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Craft cocktails had all but dissapeared from bar menus a decade ago. Five years ago they were the perview of a few eccentric bars and barkeeps bored of making cosmos.
Today, the city is littered with an embarrassment of riches for those who want a craft cocktail in Chicago. We are some of those people.
We won't detail exactly how often we get out to try these Chicago craft cocktail bars, but we do it enough to give you a rundown. Here are a few of our favorites.
The original. Wicker Park's Violet Hour spurred the craft cocktail resurgence in Chicago and its alumni have started some of the best new places in the city. They also have really tall chairs. That will make sense when you go. Don’t look for a sign, or an easy-to-find door. It’s a mural, and on weekends, expect a wait. Luckily Big Star is across the street to distract you.
It’s a little out of the way, in neighborhood purgatory between Logan Square and Humboldt Park, but this bar focused on gin cocktails is worth the trip. Lounge on vintage-couches or sidle up to the bar.
Warning - do not go to the Matchbox with a large group. It’s called the Matchbox for a reason, which you’ll understand when you walk in the door of this River West staple. But great things come in small packages, and at the Matchbox, that great thing is the gimlet, up, rimmed with powdered sugar. Quit crying about elbow room, squeeze in, and laugh at your friend who has to make repeated bathroom trips.
Located in the center of Logan Square, Chicago’s latest up-and-coming neighborhood, this speakeasy style bar is home to a casual vibe and some of the best cocktails in town. Try the frozen daiquiri, even if you’re a dude.
In the heart of Lincoln Park, Barrelhouse is famous for classic cocktails and flavored popcorn that will have you wanting to order by the barrel. Also open to 4 am, if you just can’t quit. Try the Dark and Stormy (but not at 2 am, that's a bad idea).
It’s really not nice to put this on the list. From the people behind Alinea, one of the world’s best restaurant and one of just two in Chicago with three Michelin Stars, Aviary does to cocktails what Alinea does to food. Watch this video, and bring your checkbook - cocktails start at $20. Then order the Old Fashioned, it will be delivered in a style you won’t find anywhere else. West Loop.
Find it in West Town, a short jaunt from the iconic rock bar, The Empty Bottle. Warm in winter, with an awesome summer patio out back, the bartenders here are known for their lack of pretension and their versatility. Order the Sportsman Cocktail, a take on the Old Fashioned that will set you back just $8 every day and is surprisingly easy even on the unexperienced cocktalier’s pallet.
You might stumble into a jazz-filled night or a DJ set, as they host live music seven nights a week. You will definitely stumble into a great drink at this Logan Square drinking landmark. Try the Bee’s Knees if it’s still on the menu.