Whether you're in Pilsen or Evanston, a fine cocktail bar is just around the corner. Chicagoans love a good drink so it's only fitting that there are lots of places happy to oblige. The following spots, categorized by neighborhood, are some of the best in town and you'll never have to travel too far again for a quality Manhattan or martini with this handy map.Read More
10 of the Best Chicago Cocktail Bars By Neighborhood
1. Wicker Park: The Violet Hour
The bar responsible for jump-starting Chicago’s craft cocktail scene hasn’t missed a beat over the years. It remains one of the city’s most innovative spots and the line to get in is usually long as patrons seek a dark escape from the bustle of Wicker Park. The overwhelming menu offers just about something for everyone but if you need help deciding, the knowledgeable mixologists are more than happy to help.
2. Streeterville: GreenRiver
The swanky new rooftop bar from Danny Meyer and the team behind New York’s The Dead Rabbit has quickly become of the city’s hottest spots. Head bartender Julia Momose, an Aviary vet, is crafting cocktails inspired by legendary Irish-Americans who helped shape Chicago. They're organized by the raw materials used in distillation while former Celeste chef Aaron Lirette is dishing out "honest Midwestern food” with twists. Add an outside terrace with a gorgeous view of the downtown and you’ve got one of the year’s best openings.
3. Logan Square: Scofflaw
There’s no shortage of good cocktail bars in Logan Square so it takes something really special to stand out. Danny Shapiro has created a gin-focused lounge that somehow feels high end—one half of the space resembles a Victorian living room—and like a neighborhood spot at the same time. Best of all, most of the food and drinks are in the $8 range making it an affordable outing that won’t break the bank.
4. West Loop: The Aviary
It should come as no surprise that a cocktail lounge from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas is a cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind concept. The highly-acclaimed spot has been lauded as one of the best bars in the world for its fusion of molecular gastronomy and mixology. The balanced, well-crafted drinks are works of science and art that justify the costs. You won’t find an experience anywhere else quite like it.
5. River North: Sable Kitchen & Bar
The competition is fierce in River North when it comes to a stiff drink but Sable manages to come out on top thanks to an impressive menu emphasizing sherries, ports and vermouths. You can’t go wrong with the crowd favorite War of the Roses, a refreshing mix of Pimm’s, gin, lime, elderflower, mint and Peychaud’s bitters or one of the Spanish gin & tonics. Pair it with small bites like roasted bone marrow and poutine and you’ve got the perfect post-work spot.
6. The Barrelhouse Flat
Stephen Cole’s cocktail temple boasts one of the most impressive drink menus in all of Chicago. Whether you want a classic Manhattan or fancy an original creation, the extensive list has it covered. There's everything from strong whiskey, gin and rum concoctions to daiquiris and punch bowls along with bar snacks like popcorn and chicken wings. It’s all set inside a vintage two-story space that includes a casual saloon downstairs and a more richly-furnished, upscale speakeasy on the second floor.
7. West Town: Bar Deville
The party never stops at Bar Deville, the popular, hipster West Town club. You’ll find everything from a pool table to DJ-fueled dance floor blasting loud jams. Head bartender Brad Bolt keeps things straight and simple with his version of classics that include a sazerac, sidecar, mezcal margarita and more. Don’t forget to bring some bills either; it’s cash only.
8. Pilsen: Punch House
The Longman & Eagle team’s remarkable restoration of historic Thalia Hall also included the opening of a subterranean 70’s-style cocktail bar. As the name suggests, the menu is heavy on classic and contemporary punches so bring some friends along to share a carafe or bowl. Jared Wentworth complements the drinks with bar snacks and a fantastic Juicy Lucy that ranks among the top burgers in town.
9. Humboldt Park: California Clipper
Brendan Sodikoff revived the classic Humboldt Park dive bar last year and added an extensive cocktail list. The multi-page menu features a wide variety of spirits that even includes sweet and creamy ice cream drinks and boozy shaved ice. Not much else has changed about the space, which still has a vintage jukebox and the same laid-back vibe that's made it a neighborhood favorite for decades.
10. Evanston: Ward Eight
Proving that the far North Side can make a good drink as well, Ward Eight is a neighborhood gem from two alums of the late, popular Andersonville bar In Fine Spirits. The expertly-curated drink list is diverse and reasonably-priced while the cozy, relaxed atmosphere makes it a great spot for either a date night or a happy hour.