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Arbella cocktail bar
Photograph: Mistey Nguyen

The 27 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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From rooftops to speakeasies, from the West Loop to Little Village to Albany Park, there's a local Chicago cocktail bar for every occasion and taste. 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 tropical-inspired 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

Time Out Market Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

We love the tropical cocktails at Lost Lake so much that we asked co-owners Shelby Allison and Paul McGee to open their own bar inside Time Out Market Chicago (which is why you won't find them on the list below). The hidden cocktail counter specializes in rum-soaked tipples that will transport you to a faraway island. After your first sip, you’ll understand exactly how McGee and Allison won the title of Best Cocktail Bar in America from the discerning Tales of the Cocktail as well as Bar of the Year at Time Out Chicago’s 2018 Bar Awards.

  • 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

  • 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
  • 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 That is to say, you should expect to drink cocktails like their take on the tropical Jungle Bird (made famous at the Aviary bar at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur), a strong, layered drink with whimsical floating spheres. 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
  • 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 on your phone and not trying to order a cosmopolitan or any drink followed by the word “bomb.”

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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

The menu at Three Dots and a Dash—and its bar-within-a-bar concept, the Bamboo Room—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, ask for the king crab rangoons, which are packed with cream cheese and hunks of tender crab meat.

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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 smoky Verichrome brings the floral notes of lavender bitters to mezcal for a delicate dance. 

  • 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–$22 per cocktail—for some of the best booze you've ever tried.

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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 a spot at the shuffleboard table. Start hanging out here now so you can say you knew it in the good, old days.

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

From the outside, this place looks like a gallery (which, technically, it partially is). On the inside, it’s open and loft-like, with a permanent stage set up for weekly live music and performance. But behind the bar, the drink-slingers have perfected the art of the cocktail, skillfully crafting colorful refreshments that pack a punch. One sip and there’s no doubt that despite everything else going on here, the drinks are the reason to stick around.

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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, along with the specialty "Monthlygun" selections. Every drink involves a perfected recipe and quality, often house-made ingredients. Balance out the booze with bar upgraded snacks like loaded waffle fries, seasonal empanadas and a chocolate chip cookie.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Bucktown

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

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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, 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
  • Logan Square
  • price 2 of 4

Who would have guessed longtime Trotter's chef Matthias Merges would find his calling checking IDs at the door of a Logan Square bar? Granted, his is not just any bar: Here, beverage director Jeremy Barrett 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
  • 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 live performances, curated by Michelle L'amour, feel right at home amidst the vintage vibe.

  • 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 bright, bold flavors (lots of fruit, lots of spice). 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.

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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 Pina Colada or try something new with the Banana Oaxacan (featuring banana-infused mezcal, chocolate bitters and smoke) or their take on the Jungle Bird featuring Malort.  

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

Chicago's unofficial Best Rooftop Bar for Your Out of Town Visitors also boasts fantastic beverage program. Order the herbaceous Green Gold or a spicy Pearie Godmother and secure a spot on the sprawling rooftop deck, which offers sweeping views of Millennium Park, the Bean and the surrounding skyline.

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

There’s a delicate balance of quality and whimsy at the Sixth in Lincoln Square. Expect playful garnishes at this intimate hangout. And you’ll never get bored of what’s on the menu — drink options rotate seasonally.

 

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

As one of Chicago's latest late-night bars (open till 5am on Saturdays), Celeste is equally suited for date night and last call. The welcoming first-floor bar slings killer cocktails that are easy to love, including takes on classics like the Bee's Knees, a remixed mule with scotch, spiced pear and honey syrup, and a refreshing cucumber Collins. After a few rounds, boogie on up to Disco to hit the dance floor and order bottle service.

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

This queer, Black women-owned cocktail bar in Andersonville serves twists on classic drinks amid 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.

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

You can’t feel more hip than sipping the Pisco, a blend of rhubarb, lime, tacama and intipalka piscos, and swaying to the vintage Latin beats played on vinyl under the string lights of this Logan Square bar. The brass light fixtures, wood paneled bar, suede stools, leafy green plants accented by pale blue tiles create a soothing and intimate setting as you sip their pan-Latin American cocktails. If you need a pick-me-up, the Coffee, featuring 4-Letter Word cold brew, house horchata, cañada aguardiente de caña, will certainly keep you grooving to the tropical cumbia.

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