With longer, sunnier days, the best way to maximize your Vitamin D intake — and also, booze — is to hit a rooftop bar. Fortunately, Chicago is jam-packed with them. From newbies to venerable standbys, here are some top picks for drinking in the scenery while you drink in your liquor.
Cerise (203 N. Wabash Ave.)
When it comes to rooftop bars, if Sir Richard Branson approves, so will you. Cerise is the latest rung in the ever-increasing and exceedingly impressive Virgin Hotel, the first and currently only one of its kind in the world. Following the premiere of the hotel and its on-site restaurants, Cerise opened on the roof last month. With views on three sides of the Loop hotel, the 26th floor lounge, awash in rosy reds, is an all-day destination with small plates and vacation-y drinks like the Beach Betty with Bacardi Heritage rum, Giffard creme de banane, lime, grenadine and coconut.
Celeste (111 W. Hubbard St.)
Across the river in River North, the similarly named Celeste feels a world apart from Cerise. While Cerise revels in its quirky, playful motif, Celeste's rooftop "Garden" is vastly more subdued and regal. Located on the fourth floor of the multi-level restaurant, the Garden is a cozy, lush nook shrouded in greenery and enriched with Victorian-style seating and Louis Sullivan tiles. The food up here is more snacky than the rest of the space, with items like red lentil falafel, oxtail-potato croquettes, fried chicken, and ice cream sandwiches, with drinks like Cognac dreamsicles, Golden Negronis and sweet tea Juleps.
The J. Parker (1816 N. Clark St.)
If it's sweeping views of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan you're after, The J. Parker can't be beat. Nestled atop the Hotel Lincoln immediately adjacent to Lincoln Park proper, the rooftop bar boasts some of the mightiest vistas in the city, overlooking one of Chicago's prettiest green spaces and the downtown skyline. It's all about the expertly crafted cocktails up here, like the Prosecco-splashed Stella By Starlight, the tropical rum-based Lush Life, and the Feelin' Good with bourbon and rooibos tea. Pair those with upscale bar bites like pinto bean hummus, cheese fritters and shrimp ceviche. There's a retractable rooftop for unexpectedly chilly evenings, just in case.
Drumbar (201 E. Delaware Pl.)
Marvel in the concrete jungle high atop the Raffaello Hotel in Streeterville, just off the Magnificent Mile, at Drumbar. With boozy, masterful cocktails on hand to mitigate your fear of heights, the libations at this high-flying destination are sure to be a summertime hit. Whitney Morrow recently took over as beverage director here, introducing her new summer drink menu with lots of unexpected twists and turns. Salted beet-ginger syrup, anyone? Try the Chico Guapo with Novo Fogo Silver Cachaca, banana, almond, lemon, and fennel; the Figgin' Awesome with Mitcher's Rye, red wine and fig vinegar, and lemon; or the fajita-inspired (!) Generally Mackin', featuring Copper Kings Young Brandy, yellow bell pepper, cayenne, lime, and fajita seasoning. There's even liquor-infused freeze pops and slushies, for the kid in all of us. The stunning al fresco terrace is just the icing on the cake.
ROOF on theWit (201 N. State St.)
One of the most perpetually popular rooftop destinations downtown is, unquestionably, ROOF on theWit. One walk around the slick, splashy space, with ample views of the Loop and the Chicago River area, and you'll be under its sultry spell. The space is quite a bit clubbier and more South Beach-y than other rooftops, but if that's the scene you're after, you can't beat ROOF. Bottle service, a substantial Champagne list, punch bowls, and martinis are the tip of the iceberg here, while the noshable food menu contains items like flatbreads, apricot poppers, feta fries, seafood towers, sushi rolls and macarons.
Photos: Celeste, J. Parker, Drumbar, ROOF on theWit