Chicago may be a beer city, but it
also has many places to go to for great cocktail. Whether you’re a die-hard
whiskey snob or can’t get enough gin, Chicago has a cocktail bar serving up
your spirit of choice and putting inventive things – like ambergris, flavored ice
cubes, and scented air-in the highball glass.
Sable Kitchen Bar (505 N. State St.)
One of the best bartenders in the
city (Mike Ryan) and one of the best chefs in the city (Heather Terhune)
combine to make Sable Kitchen and Bar a must-visit for both culinary and
cocktail aficionados. Ryan plays around with his large cocktail menu
frequently, and just added a page of gin and tonics inspired by Spain’s G
Ts, which use unexpected garnishes-think pineapple or rosemary. He’s also into
tiki drinks, and the menu includes pretty much any classic cocktail that you
can imagine. Go a little hungry and order some of Terhune’s food (like the
fried cheese curds or veal meatballs) to snack on.
The Violet Hour (1520 N. Damen Ave.)
With a no-standing and no-phone
policy, The Violet Hour is where to head for a serious cocktail over quiet
conversation. The doorway is shrouded in a curtain and candles provide
flickering light. Either sit at the bar and whisper with the bartenders or find
a cozy seat. The menu is divided up by spirit and features classics like Dark
and Stormies and Old Fashioneds, plus specialty cocktails that change to match
Billy Sunday (3143 W. Logan Blvd.)
The Logan Square bar has a large
selection of rare amari and Scotches. The cocktail list also features a number
of gin cocktails, plus unusual ingredients, like ambergris, a substance formed
inside whales. An edited food menu includes bar snacks, pickled things, a
handful of entrees, and banana pudding.
Scofflaw (3201 W. Armitage)
Scofflaw’s focus is gin, and you’ll
find lots of gin-based cocktails, like the Pellet Gun, with gin, lemon, Cynar,
Jarritos strawberry soda, Peychaud’s Bitters, and cucumber. But non-gin
drinkers will also find excellent cocktails, like a rum swizzle and bitter
bourbon drinks. Plus there’s food, including a schnitzel sandwich, and free
chocolate chip cookies at midnight.
Drumbar (201 E. Delaware Pl.)
From classics like daiquiris and
Palomas, to mango rum slushies, punch with pineapple ice, and housemade
falernum, beverage director Craig Schoettler’s rooftop drinking den is turning
out exceptional libations. The menu also features rare Scotches from the Scotch
Malt Whiskey Society, plus tiki drinks for sipping on the outdoor patio.
The Aviary (955 W. Fulton Market)
The Aviary, Grant Achatz and Nick
Kokonas’ cocktail bar next door to Next, makes truly inventive cocktails,
including one that’s served in an ice ball that you break open with a
slingshot. Charles Joly heads up the cocktail program, and while the drinks
here cost more than any other cocktail bar in town, where else can you get a
cocktail that’s served with a plastic bag filled with scented air?
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