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The Usual

Shawn McClain Gets Cozy with Scotch

© Tina Rupp

After a night on the line, most chefs have a go-to drink, from cheap beer to a house bartender's expert cocktail. Here, star chefs reveal their favorite drinks.

Chef Shawn McClain of Green Zebra in Chicago and Sage in Las Vegas turns to Scotch when the weather starts to chill. “I’ve just started to get back into it, and now I’m turning into my dad,” he says. “Coming from the Midwest, the winters can get so cold, the weather definitely lends itself to a nice cozy sitting-by-the-fire kind of drink.” A few years ago, McClain bought a private Scotch collection of around 150 bottles thinking he would resell them, but he never did. Now he’s opening them. “Some are great, some are not as good, but they’re all interesting,” he says. “Gordon & MacPhail is not a name that you hear a lot now, but they’ve been in business more than 100 years and have bottled some great single malts; there’s some excellent vintage ones from the 1960s and ’70s. There’s one 10-year Laphroaig bottled back in the early ’80s. I don’t know how well Scotch ages in the bottle versus the cask, but those older bottles are kind of incredible: Really mellow and caramelly. I’ve opened a couple that tasted like burnt rubber, so those were a little off. But it’s been a fun process, to get to know them, and to pour a glass and chill.”

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