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Recommendations for well-made cocktails??

  • m

Sorry if this has been covered--using 'cocktails' to search the board wasn't working for me.

I plan to visit Chicago in September, and I'm looking to visit some places that care about their cocktails, either in the classic sense or innovative-but-not-offensively-experimental sense. I'm not picky about whether it's a restaurant or bar, but I am picky about bartenders who know what they're doing.

To give some references (in case anyone is familiar with NYC, where I'm coming from), I'm partial to places like Pegu, Little Branch, and Death & Co.

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  1. Haven't been to those but I would go to the Coq D'or at the Drake Hotel. It is classic, old-school, with career bartenders who care about the drinks. Live piano often.

    1. New place called the Violet Hour. The guys had some involvement in NY places like Pegu and Milk & Honey

      The Violet Hour
      1520 N. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

      3 Replies
      1. re: leek

        There's lots of good buzz about this place. E-Gullet has an intresting conversation regarding it. They even have different types of ice tailor made for the drinks. I haven't been... have only read about it.

        But I have been to The Matchbox 770 N. Milwaukee Ave. I highly recommend it. Excellent drinks, really great bartenders. Very crowded on the weekends and late night.

        1. re: bryan

          Violet Hour = Matchbox but better cocktails and more space to move around.

          1. re: jpschust

            To those who complain about the cramped confines at The Matchbox I will simply restate what's been said here (and elsewhere) so many times before -- GO *RIGHT* NEXT DOOR.

            The Silver Palm is owned by the same folks, pours the same booze/drinks, and has a helluva lot more "space to move around."

            The Silver Palm
            768 N. Milwaukee


      2. There was an article in the New City last year about the bartender from Nacional 27. Apparently he does a lot of infusions and such.

        1. The Matchbox is well known for serving topnotch drinks and of course for its peanut sized space.

          Salpicon on Wells in Old Town serves up some of the best margaritas in town.

          1. Nacional 27 does make pretty good drinks. I find that Coobah also has very good drinks, though not quite so innovative. Coq d'Or, Signature Room and those other old-school spots are not what they used to be.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JungMann

              I agree, Coobah serves great drinks. Pretty cool intimate space too.

            2. Violet Hour will be the closest to Pegu, M&H, etc. in terms of the complexity and care that goes into making a cocktail (not to mention the deliberately hard to find location). The main bartender did work and Pegu and M&H.

              Another place worth trying is Sepia, which has a serious cocktail program. It’s located at 123 North Jefferson.

              Violet Hour is more of a cocktail lounge that serves food while Sepia is a restaurant that also has a nice lounge area with great drinks.

              I go to Matchbox occasionally for Brandy Manhattans but it’s not in the same league as Violet Hour or Sepia.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ems

                Coming from a place where there is *no* cocktail culture, what is the atmosphere like at the Violet Hour? What kind of people go there? I would love to go and try on of the signature drinks, but I'm worried I'd look like a schmuck tourist.

                1. re: christina_hunnicutt

                  From everything I've read, it's trendy. But not too much. All drinks are $11, so i't not going to be cheap. It's hard to locate because of no signage. But don't let your perceptions keep you from going. It seems as though alot of love and care has been used to open up this place.

                  1. re: bryan

                    Frankly, for the level of cocktails they are making, $11 is kind of a bargain (They could very easily charge 15-17).

                    There really is no dress code there- I've seen people in everything, but the minimum for men should be a collared shirt (polo is fine) and a pair of nice shorts, designer jeans or slacks.

                    Bartenders are in ties and button up shirts with vests.

                  2. re: christina_hunnicutt

                    The Violet Hour staff are really nice about new visitors to the place. The first time I was there with two other people, the staff sat us at the bar to watch the bartenders labor, and it was fascinating. I watched one of the bartenders re-make a drink at least three times before he served it. Their menu are definitely worth stealing, if I had any idea what the liquors were. Try the Dark & Stormy--deliciously gingery.