Chicago has always been known for its creative touch with liquor (especially during Prohibition), so it's no surprise the city has a flourishing culinary cocktail scene.
Browse this guide to Chicago's best cocktail bars.
TREND-SETTING COCKTAIL SPOTS
Making headlines is The Aviary, the latest innovation from world-famous chef, Grant Achatz of Alinea and Next. One estimate has The Aviary serving 23 different flavors of ice, including mint, for a little extra flavor in every drink.
No matter the season, the tropical island backdrop of Three Dots and a Dash will warm you up... serious tiki drinks pack a punch. On a totally different spectrum, Celeste draws up 1920s allure in their 2nd floor Deco Room bar space and pays homage to barkeeps of the past in their ground floor Bar.
For fun, friendliness and no fuss, Henry's Swing Club is the perfect mix. This River North hangout packs a wallet-friendly punch ($10 cocktails and sliders that average $3 a pop) and exudes low-key cool: see the free pool table, decks of Uno games on hand and rockin' soundtrack as examples.
In the neighborhoods, The Violet Hour of Wicker Park led the way. Now Billy Sunday and Scofflaw in Logan Square, Ada Street in Bucktown and Barrelhouse Flat of Lincoln Park are just a few of the intimate settings where mixologists play. A dual-level space, alfresco patio and creative cocktail menu are at your disposal at The Dawson in West Town.
DOING THEIR OWN DISTILLING
Established in 2008, KOVAL Distilllery was the city's first distillery since the mid-1800s. Whiskeys are their forte, while an ever-growing catalog of liqueurs like the Orange Blossom and the Chrysanthemum & Honey continue to round out the offerings.
As Chicago's first distillery with a cocktail bar, CH Distillery is a triple-threat when you also take into account its food menu. Sit for a drink and some small plates, take a tour to "witness the science of alcohol" and then grab a souvenir bottle of their vodka, gin or rum to go.
Using organic grains sourced from Illinois, Chicago Distilling Company is another option in Logan Square, where neighboring watering holes along Milwaukee Avenue make for a perfect bar-hopping adventure.
You'll find that some of the best hot spots include our very own Chicago hotels.
The sleek Sable Kitchen & Lounge in Hotel Palomar Chicago impresses with both the contemporary American cuisine and the "Liquid Library" of carefully-curated cocktail classics that incorporate specialty liqueurs, bitters and fruit purees. Nearby at Acme Hotel, cocktail connoisseurs gather at The Berkshire Room, while over at the uber-cool Soho House, The Allis is a haven for creative types and late night imbibing.
The Pump Room at PUBLIC Chicago Hotel is back with old-school martinis once enjoyed by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart. Enjoy the low-key atmosphere of Bernard's at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago (formerly the Elysian Hotel) as another posh option. This 34-seat bar keeps with the hotels 1920s, Coco Chanel-inspired aesthetic. Over in the downtown Loop, The Lounge at the JW Marriott shakes up the Chicago Board of Trade cocktail with Bombay Sapphire Gin, white grape juice and cucumber.
On The Magnificent Mile, NoMI Lounge boasts drinks with a view from the the 7th floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel. Check out the incredible skyline vistas above the Chicago River at Rebar located in the mezzanine level of the Trump International Hotel & Tower.
Or see Lake Michigan and the beautiful greenery of Lincoln Park from J. Parker above Hotel Lincoln.
ROOF at theWit Hotel, the Godfrey's I|O Urban Roofscape, Raffaello's Drumbar and Vertigo Sky Lounge atop the Dana Hotel take the revelry to new heights.
Untitled does it all — cocktails in a throwback lounge setting (there are five bars and fun whiskey creations are a focus), live entertainment (jazz to burlesque) and late night dancing. Other popular haunts in the River North circuit include Hubbard Inn, Rockit and Gilt Bar.
And for très chic surroundings, find your way through the hidden alleyway to RM Champagne in the West Loop. It's quite the looker — both indoors and out on their luxe cobblestone patio.