The bad news: beachy mai tais and daiquiris are done for the year. The good news: rich and warming cocktails are in. And frankly, cocktails infused with cider, chocolate, and warm tea are basically great enough to make us forget about summer entirely. Here's where to get your cozy buzz on in Chicago.
Punch House (1227 W. 18th St.)
Warm tea, nutmeg, brandy, baking spices, and Charles Dickens lay the framework for a fresh batch of wintry punch deliciousness at Punch House. And yes, I said Charles Dickens. The scribe provides inspiration for his namesake Charles Dickens Punch at the subterranean Pilsen bar, which features Jamaican rum, French brandy, tea, sugar, lemon, and "fire," all served in a dainty and adorable tea cup that looks like it belongs in Wonderland. Other comfy potables include the Milk Punch made with brandy, lemon, whey, and nutmeg; and the American Orange Punch with rye whiskey, orange, baking spices, Curacao, lemon, and porter.
Bordel (1721 W. Division St.)
Speaking of punch, there are a couple enriching versions on deck at Bordel, the chic "puncheon" and cabaret nestled covertly above Black Bull in Wicker Park. These modern punches are sure to liquor you up enough to take the sting out of crisp weather, including a Boston Club Punch with Cognac, Grand Marnier, Jamaican rum, Kirshwasser, raspberry, lemon, sparkling wine, and pineapple, all served in a China cup. Then there's the Light Guard Punch, made with Fino sherry, Cognac, Sauternes, lemon, sparkling wine, and pineapple.
LUXBAR (18 E. Bellevue Pl.)
Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and clove are some of the most notable flavors of late fall and early winter. So when these seasonal staples become the inspiration for an entire roster of cocktails, you know you're in for a heady treat. Matthew "Choo" Lipsky has whipped up a bevy of new spice-inspired cocktails at LUXBAR, each one tasting like a hug from grandma. Albeit a hug that gets you drunk (#hugdrunk).
Cocktails include Allspice made with exclusive LUXBAR barrel Old Forester bourbon, Bitter Truth Pimento Dram, angostura bitters, pumpkin puree, and lime; Nutmeg made with Castrede Armagnac, Lazzaroni Amaretto, angostura bitters, pressed apple juice, egg whites; Cinnamon with Sobieske rye vodka, Leopold Brothers cranberry, cinnamon syrup, and lemon; Ginger with Absolut Elyx, Dandelion Burdock Bitters, Vandermill Totally Roasted Cider, Stirrings Ginger, and lemon; and Clove with Zafra Rum, Bravo Amaro No. 14, Donati Claret, clove-infused honey, orange, and lemon.
Drumbar (201 E. Delaware Pl.)
If mulled cider and tequila-infused hot chocolate sound like a ticket to happiness, head directly to Drumbar. Drink in the views atop the Raffaello Hotel while drinking in mixologist Alex Renshaw's new mulled cider shots paired with bourbon, his spicy tequila hot chocolate splashed with Green Chartreuse and agave whipped cream, and his highly desirable Fear & Desire cocktail featuring roasted corn-infused Mezcal, Luxardo Amaro Abano, Averna, vanilla, salt, whole egg, angostura bitters, and grated cinnamon.
Bohemian House (11 W. Illinois St.)
When it comes to cold-weather imbibing, it's hard to beat a good whiskey and cider combo. And specifically, it's hard to beat the new Whiskey in Cider cocktail at Bohemian House, outfitted with whiskey, lemon, maple syrup, apple cider, egg white, and cinnamon. The Prague Rose is a bit more effervescent, with Effen, pear brandy, Canton, lemon simple syrup, cranberry syrup, and Prosecco. Then there's the clove powder-dusted Fashionably Czech, a vigorous mix of Makers Mark, Becherovka, old fashion syrup, and orange bitters.
Barrelhouse Flat (2624 N. Lincoln Ave.)
The latest batch of seasonal cocktails at Barrelhouse Flat runs the gamut of spirits and infusions, but rest assured each one is duly equipped to ease you into a soothing wintry booze coma. Try the Kids These Days (gin, Aperol, Cocchi Rossa, lemon, chile de arbol bitters, Kümmel), the Apple-Tiki (Laird's BIB Apple Brandy, lime, cinnamon syrup, Zucca, falernum, angostura bitters, absinthe), the Freudian Flip (Averna, Maison Rouge Cognac, Fernet Branca, honey, coffee liqueur, angostura bitters, chile de arbol bitters, and whole egg), or the Five Year Plan (Mezcal Vida, Suze, honey, lemon, allspice dram, and chocolate bitters), and love yourself. There's also a boozy cider quaff dubbed the Kiss Gamble, which features rum, Amaro Lucano, White Lion VSOA, lime, falernum, and JK Scrumpy's Winterruption.
Photos: Punch House, Bordel, LUXBAR, Drumbar, Bohemian House, Barrelhouse Flat