The Windy City is home to a variety of fantastic cocktail bars with tons of options to choose from no matter what you’re into.
Whether you’re in the mood for something classic or in search of a drink that’s modern and fun, Chi-Town’s got you covered. Check out these top cocktail bars to visit next time you’re in Chicago.
2421 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL
The Whistler opened its doors in 2008 in the Logan Square neighborhood. It is a multi-dimensional bar, meaning there’s a dazzling storefront art gallery, live music, and even their own in-house record label! Whistler Records is the first independent label of its kind to give all records sales back to the artist. The Whistler was named Time Out Chicago‘s 2016 “Bar of the Year” and one of GQ’s “25 Best Cocktail Bars in America. “We like to think the bar has something for everyone,” says head bartender Marina Holter. “Although we certainly have our selection of straight-forward domestic beer, we’re definitely a cocktail-centric place. We’re constantly changing our menu and adding drinks and ingredients almost as soon as we get excited about anything.” Some things she factors in when creating a new menu includes: sustainability, carbon-negative implications, women-owned, locally owned, and low ABV.
The Violet Hour
1520 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL
The Violet Hour came to the scene in 2007 and is widely known to be the pioneer in Chicago’s craft cocktail movement. Head mixologist and partner Toby Maloney and managing partner, Eden Laurin, run the beverage program. The cocktail menu changes with the seasons and contains popular sought-after spirits for all to enjoy. The Violet Hour has a chic, classy speakeasy type of vibe to it that you just have to see for yourself. The bar has earned itself the James Beard Award of Excellence for “Outstanding Bar Program,” and has appeared in Vogue, The New York Times, and more.
Some classic yet iconic drinks served at The Violet Hour include:
The Violet Hour Old Fashioned made with Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, Demerara, and Angostura; It’s most popular cocktail Juliet & Romeo made with Beefeater Gin, lime, cucumber, mint, and rosewater; Hunter Gatherer made with Pig’s Nose Scotch, Carpano Antica, Luxardo Bitter, and Allspice Dram.
730 W. Grand Ave. Chicago, IL
The Dawson can be found inside the Fulton River District, flourishing because of the multitude of ways to enjoy your dining experience. With brunch and dinner menus that highlight the best of the best items within the seasons, this location is well known for its innovative culinary-driven cocktail program.
Some fantastic drinks priced at just $13, courtesy of bartender Paul Walker include: Love’s Labour’s Lost (served on draft) made with Tromba Tequila, red wine, apricot, sage, honey, orange, lemon, and bitters. Foolish Wit made with Prairie Gin, Sherry, Tea Liqueur, yuzu, basil, lime, soda, Xocotal; Rue for You made with Reyka Vodka, Grappa Candolini Ruta, Sherry, lime, and soda.
24 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL
For over a decade, The Gage has easily become a favorite because of how they incorporate European influence into American style. It is widely referred to as a “must visit” among Chicago’s growing dining scene. The Gage continues to evolve by offering well-balanced food and drink menus that present contemporary touches steeped in tradition.
Take a look at some of their enticing drinks: Madeira Cobbler made with 5 year Bual Madeira, pineapple cordial, Gravenstein Apple, thyme, nutmeg; I Love Your Kiss Forever made with Honey Nut Cheerios-infused Oloroso Sherry, Tromba Reposado Tequila, Ilegal Mezcal, Briottet Creme de Banane, Orgeat, egg yolk, and Angostura bitters. (Named after one of Warhol’s prints and inspired by the Art Institute of Chicago’s upcoming exhibit, Warhol: From A to B and Back Again. Warhol’s love for cereal inspired this fun cocktail that is based on the classic “sherry flip”, but instead infused with Cheerios for an unexpected but flavorful twist.)
405 N. Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL
This rustic yet casual location offers dining from the Chicago Riverfront and the Magnificent. It is accepted as a “hidden gem” within the Chicago restaurant community because of its location and extravagant food and beverage selections. Their menu blossoms with evolved tavern classics and seafood-driven dishes. Their wine list and draft beer selection is showcased alongside a carefully-curated cocktail program that features seasonally changing craft cocktails.
All of the tasteful drinks below are priced at $14, created by head bartender Alex Schmaling: Cornucopia made with cranberry sauce-infused vodka, Cardamaro, Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambery, and lime; Changing Leaves made with Knob Creek Rye, Coeur de Lion Calvados, Braulio Amaro Alpino, oat syrup, dark molasses, angostura, and lemon.
18 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL
Acanto Restaurant + Wine Bar is a cache for people who are in search of real, authentic Italian cuisine matched with a conversational atmosphere. While their award-winning wine list displays over 700 bottles, they also feature Italian classics in their menu, such as Spritzes and Negronis as well as craft cocktails, beer, and spirits.
Coda di Volpe
3335 N. Southport Ave. Chicago, IL
This Southern-Italian focused location can be found in Chicago’s Southport Corridor. The atmosphere makes Coda di Volpe the perfect spot for any occasion, like date nights, casual brunches, or just a simple glass of wine.