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Arbella cocktail bar
Photograph: Mistey Nguyen

The 24 best cocktail bars in Chicago

Pick your poison at the top cocktail bars in Chicago, where the drinks range from tropical to classic.

Edited by
Zach Long
Contributors
Morgan Olsen
&
Allison Yates
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Those who say that Chicago only comes alive in the summer must have never found themselves sitting at a lively cocktail bar. Staffed by some of the world's top bartenders, the best cocktail bars in Chicago mix drinks that you can enjoy before dinner at a Chicago steakhouse or when you're keeping the party going into the wee hours of the morning. Whether you're in the mood for a classic Manhattan or Negroni or you're hankering for an over-the-top tiki sipper with colorful bendy straws, the best cocktail bars in Chicago will take care of you. When you're looking for something a bit stronger than what's on offer at Chicago breweries and wine bars, make your way to the best cocktail bars in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best bars in Chicago

Best of the city under one roof

  • Bars
  • West Loop

Chicago, we know you're thirsty, which is why we put a bar on every floor of Time Out Market Chicago. The main bar—located on the first floor, as soon as you walk in—is also the largest in the building. Beverage director Jonathan Kahn curates seasonal lineups of thirst-quenching craft cocktails that incorporate local spirits from makers like CH Distillery and Apologue. Expect vibrant and fun flavors at every turn, from housemade lavender cola and activated charcoal to hibiscus salt and coconut liqueur. Kahn rounds out the menu with top-rated wines and a selection of Chicago-made brews from the likes of Metropolitan Brewing, Moody Tongue and Off Color Brewing.

  • Bars
  • West Loop

Named for Time Out founder Tony Elliott, Tony’s is the crown jewel of Time Out Market Chicago. The cozy all-season rooftop bar is decorated in vintage Time Out London covers, twinkling lights and handsome wood beams that stretch the length of the room. The space is anchored by a sprawling bar that serves a curated selection of wines, beers and signature cocktails. If the sun is shining, wander outside to take in skyline views (you can easily peep some architectural gems from here).

Best cocktail bars in Chicago

Scofflaw
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

If gin is your liquor of choice, you've come to the right place. This swanky but understated cocktail bar specializes in the clear booze and offers a seasonally rotating lineup of beautiful gin sippers (which are all lovingly illustrated on the menu). The bar team doesn't discriminate: They also use tequila, rum, mezcal, sake and other spirits to craft their beverages.

  • Bars
  • West Loop

This dimly lit, seriously sexy rathskeller beneath the Hoxton hotel is a great bet for those nights when you want to go somewhere where no one knows your name. The deal is sweetened by a pièce de résistance of a cocktail menu that includes 52 retooled and perfected standards. The Negroni, for instance, mimics the flavor of vintage Campari with a top-secret mixture of bitters, achieving an exquisitely balanced, time-traveling tipple. Whether you want something familiar or a out of the ordinary, you'll find no shortage of options here.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • South Lawndale

Located in the back of Moreno’s Liquors—which has sold hard-to-find tequila and mezcal in Little Village for more than 40 years—this lofty speakeasy leans into its locale with a robust selection of agave-focused cocktails spiked with ingredients like ancho chile and jamaica, plus an impressive draft beer list to boot. Slide into high-backed booths in the bar’s historic interior, or grab seats at the patio and soak up the sunshine. 

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

Star bartender Julia Momose presides over this beautiful West Loop cocktail den that's steeped in Japanese heritage. Her menu flows from light and bright to dark and stirred, allowing guests to sip rare liquors and fun ingredients like elderflower syrup, orange-saffron bitters and cashew orgeat. Expect to pay a premium—$16–$21 per cocktail—for some of the best booze you've ever tried.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Wicker Park
  • price 3 of 4

This sleek cocktail lounge is exactly what you’d expect from a bar named after a line of T.S. Eliot poetry: pristine (the carefully constructed cocktails are excellent), pretentious (you won’t find a sign on the door—just look for the long lines) and, ultimately, completely and unarguably gorgeous. Just make sure to obey the house rules by refraining from talking aon your phone and not trying to order a cosmopolitan or any drink followed by the word “bomb.”

https://media.timeout.com/images/105799549/image.jpg
Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

When Grant Achatz does a cocktail bar, it should go without saying that it's no ordinary cocktail bar. At the Aviary, which opened in 2011, cocktails receive the same innovative treatment from beverage director Micah Melton as the food at Next or Alinea. That is to say, you should expect to drink cocktails like the Ford’s Model Tea Party, a refreshing twist of gin and early gray tea. Remember The Maine leaves you dizzy and delighted with 26-month aged absinthe, aviary high west rendezvous rye, vermouth, cherry and walnut.

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  • Bars
  • Albany Park

This Albany Park lounge takes its name from a photography term for the dreamy, out-of-focus look achieved by fast-moving lenses, and its interior—all dim lights, sleek furniture and brick walls—offers a similarly sexy aesthetic. Cocktails rotate based on the season, but the core menu favors bold and vegetal spirits; the signature Bokeh cocktail, for example, uses Fernet and cardamom to enliven a traditional sour, while the martini-like Still Life (this place loves a good photography reference) introduces grassy notes with cacti and the Mexican spirit Sotol.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River West/West Town
  • price 2 of 4

If the thought of being crammed in this tiny boxcar of a bar makes you nervous, relax. The patio practically doubles the capacity of the place, and it’s the perfect spot to throw back one of its margaritas, made with fresh lemon and lime juice, top-shelf liquors and powdered sugar, and poured with a heavy hand.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Bucktown

Come for the cocktails, stay for the food. The same team behind diminutive Logan Square restaurant Giant conceived this tribute to Americanized Chinese fare, served alongside colorful cocktail classics. Pair the lo mein with a gimlet that incorporates lemongrass, shochu and chili. Or soothe the spicy dry chili chicken with a ChiChi Colada—a fusion of mezcal, singani and orange blossom.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

The menu at Three Dots and a Dash features exquisite tiki cocktails crafted with fresh pressed juices and house-made syrups. The arsenal of garnishes is next level, with tropical flowers, colorful bendy straws and fresh herbs and citrus. First-timers should start with the namesake cocktail, an agreeable blend of rums, allspice, falernum, orange and lime. After a few drinks, flag down your waiter and ask for the king crab rangoons, which are packed with cream cheese and hunks of tender crab meat.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

Ten years from now, when this strip of Armitage is populated with coffee shops and vintage clothing stores, this old-school, soul record–playing, classic cocktail–mixing bar will be overrun with hipsters vying for their turn in the photo booth or the shuffleboard. Start hanging out here now so you can say you knew it in the good, old days.

  • Bars
  • Café bars
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

You won't feel much more hip than when you're sipping the Pisco—a blend of rhubarb, lime, tacama and biondi piscos—and swaying to the vintage Latin beats under strings of lights at this tropical Logan Square corner bar. The brass light fixtures, wood paneled bar, suede stools and leafy green plants create a soothing and intimate setting for a menu that's centered around pan-Latin American cocktails. If you need a pick-me-up, the 4-Letter Word cold brew should keep you grooving to the cumbia records all night long.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 2 of 4

If classic cocktails and ’90s hip-hop are your jam, Moneygun might just be your dream bar. The small, dark space features all the originals—from mojitos and mai tais to sidecars and sazeracs. Every drink involves a perfected recipe and quality, often house-made ingredients. Balance out the booze with bar upgraded snacks like loaded waffle fries, English pea croquettes and a chocolate chip cookie.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

There's no shortage of bars to sit down in throughout Logan Square, but Billy Sunday (practically an old mainstay at this point) shouldn't be skipped. Beverage director Stephanie Andrews creates a menu with original cocktails and twists on classics packed with loads of amari. Though Billy Sunday is squarely a bar, the food is a worthy companion to the drinks: Don't miss any of the snacks in jars.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower West Side
  • price 2 of 4

Located below Dusek’s Board & Beer, this dark, ’70s-themed bar is decorated with a fish tank, wood paneling and a huge fish on the wall. Think of it as an upgraded, boozy version of your grandparents' basement. Like its name suggests, punch is the main draw here—and you can order most cocktails by the glass, carafe or bowl. Whether you go big or small, you'll experience the genius and precision happening behind the bar at Punch House. If you're looking for a good place to start, order Space Juice for Jered, a blend of tequila, grapefruit, lime, Luxardo bitters, black pepper, sparkling wine and sage. After a few glasses, you'll be ready to head upstairs to piano bar Tack Room.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Andersonville
  • price 2 of 4

This queer, Black women-owned cocktail bar in Andersonville serves twists on classic drinks in a sleek and sexy atmosphere. Owners Renauda Riddle and Angela Barnes augment martinis, mimosas and sangrias with pops of lychee, mango and blueberry basic syrup. Inspired by the famous Alice Walker poem from which the bar takes its name, cocktails fall into one of three categories, depending upon the amount of alcohol each contains: Darling Cocktails, Boozy Darlings, and Darling, You’re Drunk. Order accordingly!

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Live music and weekly DJ sets take centerstage at this chic and unpretentious River North cocktail bar, where locally-sourced ingredients like honey and kombucha are used to create cocktails that focus on citrus-forward flavors (think passion fruit, pineapple, and lime). Whiskey lovers should turn their attention to Arbella’s Traveling Old Fashioned menu for globally-inspired renditions of the classic cocktail, including the Lagos, Nigeria which blends smoked, spiced-ginger whisky with habanero honey and elderflower.

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Located under the Green Door Tavern, the Drifter is a cozy bar from Liz Pearce (Gage, Drawing Room, Aviary), who serves up a rotating selection of cocktails (printed on a tarot card menu). Your order depends on the cards she deals each night, so keep your fingers crossed for the velvety chocolate negroni or South American Mistress, a smooth blend of pisco, vermouth and Fernet, balanced with chocolate liqueur and blackstrap bitters. The space is a former speakeasy and much of the original decor remains; the occasional performances, like a belly dancer, feel right at home amidst the vintage vibe.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Loop
  • price 3 of 4

Chicago's unofficial Best Rooftop Bar for Your Out of Town Visitors also boasts a fantastic beverage program. Order the Jillian—with vodka, vermouth, spiced clementine and lemon—and secure a spot on the sprawling rooftop deck, which offers sweeping views of Millennium Park, the Bean and the surrounding skyline.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lincoln Square
  • price 2 of 4

There’s a delicate balance of quality and whimsy at the Sixth in Lincoln Square, where cocktails always seem to look as good as they taste. Expect playful garnishes at this intimate hangout. And you’ll never get bored of what’s on the menu—drink options rotate seasonally.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Ukrainian Village

Enjoy tiki cocktails to the east of Humboldt Park at this Caribbean-inspired lounge, thankfully feels more like a spot for a late-night rendezvous than the cheesy hotel bar at an all-inclusive resort. There’s a solid selection of classic tiki drinks that even the inexperienced drinker will probably recognize, but the original (and frozen) options are more exciting. Cool off with a frozen Naked and Famous, which combines mezcal, yellow chartreuse and aperol, or light the night up with a Rumble in the Jungle, made from sotol, mezcal, maraschino, bitters, lime and mango syrup.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • East Village
  • price 2 of 4

Localted up leopard-print stairs and behind a hidden door, Wicker Park’s Bordel is a speakeasy that seeks to revive the intrigue of Paris’s belle époque. Order a glass of punch (served in a Royal Albert tea set) and settle into the plush red seats as you take in the bar’s nightly entertainment. The Smoking Hot Uncle with mezcal, fresno pepper-infused Sherry, cantaloupe, rosemary syrup and lime is an appropriate tipple for when the scantily-clad fire dancers and burlesque performers show up onstage.

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