A Summertime Lychee Martini from the James Beard-Nominated Chicago Bar Nobody's Darling

Meredith Francis
A lychee martini
Nobody's Darling co-owners Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle say their lychee martini is great spring or summer cocktail—but maybe just stick to two

When Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle were creating the menu for their cocktail bar, Nobody’s Darling, they had two people in mind.

“Our first menu was all the drinks that Angela and Renauda like to drink,” Barnes says, laughing.

Now, just a little over a year after they opened, their Andersonville bar already has a James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Bar Program.

Barnes and Riddle, who have been friends for years, originally bonded over golf and their shared love of a good cocktail. Riddle says it was during a golf outing that she first suggested opening a bar together. She kept bringing it up to Barnes, “And she finally said yes,” Riddle says.

“We definitely envisioned Nobody's Darling being some place where the community could gather and certainly where the community would feel comfortable,” Barnes says.

Many of the cocktails at Nobody’s Darling include alcohol from Black-owned, women-owned, and queer-owned businesses, including the recipe below. The bar is also queer-friendly, but Barnes like to phrase it another way.

“We like ‘straight-friendly,’ because we are definitely women-centered and LGBTQ-friendly, but we want everyone to feel welcome,” Barnes says.

Barnes and Riddle were still struggling to come up with a name even as the renovation of their space was wrapping up before opening.  Barnes finally found inspiration in a book of poetry, when she stumbled across an Alice Walker poem that begins, “Be nobody’s darling; / Be an outcast.”. 

“When I read it, I thought, this is it, right?” Barnes says. “This is what we are trying to do in terms of … forging our own path and being unapologetic for it.” Riddle was ecstatic about the idea.

Before even reaching the one-year anniversary of their business, Barnes and Riddle found out about their James Beard Award nomination, which amounts to being chosen as one of the best bars in the country. A few words went through Riddle’s mind: “Exciting, but overwhelming. Humbling.”

“I'm thinking, isn’t that culinary? What are you talking about? I did not even know that there was a bar program category,” Barnes says. “I loved that Renauda said ‘humbling’ because we didn't set out to win awards. We set out to do something on a very local level.” 

Riddle says the nomination means a lot because, although their bar may have been created with a particular community in mind, its broader success means they’re doing something right.

“When others come in, and you may not be creating the space particularly for them, but they say ‘I’ve heard all the hype. Let’s check you guys out for a cocktail.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, you guys are living up to the hype’ – it was just very humbling,” Riddle says.

It’s their cocktails that earned them the hype. Their current menu features “elevated” classics with names like “Eartha Kitty” or the “Kahlo Margarita,” and it also includes zero-proof cocktails. 

The Southside Lychee cocktail, which is named in honor of Barnes’ South Side roots, uses PlayPen Vodka, a local Black-owned brand. 

“The vodka itself just pairs very well with cocktails,” Riddle says. “It really holds all the ingredients that you put in the cocktail.”

The tropical lychee fruit adds some, but not too much, sweetness, says Barnes. She adds that it’s a great cocktail to enjoy in the spring or summer. For Riddle, it’s good on a Friday night after a long week. But they offer a word of advice.

“I would say, don't drink more than two,” Barnes says, “or your night might not end up the way you want it to.”

Southside Lychee Martini


2 oz PlayPen vodka
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1 oz lychee syrup (the liquid from a can of lychees, or bottled lychee syrup)
1-2 canned lychees, for garnish


Shake ingredients vigorously with ice and serve in chilled martini glass. Garnish with 1 to 2 lychees.