You can already feel your belt tightening and your appetites broadening. The holidays are here, and with them comes a tidal wave of egg nog, gingerbread, and peppermint that you just can't say "no" to. From DIY egg nog bars (dreams do come true) to "Chris Kringle" cocktails, here's where to eat and drink your way through the holidays in Chicago.
State and Lake Chicago Tavern (201 N. State St., pictured above)
Bloody Mary bars and mimosa bars are so 2000-and-late. DIY bars are much better when the caloric count is drastically increased. As with State and Lake Chicago Tavern's bold new build-your-own egg nog bar, available at weekend brunch through December 28. What does this diet-derailing spread entail? Along with housemade nog, guests can supplement their drink with the spirit of their choice, plus accoutrements like shaved chocolate, butter crunch, sprinkles, espresso caramel, peppermint sticks, cinnamon, and pirouette cookies.
Rosebud Restaurant Group (multiple locations)
Ginger and egg nog are two of the holidays' most quintessential flavors. So when the two team up, you know it's going to be good. Like, Batman vs. Superman good. Gingersnap Egg nog is a thing you can drink at any number of Rosebud Restaurant Group establishments this season, including Joe Fish, Centro, Rosebud on Rush, Carmine's, The Rosebud, Rosebud Steakhouse, Rosebud Theater District, Rosebud Prime, Italian Specialties & Pizzeria, and Rosebud Deerfield. The drink contains an addicting medley of Domaine de Canton, Disaronno, Godiva White Chocolate, egg nog, and a cinnamon-sugar rim.
Franklin Tap (325 S. Franklin St.)
In case you've ever been eating gingerbread and thought to yourself, "I wish this was beer," you're in luck. Franklin Tap is tapping into its festive side this season for its "12 Craft Beers of Christmas" series, wherein the bar features a dozen seasonal beers through New Year's Eve, two of which are particularly merry, like the Two Brothers Peppermint Bark beer and the Samuel Adams Merry Maker gingerbread stout. Sure beats turtle doves.
Oak + Char (217 W. Huron St.)
Pro tip: sometimes ginger is best consumed not in house form. Or sweet form whatsoever. The dexterous spice is well applied on both sides of the flavor spectrum, as exemplified by the MSG wings at Oak + Char. Here, chef Joe Heppe indulges our desires for heady spice by flecking finger-licking chicken with maple, sherry, chili, and fresh ginger from Genesis Farms.
Allium (120 E. Delaware Pl.)
We all know Santa loves cookies and milk. But what he loves even more is vanilla vodka. You will love it too when you sip Allium's "Chris Kringle" cocktail, made with Death's Door Infused Vanilla Vodka, Wondermint, Kringle Cream, and an adorable garnish of white chocolate-peppermint bark. Ho ho ho.
M Burger (multiple locations)
Peppermint and egg nog are sweet and rich enough as is, but since it's December you may as well gild the lily by enjoying them both in milkshake form. Each flavor is a milkshake of the month at M Burger, one of which contains a bracing mix of aromatic peppermint candy and another which contains an impending yet worthwhile guilt trip.
The Ritz-Carlton Chicago (160 E. Pearson St.)
Make like Hansel and Gretel and skip on your merry way to The Ritz-Carlton Chicago to fawn over their incredible gingerbread house. Added bonus: no one while try to throw you into a furnace! Every year, the hotel's pastry team does an impeccable job constructing a gingerbread village from scratch for the lobby display. It's all for a good cause to boot, as the hotel will sell each gingerbread house and donate proceeds to Ann & Robert Lurie Children's Hospital. While you're at it, you may as well mosey upstairs to deca BAR to imbibe a Pine Barrens cocktail, a gorgeous drink that looks and smells like a stroll through an enchanted winter forest, made with vodka, Green Chartreuse, cranberries, and rosemary.
Photos: State and Lake Chicago Tavern, Rosebud Restaurant Group, Oak + Char, Allium, The Ritz-Carlton Chicago