Three Dots and a Dash’s Paul McGee Has The Answers

Three Dots and a Dash _Sea Urchin Mug_Credit Anjali Pinto

There has recently been an explosion of high-end rums on the market, and with that it has created not only a want for the liquor but a general curiosity. None more curious than myself, mostly because I am such a novice drinker that I couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. I hear words like “agricole” and I immediately know that I need help figuring things out, I like to be informed. The reason I want to be informed is because there’s a new hotspot in town from the lovely people at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) and their expansive rum list has patrons of the tiki bar singing its praises. Every time I log onto twitter it seems like someone is headed to Three Dots and a Dash (435 North Clark). I wanted to be in on the fun, but first I wanted to educate myself on exactly what I was getting myself into. Lucky for me, mixologist/partner Paul McGee agreed to answer a couple questions for me.

Paul McGee Headshot_Credit Anjali Pinto (3)

Paul is one of Chicago’s most famed mixologists, he began his career slinging his drinks in some of booze-town Las Vegas’ busiest casinos and nightclubs, including the Rio and Bellagio. His real infatuation with the importance and value of service behind the bar (which Three Dots and a Dash prides itself on) came when he joined the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group and acted as the Corporate Mixologist for the various restaurants around the country. From there he moved to Chicago in 2008 and opened The Whistler in Logan Square with partners Billy Helmkamp and Robert Brenner, which racked up many accolades during his time there. He began working with LEYE in early 2012 and collaborates on a number of new projects, none more pressing than the tiki concept, Three Dots and a Dash, which opened July 2013. Paul has been named Chicago Tribune’s 2014 Beverage Professional of the Year and Eater Chicago’s 2013 Bartender of the Year. Basically, he knows his stuff and has shared a little bit of that knowledge below:

What do you think makes Three Dots and a Dash special?

Paul: Three Dots and a Dash is different because there is no place like it in the city!  The decor and ambiance transports you to a different time and place.  We take a craft approach to making our cocktails and have one of the largest selections of rum in the state!

  • For the entry-level rum drinker who may have never really explored it in depth, can you describe how it’s different from other liquors?

Paul:  Rum is so interesting because of its diversity.  Rum is made almost everywhere in the world and each place makes their rum a little differently.  This leads to many different styles and flavor profiles from the lighter styles of Spanish rums to the earthy rums of Martinique.

  • I’ve heard of high-end, artisanal and “agricole” rums; what are the differences in these rums, and what do you attribute to the recent spike in popularity in the rum market?

Paul:  Words like “high-end” and “artisanal” don’t really mean much when it comes to rum.  Those words are usually just used to market a product.  “Agricole” however, is reserved for rums that are made from sugar cane juice not molasses or cane syrup.  Rhum Agricole hailing from the islands of Martinique, Haiti, Guadeloupe and a handful of other French Islands has more vegetal qualities than rums made from molasses or cane syrup. 

  • Can you give me a brief description of the different rums Three Dots and a Dash has available?

Paul:  We have over 200 rums that vary from different countries/islands and also vary in style.  Our selection contains Spanish style rums that tend to be a little drier, English style rums that are heavy and rich and we also have French style rhums that are more vegetal.

  • Imagine I was a person who has never had a drink before in my life and came to you for my first drink; what would you make for me?

 I would make a classic Daiquiri.  It is a simple cocktail made with rum, lime juice and sugar – just something clean and fresh!

Now let’s say I’m an “experienced drinker” who knows his way around a bar stool; what would you fix me up to wow me?

 Paul: Hmmmm…I guess I would want to make something that really showcased the spirit.  A Ti Punch would be a great drink for the experienced drinker.  A heavy pour of Rhum Agricole Blanc with a disc of lime and cane sugar served over a big cube of ice.  

Three Dots and a Dash_Interior 6_Credit Anjali Pinto

Images: Anjali Pinto