Cocktail bar report cards

We rate 19 iconic cocktail bars to see if they’re still worth your money.



Add +
Arsenic & Old Lace at Bernard's Bar

Arsenic & Old Lace at Bernard's Bar

It's de rigueur for drink enthusiasts to rave about the Aviary or put the Violet Hour on a craft-cocktail pedestal. But do those spots and other mainstays live up to the lore? We revisit 19 iconic cocktail bars to assess whether they're still worth your time and money.

Follow TOC on Foursquare to explore a list of our favorite bars. Check into three from this issue and you'll unlock our Bar Hunter badge.

The Drawing Room

How the bar’s holding up since Charles Joly jumped ship for the Aviary.


Expert cocktails meet Michelin-rated food.

The Barrelhouse Flat

Two levels, two vibes, one set of stellar drinks.

The Matchbox

New ownership, same old gimlets.

Coq d’Or

The live music is better than the cocktails at this historic bar.

The Bar at the Peninsula

Is it just for tourists?

NoMI Lounge

The view is better than the drinks at this iconic bar.

Bernard’s Bar

Where cocktails are worth $14. Really.

Bar DeVille

A spot worth waiting 35 minutes to snag a drink?

Tiny Lounge

Not so tiny anymore, but still a good neighborhood option.

Violet Hour

Is it worth waiting in line for this speakeasy?

Pump Room

Does it still swing?

Nacional 27

Can you still get a good cocktail at the bar that started it all?

Weegee’s Lounge

The vintage bar now serves its classic cocktails with superb service.

Double A

Why you should spend your money elsewhere.


Sometimes it’s okay to pay $13 for a cocktail.

The Aviary

Is it still worth the hype?

The Whistler

The iconic bar in the post–Paul McGee era.


The year-old Logan Square cocktail spot is an instant classic.

Five iconic cocktails

You can’t call yourself a Chicagoan until you drink these.

Best bars and drinks in the world

A roundup from Time Outs worldwide

Users say