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One of the cocktails at mezcal haven Todos Santos
Todos Santos [Official Photo]

Every Important Cocktail Bar in Chicago

The 20 cocktail spots that Chicagoans and tourists need to immediately visit

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One of the cocktails at mezcal haven Todos Santos
| Todos Santos [Official Photo]

Cocktails can be a polarizing topic in Chicago. There's the old guard who prefers the classics; whose hairs on their backs bristle when they hear the word "mixologist." Then there's the new wave of bar patrons; the ones raised on a steady cocktail diet of infused spirits and fancy ice who want their bartender to put on a show while mixing up their drink. Good thing Chicago has a delightful mix of bars where both factions can find common ground.

For the 2019 edition, standout newbies Bar Sotano, Kumiko, and Mordecai join the map. Barrelhouse Flat comes off after it sadly closed and Drumbar is removed to make room for new blood.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Sixth

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2200 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 433-5959
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A sophisticated cocktail lounge and neighborhood bar in one, the Sixth in Lincoln Square is the kind of spot most Chicagoans want in their ‘hood. It's also a playful experience with drinks based on the Trix cereal rabbit and the "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip and other killer cocktails that force guests to leave their comfort zones.

Inside the Sixth
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

2. Mordecai

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3632 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 269-5410
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Upscale cocktail enthusiasts are now joining Cubs fans to drink in Wrigleyville thanks to Eater Chicago’s reigning bar of the year. Mordecai, from the team behind Logan Square stalwart Billy Sunday, is a cocktail and whiskey lover’s delight next to Wrigley Field with one of America’s largest brown liquor lineups. A second bar named Hush Money lives upstairs and has a breezy terrace with Wrigley views, and a standout food menu is also available.

Mordecai’s “Duped by Three Fingers”
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

3. Lost Lake

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3154 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(312) 205-1234
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Paul McGee took his tiki inspiration from Three Dots and a Dash to this icon, the much less bombastic Lost Lake. The drinks are just as good, a little more experimental, and the crowd less touristy, resulting a multiple James Beard Award nominee.

Lost Lake is a tiki oasis in Avondale.
Sarah Joyce/Eater Chicago

4. Billy Sunday

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3143 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-2485
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Matthias Merges' cocktail bar is a sophisticated standout with throwback decor and easily some of Chicago's best drinks in the heart of Logan Square.

Inside Billy Sunday
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

5. Todos Santos

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2456 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(312) 878-8571
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A large array of mezcal and mezcal cocktails are the draw at this dim subterranean spot underneath acclaimed Logan Square Mexican restaurant Quiote. The man behind shuttered Mezcaleria Las Flores and former Rick Bayless beverage director brings his expertise here, resulting in perhaps the best Chicago bar to taste a variety of spirits from south of the border.

Todos Santos is a mezcal lover’s dream
Todos Santos [Official Photo]

6. The Whistler

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2421 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 227-3530
Visit Website

Originally supposed to be only an art gallery, the Whistler accidentally became one of Chicago's best cocktail bars with the hiring of Paul McGee a decade ago. The Logan Square legend became a breeding ground of top up-and-coming cocktail talent and a haven for counterculture art and music, a place where people can be just as comfortable ordering a serious cocktail or a cheap PBR tallboy and letting loose however they please.

7. Scofflaw

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3201 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 252-9700
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The cornerstone of a burgeoning Logan Square powerhouse group, Scofflaw is known for its focus on gin but is much more than that with great, affordable cocktails (most are $8), shabby-chic Victorian-esque decor, its own version of Malort, standout bar food, and free fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies every midnight.

Scofflaw’s front room
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

8. Weegee's Lounge

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3659 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 384-9423
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This under-the-radar throwback bar on Armitage Avenue has one of the deepest, classic-focused cocktail menus in Chicago. Adding in a professional staff, quiet conversation-focused ambience, and a terrific back patio makes it an essential.

Weegee’s is a throwback cocktail haven
Weegee’s Lounge [Official Photo]

9. The Violet Hour

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1520 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-1500
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In many ways the forefather of Chicago's new wave of cocktail bars, One Off Hospitality's (Blackbird, Avec, Publican) elegant bar is quiet, candlelight-only with tall secluded seats where patrons have quiet conversations and sip some of the best cocktails in the country off a seasonal menu. A 2015 James Beard Award winner, lines regularly form in Wicker Park at an entrance marked only with a regularly-changing wall mural.

The Violet Hour’s iconic interior
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

10. Bordel

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1721 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 227-8600
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The velvet-laden speakeasy-style bar above Spanish restaurant Black Bull gives the Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village border a sultry playground with creative cocktails, porrons, and live music. Expect some of Chicago's best barkeeps to moonlight here and some of the best people-watching in town.

Bordel
Bordel is fiesty late-night cocktail bar.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

11. Sportsman's Club

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948 Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
(872) 206-8054
Visit Website

Chicago's greatest industry bar, Sportsman's Club is also notable for its amaro machine, a daily-changing blackboard menu, and standout design with chess and checkers sets built into tables and a large backyard. Situated on Western Avenue's Ukrainian Village/Humboldt Park border, its part of ownership's plan to revitalize Chicago's neighborhood tavern culture.

Sportsman’s Club is not usually without people like this.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

12. The Matchbox

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770 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 666-9292
Visit Website

Known as Chicago's tiniest bar, the narrow sidecar-esque spot has some of the best deals on some of the best throwback classic cocktails in town. Patrons can order a beer and a shot or a more modern drink, but they often kick themselves for not getting a martini or a Manhattan where the shaker and martini glass are delivered to you and amount to two drinks in one.

13. The Drifter

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678 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 631-3887
Visit Website

Enter through a speakeasy entrance below the historic Green Door Tavern to one of Chicago's most-unique unique drinking experiences. A nightly-changing menu of cocktails printed on tarot cards and fascinating entertainers randomly taking the small stage happen amidst a time capsule decor that was once home to bootleggers during prohibition, and the space still shows it.

The Drifter is a time capsule of throwback Chicago with standout cocktails.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

14. Sable Kitchen & Bar

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505 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 755-9704
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Technically a hotel bar and restaurant, Sable holds a dear place in Chicago cocktail enthusiast's hearts for classy, well-made, interesting cocktails downtown.

Inside Sable
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

15. Bar Sótano

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In the alley behind Frontera Grill, 443 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 391-5857
Visit Website

One of America’s most celebrated chefs has opened his first bar, a subterranean spot where customers enter through an alley entrance. At Bar Sótano, Rick Bayless and daughter Lanie Bayless give tourist-ridden River North a little bit of an edge. There’s a plenty of fine mezcal to sip inside the space underneath Bayless’s Frontera Grill, although the big draws are the unorthodox drinks, some of them based on classic Mexican dishes. For example, customers could order a a mezcal-based guacamole cocktail mixed with cilantro, avocado, and a tomatillo-chili syrup. Being a Bayless spot, the restaurant also has a full food menu.

Bar Sotano’s taco al pastor cocktail.
Bar Sotano [Official Photo]

16. Three Dots and a Dash

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435 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 610-4220
Visit Website

Step through a back alley entrance into a portal to one of America's best-built tiki bars. Paul McGee may have moved on from the bar he designed and inspired, but fantastic drinks, custom mugs, and an otherwordly ambience remain.

Three Dots and a Dash goes all out on its tiki theme.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

17. The Aviary

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955 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 226-0868
Visit Website

The progressive cocktail bar from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas showcases some of the most forward-thinking drinks in the world. "Cocktail chefs" mix rare ingredients inside a cage-like cocktail kitchen using custom-made ice crafted by "ice chefs" in an ice room. There's also the small "speakeasy" downstairs, the Office, known for its small menu and rare spirits.

The Aviary’s main room
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

18. Kumiko

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630 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 285-2912
Visit Website

One of Chicago’s most unique drinking destinations, Kumiko offers Japanese-style cocktails, bites, and decor with fine-dining pedigree from beverage wizard Julia Momose and team from two-Michelin-starred Oriole. Patrons can choose their own adventure with ultra-creative drinks like the very popular “Sea Flower” (Nikka Coffey gin, Drapò vermouth bianco, Yuzu Koshō, Kabosu and lime with an “ocean dust” rim) or opt for coursed-out omakase cocktail tastings, as well as terrific bar snacks like addictive tempura prawns. Reservations are recommended.

The “Sea Flower” at Kumiko.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

19. MONEYGUN

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660 W Lake
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 600-0600
Visit Website

The people behind this West Loop venture think of it as a regular bar first. And although it features a come-as-you-are vibe, make no mistake that it serves some of Chicago's most high-caliber cocktails in ramped-up classics — Long Island iced teas and the like didn't taste this good before. There's also a massive backyard patio with bocce that it shares with sister restaurant Saint Lou's Assembly next door.

Moneygun
Moneygun is a comfortable throwback bar with outstanding cocktails.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

20. Milk Room

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12 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60603
(844) 312-2221
Visit Website

Drinkers feel special upon scoring tickets inside this exclusive bar inside the Chicago Athletic Association hotel. Patrons need reservations to score one of the eight seats, making Milk Room a unique experience that features perfectly-balanced classic cocktails and an extensive selection of hard-to-find spirits in a multi-course prix fixe format with snacks. This is all coupled with knowledgable bartenders who educate patrons.

Paul McGee and crew serve up rare spirits and cocktail tasting menus at Milk Room.
Clayton Houck

1. The Sixth

2200 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Inside the Sixth
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

A sophisticated cocktail lounge and neighborhood bar in one, the Sixth in Lincoln Square is the kind of spot most Chicagoans want in their ‘hood. It's also a playful experience with drinks based on the Trix cereal rabbit and the "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip and other killer cocktails that force guests to leave their comfort zones.

2200 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60625

2. Mordecai

3632 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613
Mordecai’s “Duped by Three Fingers”
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Upscale cocktail enthusiasts are now joining Cubs fans to drink in Wrigleyville thanks to Eater Chicago’s reigning bar of the year. Mordecai, from the team behind Logan Square stalwart Billy Sunday, is a cocktail and whiskey lover’s delight next to Wrigley Field with one of America’s largest brown liquor lineups. A second bar named Hush Money lives upstairs and has a breezy terrace with Wrigley views, and a standout food menu is also available.

3632 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60613

3. Lost Lake

3154 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Lost Lake is a tiki oasis in Avondale.
Sarah Joyce/Eater Chicago

Paul McGee took his tiki inspiration from Three Dots and a Dash to this icon, the much less bombastic Lost Lake. The drinks are just as good, a little more experimental, and the crowd less touristy, resulting a multiple James Beard Award nominee.

3154 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

4. Billy Sunday

3143 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647
Inside Billy Sunday
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Matthias Merges' cocktail bar is a sophisticated standout with throwback decor and easily some of Chicago's best drinks in the heart of Logan Square.

3143 W Logan Blvd
Chicago, IL 60647

5. Todos Santos

2456 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Todos Santos is a mezcal lover’s dream
Todos Santos [Official Photo]

A large array of mezcal and mezcal cocktails are the draw at this dim subterranean spot underneath acclaimed Logan Square Mexican restaurant Quiote. The man behind shuttered Mezcaleria Las Flores and former Rick Bayless beverage director brings his expertise here, resulting in perhaps the best Chicago bar to taste a variety of spirits from south of the border.

2456 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

6. The Whistler

2421 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Originally supposed to be only an art gallery, the Whistler accidentally became one of Chicago's best cocktail bars with the hiring of Paul McGee a decade ago. The Logan Square legend became a breeding ground of top up-and-coming cocktail talent and a haven for counterculture art and music, a place where people can be just as comfortable ordering a serious cocktail or a cheap PBR tallboy and letting loose however they please.

2421 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

7. Scofflaw

3201 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Scofflaw’s front room
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

The cornerstone of a burgeoning Logan Square powerhouse group, Scofflaw is known for its focus on gin but is much more than that with great, affordable cocktails (most are $8), shabby-chic Victorian-esque decor, its own version of Malort, standout bar food, and free fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies every midnight.

3201 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

8. Weegee's Lounge

3659 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Weegee’s is a throwback cocktail haven
Weegee’s Lounge [Official Photo]

This under-the-radar throwback bar on Armitage Avenue has one of the deepest, classic-focused cocktail menus in Chicago. Adding in a professional staff, quiet conversation-focused ambience, and a terrific back patio makes it an essential.

3659 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60647

9. The Violet Hour

1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
The Violet Hour’s iconic interior
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

In many ways the forefather of Chicago's new wave of cocktail bars, One Off Hospitality's (Blackbird, Avec, Publican) elegant bar is quiet, candlelight-only with tall secluded seats where patrons have quiet conversations and sip some of the best cocktails in the country off a seasonal menu. A 2015 James Beard Award winner, lines regularly form in Wicker Park at an entrance marked only with a regularly-changing wall mural.

1520 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

10. Bordel

1721 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
Bordel
Bordel is fiesty late-night cocktail bar.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

The velvet-laden speakeasy-style bar above Spanish restaurant Black Bull gives the Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village border a sultry playground with creative cocktails, porrons, and live music. Expect some of Chicago's best barkeeps to moonlight here and some of the best people-watching in town.

1721 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622

11. Sportsman's Club

948 Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Sportsman’s Club is not usually without people like this.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Chicago's greatest industry bar, Sportsman's Club is also notable for its amaro machine, a daily-changing blackboard menu, and standout design with chess and checkers sets built into tables and a large backyard. Situated on Western Avenue's Ukrainian Village/Humboldt Park border, its part of ownership's plan to revitalize Chicago's neighborhood tavern culture.

948 Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

12. The Matchbox

770 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Known as Chicago's tiniest bar, the narrow sidecar-esque spot has some of the best deals on some of the best throwback classic cocktails in town. Patrons can order a beer and a shot or a more modern drink, but they often kick themselves for not getting a martini or a Manhattan where the shaker and martini glass are delivered to you and amount to two drinks in one.

770 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60642

13. The Drifter

678 N Orleans St, Chicago, IL 60654
The Drifter is a time capsule of throwback Chicago with standout cocktails.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Enter through a speakeasy entrance below the historic Green Door Tavern to one of Chicago's most-unique unique drinking experiences. A nightly-changing menu of cocktails printed on tarot cards and fascinating entertainers randomly taking the small stage happen amidst a time capsule decor that was once home to bootleggers during prohibition, and the space still shows it.

678 N Orleans St
Chicago, IL 60654

14. Sable Kitchen & Bar

505 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654
Inside Sable
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Technically a hotel bar and restaurant, Sable holds a dear place in Chicago cocktail enthusiast's hearts for classy, well-made, interesting cocktails downtown.

505 N State St
Chicago, IL 60654

15. Bar Sótano

In the alley behind Frontera Grill, 443 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Bar Sotano’s taco al pastor cocktail.
Bar Sotano [Official Photo]

One of America’s most celebrated chefs has opened his first bar, a subterranean spot where customers enter through an alley entrance. At Bar Sótano, Rick Bayless and daughter Lanie Bayless give tourist-ridden River North a little bit of an edge. There’s a plenty of fine mezcal to sip inside the space underneath Bayless’s Frontera Grill, although the big draws are the unorthodox drinks, some of them based on classic Mexican dishes. For example, customers could order a a mezcal-based guacamole cocktail mixed with cilantro, avocado, and a tomatillo-chili syrup. Being a Bayless spot, the restaurant also has a full food menu.

In the alley behind Frontera Grill, 443 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

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16. Three Dots and a Dash

435 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Three Dots and a Dash goes all out on its tiki theme.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

Step through a back alley entrance into a portal to one of America's best-built tiki bars. Paul McGee may have moved on from the bar he designed and inspired, but fantastic drinks, custom mugs, and an otherwordly ambience remain.

435 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654

17. The Aviary

955 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
The Aviary’s main room
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

The progressive cocktail bar from Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas showcases some of the most forward-thinking drinks in the world. "Cocktail chefs" mix rare ingredients inside a cage-like cocktail kitchen using custom-made ice crafted by "ice chefs" in an ice room. There's also the small "speakeasy" downstairs, the Office, known for its small menu and rare spirits.

955 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607

18. Kumiko

630 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661
The “Sea Flower” at Kumiko.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

One of Chicago’s most unique drinking destinations, Kumiko offers Japanese-style cocktails, bites, and decor with fine-dining pedigree from beverage wizard Julia Momose and team from two-Michelin-starred Oriole. Patrons can choose their own adventure with ultra-creative drinks like the very popular “Sea Flower” (Nikka Coffey gin, Drapò vermouth bianco, Yuzu Koshō, Kabosu and lime with an “ocean dust” rim) or opt for coursed-out omakase cocktail tastings, as well as terrific bar snacks like addictive tempura prawns. Reservations are recommended.

630 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60661

19. MONEYGUN

660 W Lake, Chicago, IL 60661
Moneygun
Moneygun is a comfortable throwback bar with outstanding cocktails.
Marc Much/Eater Chicago

The people behind this West Loop venture think of it as a regular bar first. And although it features a come-as-you-are vibe, make no mistake that it serves some of Chicago's most high-caliber cocktails in ramped-up classics — Long Island iced teas and the like didn't taste this good before. There's also a massive backyard patio with bocce that it shares with sister restaurant Saint Lou's Assembly next door.

660 W Lake
Chicago, IL 60661

20. Milk Room

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
Paul McGee and crew serve up rare spirits and cocktail tasting menus at Milk Room.
Clayton Houck

Drinkers feel special upon scoring tickets inside this exclusive bar inside the Chicago Athletic Association hotel. Patrons need reservations to score one of the eight seats, making Milk Room a unique experience that features perfectly-balanced classic cocktails and an extensive selection of hard-to-find spirits in a multi-course prix fixe format with snacks. This is all coupled with knowledgable bartenders who educate patrons.

12 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60603

Related Maps