwaukee serve it, but, frankly, they don't know how to pour it properly."
Czaplewski and his team of well-trained servers and bartenders plan to pull out all the stops when it comes to providing an interesting and authentic absinthe experience, from the correct glassware to the use of sugar cubes. The walls are adorned in new art and the whole room just glows.
Czaplewski calls new addition is the balance the club has needed for some time. The club had been in a decline in the last few years, but recently, he says he's quadrupled business in two months. He's also negotiated with the club's owner Todd Novasic to revamp the outside with a new sign and plans to lighten up the exterior to make it a bit more welcoming.
"We're not selling our dark soul, but we're inviting more people in to check it out."
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”