A lot of lists of Chicago craft cocktail bars feature the same places over and over again. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing (I’ve probably included a few of those places on this list), there are so many other amazing craft cocktails in Chicago worth paying attention to that it’s practically a crime not to start highlighting some new ones. Without further ado, here’s a list that includes a little of everything—some old, some new—throughout Chicago’s many different neighborhoods.
3339 N Halsted, Lakeview and 215 E. Chestnut, Streeterville
mEAT is a hidden gem for foodies and cocktail aficionados alike. Their craft cocktail menu boasts of a drink that will numb your mouth (the Szechuan Button Cocktail), a foamy sangria “cobbler”, and my personal favorite, the Magic Margarita. What’s great about that last drink is that it changes flavor from lime to pomegranate as you drink it. Definitely worth exploring.
1520 N Damen, Wicker Park
It would be ridiculous to try to write a list of the best craft cocktails in Chicago without including The Violet Hour. Last year, they won the James Beard Award for best cocktail program in Chicago. A lot of people love that it’s not easy to find unless you’re in the know (look for a line across the street from Big Star). Cocktails aren’t cheap, but they are very boozy. You’ll get a healthy buzz after one and may need help walking after two.
3. The Whistler
2421 N Milwaukee, Logan Square
Whiskey focused, and a semi-hidden spot to impress a date. The cocktail menu changes daily, so it’s a great place to keep in your rotation. Cocktails also have fun names like Cash for Gold (bourbon, honey, chiles, lemon, mint) and Divorce Papers (rum, bitter, pineapple, coconut, lime).
4. The Aviary
955 W Fulton Market, Fulton Market
Coming in at most expensive on this list is The Aviary. They’re known for not only their great craft cocktails, but a complete sensory experience, with a lot of attention to detail. The Aviary treats cocktails like a form of art, and their service is impeccable. Definitely worth a visit on a special occasion (or just because!).
435 N Clark, River North
Three Dots and a Dash might be hard to find (the entrance is down some stairs in an alleyway), but the line will be your dead giveaway that you’re in the right place. It’s a tiki bar and their cocktails are not only amazing, but also have the cutest presentation in old South Pacific kitsch. The drinks are definitely worth imbibing, and if you like the drinkware, they even give you the option to buy it for yourself.
6. The Brixton
5420 N Clark, Andersonville
If you live in Andersonville, you’re in for a treat with The Brixton. The upstairs lounge is an intimate place to catch up with friends. You can expect excellent gin, rum, and bourbon craft cocktails here.
18 W Hubbard Street, River North
This place not only serves unique concoctions, but a menu organized by each specific type of drink they make. There are sections that list frozen, shaken, swizzled, stirred, and even carbonated bottled cocktails, making it possible to find a drink that’ll satisfy any heart’s desire.
2833 N Sheffield, Lakeview and 213 W. Institute, River North
Headquarters Beercade has it all. And by that I mean you can order pizza that’ll be delivered to you while playing retro arcade games (that are always free!) while sipping on your delicious craft cocktail. Try the “Motts,” which contains Stoli Apple Vodka, Mott’s Cinnamon Apple Sauce, Baked Apple Bitters and lemon.
118 W Grand Ave, River North
Tanta is a new add to my list of best craft cocktails in Chicago, because they take the Peruvian classic Pisco Sour and add their own unique flair to in. In addition to a Pisco tasting flight, they have plenty of cocktails with your favorite liquors done with a Peruvian twist.
2359 N Milwaukee, Logan Square
Not only does Chicago Distilling Company make their own liquors and simple syrups to make delicious craft cocktails with, they mix them up and serve them right in house as well. Come in for a tour, stay for a drink.
12 S Michigan (inside the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel), Loop
So here is possibly the most expensive—and also potentially the greatest—experience on this list. The Milk Room recently opened as a part of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. You’ll need to reserve your spot, but to warn you, it won’t come cheap. Tickets are $50 per person and must be reserved in advance, though the total will be applied to your drink bill. You’ll have a limited time slot for sitting in this eight seat micro bar, so make sure to plan accordingly. Look forward to drinking rare ingredients and liquors—and that’s all I can say.
201 E Delaware Pl, Gold Coast
According to close sources (re: my friends), these guys have a rooftop, stellar vibes, and apparently the best Old Fashioned in town. And, the bartenders are willing to get creative—always a plus!
Other honorable mentions for craft cocktails, from my friends who know a little too much about liquor (but have extremely discerning taste):
- Earl’s (Cocktails are picturesque)
- Untitled (They have an incredible whiskey library)
- Hotel bars in the loop have amazing bartenders (Everyone’s talking about the new Virgin Hotel)
- Siena Tavern (The No. 4 was recommended)
- Bavette’s (Best Maker’s Manhattan)
- Logan Arcade (Gin & Chronic)
- Lost Lake (Another awesome tiki bar)
- The Dawson (Seasonal cocktails and a regular menu)
Everyone’s got an opinion and a specific taste, and I’m confident you’ll find a new favorite on this list. Sip on, Chicago.