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Chicago Cocktail Bars - Recommendations?

Already received some great advice/suggestions for lunch in Chicago and already have the dinners covered but now I need some advice for the best cocktail bars in Chicago, looking for cutting edge/classics for this trip, similar to say PDT, D&Co, Lantern's Keep in NYC. Being close to hotel (Peninsula) would be a bonus. TIA.

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  1. You MUST go to the Aviary. Grant Achatz's experimental cocktail bar. Reservations recommended. There's no bar, they use a kitchen and more of a restaurant model of serving. This isn't really a place where you try to go off menu--save that for their speakeasy space in the basement, The Office. It's in the West Loop & shares space with Next Restaurant.

    We also love the craft cocktails at Sable in the Hotel Palomar in River North.

    The Violet Hour is the most like Death & Co, but no reservations are taken. It's in Wicker Park.

    I've also liked The Drawing Room in the Gold Coast area but the neighborhood & dance club next door cut down on the atmosphere.

    Also check out The Whistler, Scofflaw, and Billy Sunday near ish Logan Square.

    Hopefully Three Dots & a Dash in River North (tiki) opens soon.

    I've heard good things about Barrelhouse Flat, haven't been yet.

    The closest options to your hotel are probably Sable & The Drawing Room. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, so I hope you get to explore the cocktail scene outside downtown.

    6 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks again Kathryn. The Aviary is a definite and I'll start doing my research on the other places you mentioned.

      1. re: kathryn

        The newly opened Berkshire Room is another option close-ish to your hotel.

        We just went to Billy Sunday last night. Amazing room and drinks, with some great food, and service. We loved their Cocktail made with malted rye and ambergris laced palm sugar. Don't think you'll be able to find that elsewhere! Their pimento cheese spread with raw butter was also excellent.

        1. re: kathryn

          ohhhhhhh, maybe a good choice after Alinea as we work our way back to the hotel

          1. re: Spiritchaser

            Great choice; I loved the Berkshire room on my recent visit. Very nice, comfortable space and phenomenal craft cocktails. Really friendly people working there and prices quite reasonable for the quality and location. If you still have room after Alinea the food I sampled at Berkshire Room (several appetizers and one dessert available) was excellent as well.

            1. re: Spiritchaser

              Between the Berkshire Room, Sable, the bar at GT Fish & Oyster, the bar at Frontera, and Three Dots and a Dash (supposedly opening very soon), River North is no slouch for craft cocktails.

              1. re: kathryn

                Three Dots And A Dash just opened, and is getting rave reviews. It's located beneath Bub City, entrance in the alley.

        2. Violet Hour is a great option.

          Closer to your hotel is Suite Lounge that has really creative cocktails. Also Sable Kitchen & Bar has some nice cocktails.

          Another option if you are willing to hop in a cab is Scofflaw in Logan Square.

          1. I'd add the the bar in the Peninsula is also a good option for well made cocktails. Understandably won't be a very "Chicago" experience though.

            1. definitely aviary. violet hour is great too but go early or else be prepared to wait in line

              1. You may want to consider the Charcoal Lounge hidden beneath Sumi Robata Bar on N Wells. There are only 11 seats and your best shot is to have a dinner reservation and let the hostess (who might happen to be the chef's wife) know you'd like to have a drink in the lounge after dinner.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jbontario

                  What about before dinner? How fast does it fill up?

                    1. re: kathryn

                      kathryn (or anyone for that matter) - opinion of Curio? Sounds good from the info we have gotten but what to hear from someone that has been. Thanks