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A hand pours a liquid into a drink, changing the color from blue to purple.
The Cauldron is bubbling up some fun.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Where to Drink Cocktails Right Now in Chicago

It’s time to daydream about summer.

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The Cauldron is bubbling up some fun.
| Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

It’s May, so time to daydream about summer. And if the temptation comes to call in sick from work and enjoy the day, Eater Chicago’s Cocktail Heatmap is here for support.

This listing features mostly new taverns or restaurants with notable cocktail or beer offerings. Think of it as a sibling to Eater’s bedrock, its monthly restaurant Heatmap. April’s update includes four additions: a fun fantasy bar in West Town, a fancy cocktail bar in River West, a karaoke bar in Chinatown, and a revamped downtown rooftop bar.

For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Meet & Whisky

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Chicago barbecue mini-chain Porkchop has unveiled its first speakeasy-style bar, Meet & Whiskey, behind a secret door marked only with a red light. Inside, drinkers can find a focus on (no surprise) whiskey, spins on Prohibition-era cocktails, and live jazz, burlesque, and cabaret acts. Locals know that the space has a special history of its own, as it once housed Hamilton’s, a legendary Loyola campus bar that closed in 2012 after 80 years.

A red cocktail with a lemon round garnish.
Patrons can expect riffs on Prohibition-era drinks.
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Penelope's Vegan Taqueria Andersonville

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When chef Juan Lisandro Ramirez first opened his meat- and dairy-free Mexican street foot spot in 2022 in River North, the endeavor felt like an experiment. Less than a year later, the data spelled success and he launched a second outpost in Andersonville. In addition to soy al pastor and guajillo-dipped pambazo sandwiches, the restaurant also offers margaritas (solo or in flights), micheladas, and a slew of booze-free horchata options.

A red cocktail and a green cocktail sit together on table.
Vegan taquerias are carving out a niche in Chicago.
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Moonflower and Nightshade

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Moonflower, the plant-themed cocktail bar that opened in Old Irving Park in 2021, recently acquired a darker, moodier younger sibling, Nightshade. Located in the basement below Moonflower, Nightshade serves cocktails with more experimental ingredients — the Late Bloomer features purple rice-washed Ford’s gin while Son of a Gun includes salted tortilla chips and poblano peppers — plus fluffy alcoholic shave ice.

Lost Reef Lounge

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The owners of Cheesie’s Pub and Grub are taking Chicago for a walk on the wet and wild side at Lost Reef, a lavish cocktail bar where patrons can drink and make merry among 2,500 gallons of fish and coral inside eight saltwater fish tanks. A rare cocktail destination in the neighborhood, it offers a lineup of classics like gimlets and boulevardiers, as well as smoke bubble-topped drinks and group-size submissions such as Blood and Sand with Laphroaig 10 Yr. Islay Single Malt.

A low-lit bar with a large aquarium.
The bar features 2,500 gallons of fish and coral inside eight saltwater fish tanks.
Kailley Lindman/Lost Reef

The Meadowlark

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The final installment of Meadowlark Hospitality’s trilogy of dining and drinking spots in Logan Square, this speakeasy-style bar has quickly established itself as a moody neighborhood hang with boozy, engaging cocktails from beverage director and Violet Hour alum Abe Vucekovich. The opening drink menu, elucidated in a beautiful Audubon-esque guidebook, pays homage to native birds of the Midwest. These include a brandy-based Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and egg nog-inspired Snowy Owl.

A shaker pouring an orange iced drink.
Meadowlark has drinks from a Violet Hour alum.
Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

No Vacancy

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Chicago sports fandom meets contemporary cocktail culture at No Vacancy, River North’s sleek new bar from ex-DineAmic Hospitality partner Keegan Moon and Ivan McCullagh (Gibson’s Restaurant Group). A replacement for the Pepper Canister, a stalwart Irish pub that closed in 2020 after 17 years, the bar features both a fancy wine dispensing system and a slushy machine for boozy frozen drinks — a bold move that says a lot about its playful vibe.

A cocktail in a ice cream cone-shaped glass topped with a billow of smoke.
No Vacancy promises moments of cocktail magic.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Bar 504 at Le Select

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There’s a lot to take in at Le Select, the opulent French restaurant from chef Daniel Rose and Boka Restaurant Group. But lest patrons feel overwhelmed by the glamour and clamor of the massive dining room, they can retreat upstairs to Bar 504, a plush crimson haven for pre- and post-meal libations. Wines by the glass and bottles of bubbles occupy most of the menu’s real estate alongside cocktails like martinis and clarified rum milk punch.

Three fancy cocktails sit on a bar.
Bar 504 doubles as a private room.
Bar 504

The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash

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There’s a new menu in town at the Bamboo Room, the intimate bar-within-a-bar inside Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ tropical hit Three Dots and a Dash. Founded in 2019 as an “ode to rum,” its latest lineup is a melange of unusual concoctions, from Corn & Oil (Four Square Barbados Rum, Madeira, Emperor’s tea blend, falernum) to Sandy Nail (Frapin XO Cognac, Candenhead Caroni Trinidad Rum, Ben Nevis 9 Year Single Malt Scotch).

A bartender uses tweezers to place a berry on top of a red frozen cocktail.
The frappe includes a sherry “lava flow.”
The Bamboo Room

After Lounge

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After is one of the biggest bar openings in recent memory with an ultra-modern space and rare spirits from the minds behind Michelin-starred Ever. It really does feel like a spaceship inside, but not at the expense of hospitality which is warm and knowledgeable. Imagine really great versions of all the beverages drinkers enjoy at dive bars, with nicer glassware, and customers get a good idea of what to expect. The bar takes reservations.

A round glass holds a large ice cube embossed with the word “After.” Michael Muser/After

Soulé 2

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Soule owner Bridgette Flagg says it means a lot to her to move her restaurant from West Town to North Lawndale, as it’s a full-service location with a full bar. After talking with local officials, Flagg says Soule is the first full-service restaurant in the neighborhood that’s opened in 50 years. There are six signature cocktails including the Soule Punch made from Grey Goose vodka and complemented with cognac or tequila.

The Blue Room at Chicago Firehouse Restaurant

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Buried in the depths of the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant, a city landmark and former headquarters of Chicago Fire Department’s Engine Company 104, drinkers will find the Blue Room. A subterranean speakeasy-style bar and music venue, it draws on the styles and sounds of both Prohibition-era Chicago and jazz kissa, a genre of Japanese cafes dedicated to playing recorded jazz music. Sidle up for a Chicago Firehouse Old Fashioned or applewood-smoked Burning Landmark.

Nine Bar

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Nine Bar is Chinatown’s first cocktail bar, located behind the Moon Palace Express takeout counter. Owners Lily Wang (whose parents own Moon Palace) and Joe Briglio mix up “Asian-ish” takes on classic cocktails, creating Old Fashioneds, highballs, and margaritias with baiju, soju, and shochu.

The Pearl Club

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The owners of Pearl Club are banking that River West, which is just north of West Loop, will have a similar real estate boom. They’ve gutted a divey Irish pub and replaced it with a sexy cocktail bar that should appeal to folks who want to go out on dates or avoid baseball caps.

A low-lit, moody cocktail bar
Opulent design has erased all traces of previous tenant Emmit’s Irish Pub.
Olivia Blinn/The Pearl Club

Aire Rooftop Bar Chicago

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This underrated downtown rooftop bar debuts for the 2023 patio season with a new grill station for tacos and sliders, and a self-serve beer station allowing customers to buy beer by the ounce. They’re also adding a new concert series for shows every other Sunday.

Aire Rooftop Bar

The Cauldron

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The unofficial Harry Potter bar makes its debut in Chicago inside a former bank. Stroll into the vault for a cocktail that may change colors thanks to come old-fashioned magic with an assist from an interactive wand. There are no nerds in this fantasy realm, just elves you haven’t met yet.

Two smoking green shots beside a pink teacup filled with a cocktail.
Wild cocktail brews abound at the Cauldron.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

King Karaoke

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King Karaoke, an over-the-top lounge with a dozen private karaoke rooms, has roared into Chinatown with eye-popping decor and a selection of fun drinks from bartender James Urycki (Travelle). Early hits include the Chinatown Pop Star (tequila, mezcal, mango, lychee, coconut) and Passion! at the Disco (vanilla bean-infused vodka, passionfruit, orange). Groups can opt for oversize cocktails or bottle service while belting out tunes in English, Korean, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Japanese, Vietnamese, Russian, German, or Thai.

A dim, neon-lit private karaoke room.
Playful cocktails match the party vibe at King Karaoke.
Garrick Film/King Karaoke

Meet & Whisky

Chicago barbecue mini-chain Porkchop has unveiled its first speakeasy-style bar, Meet & Whiskey, behind a secret door marked only with a red light. Inside, drinkers can find a focus on (no surprise) whiskey, spins on Prohibition-era cocktails, and live jazz, burlesque, and cabaret acts. Locals know that the space has a special history of its own, as it once housed Hamilton’s, a legendary Loyola campus bar that closed in 2012 after 80 years.

A red cocktail with a lemon round garnish.
Patrons can expect riffs on Prohibition-era drinks.
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Penelope's Vegan Taqueria Andersonville

When chef Juan Lisandro Ramirez first opened his meat- and dairy-free Mexican street foot spot in 2022 in River North, the endeavor felt like an experiment. Less than a year later, the data spelled success and he launched a second outpost in Andersonville. In addition to soy al pastor and guajillo-dipped pambazo sandwiches, the restaurant also offers margaritas (solo or in flights), micheladas, and a slew of booze-free horchata options.

A red cocktail and a green cocktail sit together on table.
Vegan taquerias are carving out a niche in Chicago.
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Moonflower and Nightshade

Moonflower, the plant-themed cocktail bar that opened in Old Irving Park in 2021, recently acquired a darker, moodier younger sibling, Nightshade. Located in the basement below Moonflower, Nightshade serves cocktails with more experimental ingredients — the Late Bloomer features purple rice-washed Ford’s gin while Son of a Gun includes salted tortilla chips and poblano peppers — plus fluffy alcoholic shave ice.

Lost Reef Lounge

The owners of Cheesie’s Pub and Grub are taking Chicago for a walk on the wet and wild side at Lost Reef, a lavish cocktail bar where patrons can drink and make merry among 2,500 gallons of fish and coral inside eight saltwater fish tanks. A rare cocktail destination in the neighborhood, it offers a lineup of classics like gimlets and boulevardiers, as well as smoke bubble-topped drinks and group-size submissions such as Blood and Sand with Laphroaig 10 Yr. Islay Single Malt.

A low-lit bar with a large aquarium.
The bar features 2,500 gallons of fish and coral inside eight saltwater fish tanks.
Kailley Lindman/Lost Reef

The Meadowlark

The final installment of Meadowlark Hospitality’s trilogy of dining and drinking spots in Logan Square, this speakeasy-style bar has quickly established itself as a moody neighborhood hang with boozy, engaging cocktails from beverage director and Violet Hour alum Abe Vucekovich. The opening drink menu, elucidated in a beautiful Audubon-esque guidebook, pays homage to native birds of the Midwest. These include a brandy-based Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and egg nog-inspired Snowy Owl.

A shaker pouring an orange iced drink.
Meadowlark has drinks from a Violet Hour alum.
Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

No Vacancy

Chicago sports fandom meets contemporary cocktail culture at No Vacancy, River North’s sleek new bar from ex-DineAmic Hospitality partner Keegan Moon and Ivan McCullagh (Gibson’s Restaurant Group). A replacement for the Pepper Canister, a stalwart Irish pub that closed in 2020 after 17 years, the bar features both a fancy wine dispensing system and a slushy machine for boozy frozen drinks — a bold move that says a lot about its playful vibe.

A cocktail in a ice cream cone-shaped glass topped with a billow of smoke.
No Vacancy promises moments of cocktail magic.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Bar 504 at Le Select

There’s a lot to take in at Le Select, the opulent French restaurant from chef Daniel Rose and Boka Restaurant Group. But lest patrons feel overwhelmed by the glamour and clamor of the massive dining room, they can retreat upstairs to Bar 504, a plush crimson haven for pre- and post-meal libations. Wines by the glass and bottles of bubbles occupy most of the menu’s real estate alongside cocktails like martinis and clarified rum milk punch.

Three fancy cocktails sit on a bar.
Bar 504 doubles as a private room.
Bar 504

The Bamboo Room at Three Dots and a Dash

There’s a new menu in town at the Bamboo Room, the intimate bar-within-a-bar inside Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ tropical hit Three Dots and a Dash. Founded in 2019 as an “ode to rum,” its latest lineup is a melange of unusual concoctions, from Corn & Oil (Four Square Barbados Rum, Madeira, Emperor’s tea blend, falernum) to Sandy Nail (Frapin XO Cognac, Candenhead Caroni Trinidad Rum, Ben Nevis 9 Year Single Malt Scotch).

A bartender uses tweezers to place a berry on top of a red frozen cocktail.
The frappe includes a sherry “lava flow.”
The Bamboo Room

After Lounge

After is one of the biggest bar openings in recent memory with an ultra-modern space and rare spirits from the minds behind Michelin-starred Ever. It really does feel like a spaceship inside, but not at the expense of hospitality which is warm and knowledgeable. Imagine really great versions of all the beverages drinkers enjoy at dive bars, with nicer glassware, and customers get a good idea of what to expect. The bar takes reservations.

A round glass holds a large ice cube embossed with the word “After.” Michael Muser/After

Soulé 2

Soule owner Bridgette Flagg says it means a lot to her to move her restaurant from West Town to North Lawndale, as it’s a full-service location with a full bar. After talking with local officials, Flagg says Soule is the first full-service restaurant in the neighborhood that’s opened in 50 years. There are six signature cocktails including the Soule Punch made from Grey Goose vodka and complemented with cognac or tequila.

The Blue Room at Chicago Firehouse Restaurant

Buried in the depths of the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant, a city landmark and former headquarters of Chicago Fire Department’s Engine Company 104, drinkers will find the Blue Room. A subterranean speakeasy-style bar and music venue, it draws on the styles and sounds of both Prohibition-era Chicago and jazz kissa, a genre of Japanese cafes dedicated to playing recorded jazz music. Sidle up for a Chicago Firehouse Old Fashioned or applewood-smoked Burning Landmark.

Nine Bar

Nine Bar is Chinatown’s first cocktail bar, located behind the Moon Palace Express takeout counter. Owners Lily Wang (whose parents own Moon Palace) and Joe Briglio mix up “Asian-ish” takes on classic cocktails, creating Old Fashioneds, highballs, and margaritias with baiju, soju, and shochu.

The Pearl Club

The owners of Pearl Club are banking that River West, which is just north of West Loop, will have a similar real estate boom. They’ve gutted a divey Irish pub and replaced it with a sexy cocktail bar that should appeal to folks who want to go out on dates or avoid baseball caps.

A low-lit, moody cocktail bar
Opulent design has erased all traces of previous tenant Emmit’s Irish Pub.
Olivia Blinn/The Pearl Club

Aire Rooftop Bar Chicago

This underrated downtown rooftop bar debuts for the 2023 patio season with a new grill station for tacos and sliders, and a self-serve beer station allowing customers to buy beer by the ounce. They’re also adding a new concert series for shows every other Sunday.

Aire Rooftop Bar

The Cauldron

The unofficial Harry Potter bar makes its debut in Chicago inside a former bank. Stroll into the vault for a cocktail that may change colors thanks to come old-fashioned magic with an assist from an interactive wand. There are no nerds in this fantasy realm, just elves you haven’t met yet.

Two smoking green shots beside a pink teacup filled with a cocktail.
Wild cocktail brews abound at the Cauldron.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Related Maps

King Karaoke

King Karaoke, an over-the-top lounge with a dozen private karaoke rooms, has roared into Chinatown with eye-popping decor and a selection of fun drinks from bartender James Urycki (Travelle). Early hits include the Chinatown Pop Star (tequila, mezcal, mango, lychee, coconut) and Passion! at the Disco (vanilla bean-infused vodka, passionfruit, orange). Groups can opt for oversize cocktails or bottle service while belting out tunes in English, Korean, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Japanese, Vietnamese, Russian, German, or Thai.

A dim, neon-lit private karaoke room.
Playful cocktails match the party vibe at King Karaoke.
Garrick Film/King Karaoke

Related Maps