Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Being nicknamed the Prairie State may make Illinois sound quiet, tame even. In fact, it is a bustling hub of activity for the country. Let’s dive right in and get our hands dirty:
Motto: “State sovereignty, national union” – If that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies, nothing will!
Food: Chicago Deep Dish is a very popular pizza style, which has spread to other locales. Known for its higher crust, which allows for ample toppings, the pizza is often compared to a pie. Two Chicago pizzerias – and three chefs – have been credited with the invention of deep dish, but it’s hard to discern which claim is legit.
Drink: Malört is a bask liquor – a wormwood-flavoured Swedish spiced spirit – that has been available since the 1930’s. Hard to find outside Chicago, the bitter-tasting libation was once described in the movie Drinking Buddies as: “like swallowing a burnt condom filled with gasoline”. Sounds delicious!
Site to See: A top attraction in the state is the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), in Chicago. Once the tallest building in the world, today, the site features the Skydeck, located on the 103rd floor, with views as far as Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, on clear days. The skyscraper has appeared in countless films and TV series.
Street: Michigan Avenue, in Chicago, is home to the Magnificent Mile shopping district, among other attractions. In 1924, the street was the first in the city to have traffic lights installed.
TV Show: Some of the greatest comedies ever created have been set in Illinois. These sitcoms include Married with Children, Roseanne, The Bob Newhart Show, Good Times, Family Matters, and many more.
Movie: A favourite of the Sip Advisor to this day, Wayne’s World, starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, is about the rise of public access TV hosts in Aurora, to becoming nationally syndicated. Of course, the man responsible for Wayne and Garth’s rise to stardom is exploiting them for his own gains and our heroes need to realize that before it’s too late.
Book/Author: Some of America’s most notable writers were born in Illinois, including Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (creator of Tarzan).
Fictional Character: This was a tough one to narrow down, but I had to go with Al Bundy. The controversial patriarch of the Bundy clan is stuck in a personal rut he will never dig himself out of, married to an unemployable wife and with two delinquent kids, who spend the family savings before they are even earned from Al’s lowly job as a women’s shoe salesman.
Fictional City: Shermer has been used as the setting for all of filmmaker John Hughes’ movies. This list of classics includes The Breakfast Club; Planes, Trains & Automobiles; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Home Alone; and the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise.
Actor/Actress: Some of the funniest people in movies and TV come to our screens from Illinois. This includes Robin Williams, Bill Murray, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, John Belushi, Melissa McCarthy, Nick Offerman, John C. Reilly, and Betty White. That’s one impressive troupe of performers.
Song: Illinois by The Everly Brothers, sounds like a jingle composed by the state tourism department. It was actually written by Randy Newman, famous for his Disney-Pixar animated film scores.
Band/Musician: The Smashing Pumpkins, fronted by Billy Corgan, were formed in Chicago, in 1988. The band went on to become one of the most popular of the 1990’s with hits such as 1979; Bullet with Butterfly Wings; Zero; and Tonight, Tonight; all from the double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, in October 1995.
People: Walt Disney, father of the vast Disney empire, was born in Chicago. After growing up in Missouri, Disney would return to Chicago as a teenager, where he would become a cartoonist for his high school newspaper and take courses at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.
Animal: Terry, a Cairn Terrier from Chicago, remains one of the most famous animal actors of all-time, after playing the role of Toto, in The Wizard of Oz. Despite other appearances, this was Terry’s only credited role, for which she was paid more than most of the human actors. Judy Garland, star of the film, wanted to adopt Terry after the movie finished, but trainer Carl Spitz turned down the offer.
Invention: Permanently attached to most people’s hands, if not their hips, the cell phone is integral to life. Chicago’s own Martin Cooper, called the ‘father of the handheld cell phone’, developed the first of its type, in 1973, while working for Motorola. When brought to market a decade later, the phone – dubbed The Brick – weighed 2.5 pounds, measured 10 inches long and cost $3,995.
Crime: John Wayne Gacy, the Killer Clown, terrorized Chicago in the 1970’s, murdering at least 30 people. Nearly a century before, also in the Windy City, H.H. Holmes used his Murder Castle to end the lives of an unknown number of people, with some estimates going into the hundreds. Both serial killers were executed for their crimes, Gacy by lethal injection and Holmes by hanging.
Law: In Illinois, it is illegal to hang things from your rear-view mirror. So long, air fresheners, fuzzy dice, rosaries, good luck charms, etc.
Sports Team: Chicago represents the state in each of the Big 4 sports leagues, including two teams in MLB, the Cubs and White Sox. Their other franchises, include the Bears (NFL), Bulls (NBA) and Blackhawks (NHL). Each team has existed for close to a century or more, winning multiple championships along the way. It should also be noted, the Harlem Globetrotters were actually formed in Chicago, in 1926, and didn’t play in Harlem until 42 years later.
Athlete: Dick Butkus was born in Chicago, playing linebacker for his hometown Chicago Bears (NFL) over a nine-year career. During that time, he was selected to eight Pro Bowls, while winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. Also, track and field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee, from East St. Louis, was named the greatest female athlete of all-time by Sports Illustrated for Women.
Famous Home: Illinois is known as the Land of Lincoln, in reference to Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site, located in Springfield, is where Lincoln lived from 1844 to 1861, before becoming president. The four-block area around the home has been turned into a historic district, with all homes returned to how they would have appeared during Lincoln’s time living there.
Urban Legend: Resurrection Mary is one of Illinois’ most famous ghosts. She is of the ‘vanishing hitchhiker’ variety, with numerous reports of people encountering the specter on Archer Avenue between the Oh Henry/Willowbrook Ballroom and Resurrection Cemetery. The victim of a hit-and-run after leaving a dance, Mary often appears looking for a ride, only to disappear.
Museum: McDonald’s is headquartered in Illinois, so it’s no surprise the McDonald’s #1 Store Museum could also be found in the state. Opened in 1955, by Illinoisan Ray Kroc, known as the founder of McDonald’s as we know it today, the restaurant was demolished in 1984, with a replica built on the site. The museum was demolished in 2018 after repeated flooding, with exhibits moved across the street to a newer McDonald’s restaurant.
Firsts: If you like city skylines, you can thank Illinois for that. Chicago was home to the world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, which opened in 1885. A mere 10 stories high, it was demolished in 1931, replaced by another building reaching 45 floors.
Company: Kraft Heinz has headquarters in Chicago (as well as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and is one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world. Popular products include Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Heinz Ketchup, Oscar Mayer meats, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, and many others. Kraft Dinner and Heinz Ketchup alone is a beautiful marriage.
Events: Prohibition across the U.S. led to the rise of gang activity, with crews battling for territory and control. One major incident was the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, which occurred on February 14, 1929, in Chicago. The attack resulted in the deaths of seven North Side Gang members and associates and was never conclusively solved. Many suspects were considered, including members of Al Capone’s South Side Gang and even those within the Chicago Police Department, as two of the four shooters were in police uniforms.
Miscellaneous: The State Snack Food of Illinois is popcorn and why not, Chicago-Style Popcorn – the mix of cheese and caramel flavours – is a very popular offering. The movement to have popcorn given this designation was started by second and third grade students, as part of a class project.
- 1 oz Dark Rum
- 1 oz Ruby Port
- Top with Club Soda
- Splash of Lemon Juice
- Dash of Egg Whites
- Pinch of Sugar
- Garnish with a Lemon Wheel
This beverage intrigued me, thanks to its blend of ingredients. The drink’s background has been lost to history, with not much known about its origins. This won’t be the last time, though, the Fizz family of cocktails appears as part of this project.