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Chicago is filled with incredible bars that are literally raising the bar. The city also has over 70 breweries (and over 200 in the Chicagoland area) and over 15 distilleries. There’s a reason why Chicago was named the best city in the world by Time Out London and #1 Best Big City in the US – Readers Choice Award by Conde Nast Traveler!
SEE ALSO: Best Restaurants In Chicago You Have To Eat At
From a 3-course cocktail prix fixe experience that will blow your mind to a Bloody Mary that includes an entire brunch meal (above), rooftop bars, arcades, live music venues, and historical prohibition era speakeasies. Whether you’re looking for a low-key dive an extensive taproom or something with a DJ there’s a great happy hour to be had in Chicago. The pandemic put a pause on a few, with many of them going through a reboot.
The Aviary is brought to you by the Alinea Group where they have perfected state-of- the-art beverages that promise to be unlike anything else. The prix fix menu includes 3 cocktails for $65 and $25 more for food pairings. The night starts off with a complimentary warm cocktail to prep you for the adventure ahead. For the first course, I had the Let The Games Be-Gin – it was like a savory gin and tonic that ended up being my favorite of all the cocktails. For the second course, the Peach Better Have My Honey was a warmed toddy with a bunsen burner demonstration. The third course, I picked both the Tropic-like It’s Hot, reminded me of mulled wine (pictured above), and (719)26-OATES, a boozy cocktail served inside an ice ball that you break open. Truly the ultimate, elevated cocktail experience that you cannot miss in Chicago.
Make reservations in advance!
Pro tip: Ask for a standing table next to the kitchen to see the cocktails magic.
955 W. Fulton Market, exploretock.com/theaviary
When it comes to bar programs, Chicago’s Nobody’s Darling is in a class of its own. Recently nominated for a James Beard Award in the Outstanding Bar Program category, Nobody’s Darling has made a name for itself with its inventive cocktails and elegant atmosphere. There’s a large LGBTQ crowd here and it does get colorful.The menu features both classic and modern drinks, all made with high-quality ingredients. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing cocktail or a decadent spirit-based drink, you’ll find something to suit your taste at Nobody’s Darling. So raise a glass to this outstanding bar program – cheers!
1744 W Balmoral Ave, Chicago, IL 60640, nobodysdarlingbar.com
SEE ALSO: 9 Best Gay Bars In Austin Texas
Three Dots and A Dash
This is the Bali Bali punch bowl at Three Dots and A Dash – passion fruit, orange, pineapple, lime, falernum, Puerto Rican rum, armagnac, and London dry gin served in a tentacle bowl and dry ice. Dangerously delicious. Meant for parties of 4 to 5 so don’t try to drink one alone. This premier tropical tiki bar and craft cocktail destination is hidden in the alley between Hubbard and Illinois. All the tiki cocktails are made with the freshest exotic fruits and spices, the finest rums and distilled spirits, and juices and elixirs that are cold-pressed and concocted in house every day. There’s a reason why Three Dots and A Dash is named one of The World’s 50 Best Bars by Drinks International.
435 N Clark St, threedotschicago.com
SEE ALSO: 23 Best Bars In Austin For A Craft Cocktail
Wondering where that Instagrammable rosé all day spot is in Chicago? It’s at Hampton Social! Sip on rosé, well all day, in a breezy beach atmosphere. I stopped in to take a picture for Instagram and ended up staying a little longer to finish my glass of wine in their cute, beach-inspired patio!
353 W Hubbard St, thehamptonsocial.com
There’s no shortage of wine bars in Chicago, but Good Funk is something special. This cozy spot highlights the best of the natural wine world, with winemakers from all across the globe represented. A neighborhood wine bar today has the sophisticated 1930s European and American café art atmosphere combined with a relaxed contemporary sensibility. The result is a truly unique experience. Inside the space, you’ll find plush velvet champagne-hued bar seats, custom wall coverings outlining scenes from Old-World cafés, and a spectacular quartzite bar. Whether you’re a wine lover or just looking for a new place to try something different, Good Funk is definitely worth a visit.
180 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606, goodfunkchicago.com
SEE ALSO: 11 Best Wine Bars In Austin Texas
Joe’s Imports is one of the best wine bars in Chicago. Located in the Fulton Market district, this bar is known for its extensive wine selection and inventive pub plates. Joe’s Imports won the BIB Gourmand award in 2017 and has been featured in various publications. If you’re looking for a chic and stylish place to drink wine and eat small plates, Joe’s Imports is the place for you. While they don’t offer wine flights, they do have 5/8oz pours available for all of their bottles. And if wine isn’t your thing, they also have a selection of cocktails, like the Pretty in Pink, PCP, and Secret Garden. So whether you’re a wine lover or not, Joe’s Imports is still worth checking out.
813 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607, joeswineimports.com
Cindy’s Bar is a stunning thirteen-story rooftop bar and restaurant in Chicago, with breathtaking views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. Our seasonal menu features fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and our wine program includes biodynamic wines from around the world. Executive Chef Christian Ragano offers a unique blend of comfort food and American cuisine, made even more enjoyable by our stunning setting. Whether you’re visiting us in winter or summer, Cindy’s is the perfect place to enjoy an unforgettable meal with friends or family.
12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, cindysrooftop.com
Sunda is a restaurant but I had to include their insane Bloody Mary. This is the Sumo Mary – 32 oz Bloody Mary comes with a grilled cheese, steamed duck bao bun, crab handroll, crispy pork belly, wok fired shishito peppers, applewood bacon, sunda potatoes, lumpia, takuan, and kai-lan with your choice of regular vodka, cucumber vodka, or spicy vodka. Bottoms up.
110 W. Illinois St, sundachicago.com
Chicago is a city with no shortage of great bars, but one that always manages to stand out is The Gage. Located on prime real estate in downtown, The Gage is always a hit, with tourists, professionals, and people taking in downtown attractions. The interior design is impeccable, and the menu features creative American dishes alongside a lengthy list of beers. The Gage is sure to hit the spot whether you’re looking for after-work martini or a great meal. Highlights from the menu include the lamb shank, salmon, halibut, poutine, and burger. If you find yourself in Chicago, swing by The Gage for an unforgettable experience.
24 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, thegagechicago.com
The Violet Hour
The Violet Hour is a pre-prohibition era inspired cocktail lounge located in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. The bar has been awarded with the James Beard Award for excellence in their cocktail program and has been featured in magazines such as Vogue and the New York Times. The Violet Hour is known for their seasonally rotating cocktail list and approachable spirit selection. The bar has a discrete single entryway with an ever-changing mural on the exterior facade. Guests can enjoy their cocktails amongst candlelit tables and a sprawling marble bar. The Golden Hour, their version of happy hour, runs from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm and features thirteen dollar cocktails.
1520 N Damen Ave Chicago, IL 60622 http://www.theviolethour.com
Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar
Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar is a true neighborhood spot in Chicago’s Bridgeport area. This unique bar is part liquor store and part tavern, offering a rotating selection of rare craft beers. The Marszewski brothers (who own and operate the bar) have put their own spin on the space, with chandeliers made out of bottles and a welcoming atmosphere that makes it the perfect place to grab a bite and enjoy a pint with friends. Maria’s is also home to Kimski, a Polish-Korean fusion restaurant that serves up some of the most unique dishes in the city. Whether you’re looking for a place to buy your booze or just want to spend an evening enjoying good drinks and good company, Maria’s is the perfect spot.
960 W 31st St, Chicago, IL 60608, community-bar.com
Looking for a spot to hang out before dinner? SPiN in River North combines ping pong with draft beers and cocktails like moscow mules and their signature SPiNGRIA. Don’t know how to play ping pong? Trust me after a couple of cocktails, you’ll naturally become a pro. You might even end up skipping dinner and playing the entire night (they serve food too!).
344 N. State, chicago.wearespin.com
Chicago is a city known for its nightlife, and Carol’s Pub is one of the best bars in the city. The bar has been around for decades, and it has recently undergone a transformation. The new owner has given the bar a fresh look, and there is now a bonafide food menu. Thrillist called it the craziest late-night bar in Chicago. While Eater Chicago characterized it as “the remodeled Carl’s Pub, Uptown’s Reborn Late-Night Dive.”The bar still retains its charm, and customers can still dance the night away to live country music. If you’re looking for a fun night out in Chicago, Carol’s Pub is definitely one of the best dive bars in town.
4659 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640 carolspub.com
Tired after a day of vintage shopping in Wicker Park? Head to Emporium for two dozen rotating craft beers and over 50 whiskeys while playing 40-some-odd arcade games.
1366 N Milwaukee Ave, emporiumchicago.com
Longman & Eagle
If you’re looking for an inspiring dining experience, sleep, or drink check out Longman & Eagle situated in the Logan Square neighborhood. The vintage yet modern ambiance is perfect for a night out or celebrating a special occasion. The food and drink menu offers something for everyone with seasonally-driven American cuisine and an extensive wine list. The knowledgeable staff are more than happy to help you select the perfect pairing for your meal or recommend a song on the jukebox. Longman & Eagle is the perfect place to unwind, relax and enjoy some of the best food and drink Chicago has to offer.
Kumiko is located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Conceptualized by Julia Momose brings in her own flare to the bartending world. This trendy and up-and-coming neighborhood is known for its top-notch restaurants, bars, and galleries. Kumiko is the perfect place to spend an evening out with friends. The intimate cocktail bar offers a unique perspective on the notion of a bar, through a remarkable experience of drinking and dining.
Creative Japanese fare and craft drinks are at the heart of Kumiko’s offerings. The menu features unique cocktails, including an omakase cocktail tasting, as well as a variety of high-end bar snacks. The basement of Kumiko also features a tasting menu, which offers guests an even more immersive experience into Japanese culture and cuisine.
630 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661, barkumiko.com
Old Town Ale House
Chicago is a city bustling with energy and Old Town Ale House is one of the best bars in Chicago. It has been operational since 1958 and is located on North Avenue. The bar is across from a gigantic cinema parking lot and a few blocks west of Wells Street. The Old Town Ale House is a favorite among Chicago natives, especially film critic Roger Ebert who has named it his top bar in Chicago. The current owner of the Old Town Ale House is Bruce Elliott, who is also a painter. He is behind the wall art of depicting political staire including Dennis Rodman, Sara Palin, and Vladamir Putin. On the same walls you’ll see famous patrons that popped in for a drink. The Old Town Ale House does not have any TVs but instead has a jukebox. Another unique feature of the bar is that it is cash only- no credit cards!
219 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60610, theoldtownalehouse.com
The Sparrow is located in a classic Art Deco apartment building in the Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago. Originally established in 1927, The Sparrow was designed for those looking for a nightcap or late night rendezvous with a mistress (that’s what they said!). The bar has 10 rotating drafts, a European-focused wine list, and over 70 different kinds of rums so be sure to try one of their specialty rum cocktails. From the moment I walked in, I felt transported back into time and was immediately presented with an impressive cocktail menu. The bartender recommended the Grasshopper with sparrow rum cream, crème de menthe, crème de cocoa, and mint. Surprisingly not cloyingly sweet like typical minty sweet cocktails but smooth, sophisticated, and the perfect nightcap.
12 W. Elm, sparrowchicago.com
Chicago is known for many things – deep dish pizza, the Chicago Cubs, and some of the best bars in the country. One of the best bars in Chicago is Logan Arcade. Logan Arcade is a bar that specializes in arcade games and pinball. They have a large variety of classic and modern arcade games, as well as pinball machines. They also have a 10-player Killer Queen Arcade machine. The bar is well-maintained and the staff are friendly. They also have a great selection of beers on tap. If you’re looking for a fun place to go with friends, Logan Arcade is the place for you.
2410 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, loganarcade.com
Chicago is known for its vibrant nightlife, and The Bassment is one of the best bars in the city. This hip spot whips up stylish plates, signature cocktails, some old fashioned drinks, and live blues in an underground setting. Guests enter through a secret door, which adds to the lounge’s exclusive atmosphere. The Bassment also hosts frequent live music performances, so be sure to check their website for the latest schedule. Whether you’re looking for a chic place to drink or a lively spot to dance, The Bassment is sure to create a memorable night out.
Address: 353 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654, thebassmentchicago.com
The Sportsman’s Club is a throwback to the city’s classic old-school corner bars, with a contemporary mix of drinks located out in West Town. The space is cozy and inviting, with a retro hunter’s den vibe. The bar serves up classic cocktails with a twist, as well as an excellent selection of craft beer and wine. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a drink in Chicago, Sportsman’s Club is definitely worth checking out!
948 N Western Ave. Chicago, Illinois, 60622, drinkingandgathering.com/
Bucktown’s Map Room is a bar that celebrates wanderlust, with a cartography-themed decor and a beer list that features brews from all over the world. In the morning, it’s a café serving lattes and cortados, but at night the Map Room transforms into a bar where locals come to relax and sample beers from different parts of the globe. The Map Room has something for everyone, with discounts on weekday beers from various regions, plus hundreds of travel books and guides lining the shelves. If you’re looking for one of the best bars in Chicago, look no further than the Map Room. Cheers!
Hopleaf is one of the best bars in Chicago and has been a old-school favorite since 1992. Hopleaf is located in the Andersonville neighborhood and offers a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere with a creative Belgian-focused menu. Hopleaf has a variety of beers and also offers wine and spirits. The multi-floor tavern also has an outdoor patio that is perfect for enjoying the weather. Hopleaf is family owned and operated and is a great place to go for a night out with friends. Hopleaf is also known for their extensive collection of vintage enamel beer signs, original vintage posters and other breweriana. If you’re looking for a fun place to grab a drink, Hopleaf is the perfect spot.
Chicago is full of amazing bars, but one that always stands out is the Hideout. This deceptively hidden gem is located between Lincoln Park and Bucktown in an area that developers have dubbed the Elston Industrial Corridor. The Hideout is the perfect spot for a night out with friends, as it offers a great selection of drinks and a performance venue that hosts everything from concerts to stand-up comedy to the occasional news or podcast show. Whether you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a few drinks or an exciting night out on the town, the Hideout is definitely worth checking out.
1354 W Wabansia Ave, Chicago, IL 60642, hideoutchicago.com
Arbella is a cocktail lounge located in the heart of the River North neighborhood, Chicago. Arbella boasts a menu full of international inspirations and flavors. They have a great happy hour with small plates like pork tacos and $10 cocktails. With its subtle speakeasy vibes, Arbella has a hip vibe and a great atmosphere. The Arbella Spicy Margarita is done the right way and their Korean chicken is delicious!
112 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60654, arbellachicago.com
Chicago is well-known for its lively nightlife, and Osito’s Tap is one of the best bars in the city. Latin-accented and located in a historic greystone building, the speakeasy-style bar offers a relaxed setting with premium spirits, craft beer, and craft cocktails. Established in 2019, Osito’s Tap is located in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago and is focused on giving customers a unique experience with rare and exotic drink offerings. The bar pays homage to the community’s past with its Bohemian roots and Czech immigrants, and the greystone building was once an underground spot for locals. Today, Osito’s Tap brings a modern Latin flair to a classic Chicago vibe, making it one of the best bars in the city.
Chicago is known for its amazing food and drink, and Mother’s Ruin is one of the best bars in the city. The cocktails are creative and unique, with names like “Fuck it —> send” and “Cucu Kachoo.” The bar also has a great selection of bar snacks, including one of the best burgers in Chicago. If you’re looking for a great place to grab a drink and a bite to eat, you can’t go wrong with Mother’s Ruin.
The Green Mill
Chicago is well-known for its nightlife, and the Green Mill is one of the best bars in the city. This historical jazz venue has been in business since 1907, and it offers live jazz every night in a prohibition-era speakeasy. The Green Mill also has a busy calendar of events, with weekly poetry slams and paper machete on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re interested in seeing who’s playing, be sure to check the website. Cash only.
4802 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640, greenmilljazz.com