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Chicago Athletic Association Hotel Finds 'Spirit Guide' in Nandini Khaund

 Nandini Khaund, formerly of the Violet Hour, is leading the beverage program at the forthcoming Chicago Athletic Association Hotel and its rooftop restaurant, Cindy's. 
Cindy's at Chicago Athletic Association
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MILLENNIUM PARK — Nandini Khaund, who famously infused a drink with pig's blood as part of a cocktail challenge, will add more of a healing touch to her new drinks served on Michigan Avenue. 

Khaund, a veteran bartender at the Violet Hour and The Charleston, among other Chicago haunts, has joined the forthcoming Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at 12 S. Michigan Ave. as its "spirit guide." Her main duty, she said, will be directing the beverage program at the new hotel and Cindy's, its rooftop restaurant overlooking Millennium Park opening later this month.

"I'm going to sprinkle magic everywhere," Khaund said. 

Cindy's will be encased in glass while perched atop the 13-story, Venetian-Gothic building being converted to a 241-room luxury hotel. The restaurant, Khaund said, will seat about 180 people and have a honey-focused palette reminiscent of a lake house. 

Dave Matthews previews one drink Khaund will offer at the hotel:

A Charlotte native born into a family of doctors, Khaund said she's inspired by apothecaries and has always been interested in the "medicinal qualities" of drinks, like Amaro. One of her cocktails, the "Grey Garden," will include Letherbee Gin, Viognier, Crème de violette, moonlight jasmine blossom tea, lemon, and honey. 

The cocktails Khaund is developing will be available at Cindy's and in-room for guests. Cindy's is topping the hotel, which will also include a Shake Shack and the Cherry Circle Room, a restaurant that occupied the space in 1890 which will be brought back to life by Land and Sea Dept., the team behind Longman & Eagle and Parson's Chicken & Fish.

“I am elated to have Nandini Khaund under our roof. She is an incredible talent, and I couldn’t think of a better person to serve as the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel’s Spirit Guide," Michael Mason, the hotel's director of restaurants and bars, said via e-mail. 

The new gig marks a departure for Khaund, who has typically worked in Wicker Park and Bucktown. But she also welcomes the change, and newfound freedom to direct the drinks at what could be a landmark Downtown hotel. She just started her new job about three weeks ago, giving her roughly a month to prepare for the hotel's opening. 

"It's going to be rad but it's going to be a whirlwind," Khaund said. "That's the thrill ... I've never done this before."

The hotel and all its restaurants are expected to open by the end of the month, a spokeswoman said. Once open, Cindy's hours will run from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. 

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