Common Good aims to create new cocktail culture in western suburbs


When Mike Melazzo was growing up in Glen Ellyn and Wheaton, the two cities weren’t exactly alcohol-friendly. With Wheaton College’s dry campus and the large traditional Christian community, alcohol consumption was generally discouraged.

But in the last few years, he’s noticed a cultural shift in his hometowns. At a pop-up Melazzo hosted at The Beer Cellar, he even served someone who worked for Wheaton Bible Church who came in with his wife, proudly admitting that they loved Manhattans and wanted to learn how to make them better.

Now, Melazzo (formerly of Mott St) and his partners, Chad Hauge (beverage director of Longman & Eagle) and Alicia Hauge (catering and events at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, and married to Chad), are opening Common Good, a cocktail bar right across from the Glen Ellyn Metra station. They hope the bar will become ground zero for a blossoming cocktail community in the suburbs.

“This is an opportunity to not only do something that’s a more cocktail-focused bar, but also do something that is hospitality-focused,” Melazzo said. “Here’s a community that is looking for a chance to connect over a cocktail and looking for someone to open a space that welcomes them in, and that to me is incredibly attractive.”

While Melazzo was working as a bartender at Mott St, he heard from other people in the industry that the suburbs weren’t ready for craft cocktails and that most people just wanted to be met “where they’re at” — meaning they just wanted simple drinks like a rum and Coke, or a beer.

But when he and Chad Hauge hosted the pop-up in Glen Ellyn, they were blown away by how engaged people were and how determined they were to learn more about what they were drinking and to learn to replicate it at home.

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“I really love the idea of owning a spot that creates space for people to gather around something that is crafted well and create a community where you are,” Hauge said. “Glen Ellyn needs a place for people to gather, and I think we can add to that.”

The trio point to their Christian faith as the inspiration behind the bar and its business practices, but strongly emphasized that the bar is for everyone, no matter their background.

Although religion and alcohol have had a strained relationship in recent decades, monks originally created beer and spirits like Chartreuse, Hauge pointed out. Melazzo said there are multiple times in the Bible when people connect to God through food, drink and beauty.

“There’s this idea that there’s sustenance, beauty and enjoyment in food and in drink, but also a way we can connect with God,” Melazzo said.

Because of the trio’s beliefs, Melazzo said they plan to pay their employees well and focus on benefits that allow them to have a family and a sustainable lifestyle through scheduling.

“It’s so hard to raise a family in the restaurant or bar industry,” said Hauge, who has a young daughter. “We want to be countercultural to that.”

Melazzo and Hauge are planning on “going crazy” with the cocktails, whether it means applying techniques like sous vide or using equipment like a centrifuge or a dehydrator. There will also be a highball machine, around which Melazzo is excited to create a bubbly menu.

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“The whole thing is about doing a high-quality drink in a low-key, nonprecious way,” Hauge said. “The craft is in service of the community, and our spices and style of service will reflect that.”

One example of the team’s elevated cocktails is a house Old-Fashioned made with Benedictine infused with orange peels and cherries in a sous vide and combined with Okinawan black sugar. The solution is centrifuged to separate the solids, leaving a clear liquid that is combined with Belle Meade Bourbon. Melazzo used a centrifuge to great effect at Mott St, producing aromatic, floral clear drinks from otherwise pulpy juices.

“If you ask me, it’s the best Old-Fashioned I’ve ever tried in my life, but it’s not precious. It’s just an Old-Fashioned,” Hauge said. “It’s not something you need to hold up. It’s a drink to enjoy yourself around people you love.”

Melazzo noted that he’s not a scientist (he actually failed chemistry in school) and just wants to try new things via trial and error.

“We’re not here to lecture you and make you feel like an idiot,” Melazzo said. “It’s us saying this is cool — we figured out how to do it, and you should check it out.”

Look out for Nona’s Garden, made with a clarified tomato and snap pea gin, which Melazzo describes as bright, refreshing and unexpected. And Alicia Hauge loves the Muse of Fire, which is made with blanco tequila, broVo dry curacao and CH amaro. The drink is clear with a spear of ice with a red Thai chili suspended in it.

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“We experimented with this cocktail at the pop-up, and the response we got was ‘hot damn!’” Chad Hauge said with a laugh.

The bar will be serving prepared foods and snacks from Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits and Blackberry Market, since the bar doesn’t have a kitchen. And if you encounter an obscure liqueur while you’re there, there’s a good chance the bar will have a bottle of it you can take home. Common Good may also have a liquor locker or membership program where the team will curate ingredients for a fee.

The name of the bar originated when Chad and Alicia Hauge were attending church at New Community Covenant Church in Logan Square during a sermon series about hospitality. The pastor was saying the ultimate aim of hospitality has to be the common good of all people, and Chad remembers Alicia elbowing him in the side.

“I’m kind of sick of doing cool things for cool people who get it already,” Chad Hauge said. “I love doing something beautiful and something that is cool for anyone who walks through the door and has never tried a cocktail in their life.”

Common Good is slated to open mid-August.

560 Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn, instagram.com/commongoodcocktails

gwong@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @GraceWong630

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