Dining area next to bar

Insta Worthy Cocktails

The historic (established 1929), English-inspired Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois, probably isn’t the place you’d expect…

The Blushing Bride cocktail, made with tequila, lime juice, elderflower syrup, chili bitters, Prosecco and a butterfly pea tea ice cube.

The historic (established 1929), English-inspired Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Illinois, probably isn’t the place you’d expect to be drinking creative cocktails served in kids’ cereal boxes and dainty teacups, but take a closer look at the playful touches sprinkled throughout the property–like photos of staff on coasters and rubber ducks in bathtub caddies–and you’ll realize it isn’t quite so surprising.

Mrs. Maisel, made with gin, raspberries, ginger, black rose liqueur, oleo saccharum and citrus.

Jorge Centeno, head bartender, leads the Inn’s beverage program. He joined the team following the property’s extensive renovations in 2015, bringing with him years of management and bartending experience gained from positions throughout Chicago. 

On his vision for the beverage program at the Deer Path Inn, Centeno told me, “Our goal is to keep things fun, innovative and comfortable. We don’t ever want to be pretentious.”

As for the photogenic off-menu cocktails the Inn shares on its Instagram account, Centeno makes clear that aesthetics aren’t his main priority. “We want [our drinks] to taste great and for people to taste that they were made with intention and not just thrown together for the wow factor,” Centeno said. “We enjoy opportunities to infuse some whimsy into the presentation, [and] if people feel drawn to take a photo or post it on social media then that’s a bonus.”

Centeno finds inspiration for cocktails in a variety of places, from runs (where he spots potential ingredients and preparations) to shopping trips (where packaging and displays can spark an idea) to spending time in his garden. “I find a lot of inspiration in nature and some of my favorite drinks were inspired by herbs and flowers grown in my own yard,” Centeno said.

Take the Krispy Kocktail, for example. The dessert-like drink is made with Roku gin, crème de menthe, almond milk and orgeat and served in a mini Rice Krispies cereal box garnished with whipped cream, Rice Krispies and strawberry slices. “I was walking through the kitchen one day and passed the shelf with all the room service cereal boxes,” Centeno said. “The fun colors and packaging brought back childhood memories for me and I began to think it would for others as well. Initially I thought about how I could use the cereal in a drink served in a regular cocktail glass. Through trial and error, it started to feel forced and as if I was just creating something for the sake of creating it. It was then that I decided to make a great tasting dessert cocktail and simply serve it in the cereal box itself and then garnish it with the cereal.”

While some of these unique cocktails grace the actual menu, Centeno’s most out-of-the-box creations are shared on social media (typically when they’re tied to a holiday or event, like this 4th of July cocktail with a red, white and blue popsicle), and the bartenders are happy to whip you up a cocktail from the Inn’s Insta feed, so long as they have the ingredients on hand. “Others see [the cocktails] going across the dining rooms and you end up with that When Harry Met Sally moment–‘I’ll have what she’s having!’” Centeno said.