Chicago’s cocktail bars just kept coming and coming, adding great new local hangouts like Estereo on what feels like every corner. Beer fared well, with new breweries like Forbidden Root continuing to crop up. From ciders to tiki sippers, these are the best drinks we had in 2016.
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Nothing is going to make you feel more like a Viking than the Bracer at the Sixth. The cocktail comes in a cup made out of a horn (true story) and features rye, amaro and a whole lot of porter. It’s strong, it’s invigorating (bracing, if you will) and might just have you booking a trip to Scandinavia. $12.
A gin cocktail at a whiskey bar? Hear us out. This one comes with Letherbee gin, green Chartreuse, habanero shrub (for a kick) and an egg white (for some thickness). It has a strong gin backbone, which we might not normally go for when the temperature drops, but this concoction seems perfect for winter. $10, seasonal.
Yes, this one’s Scotch-heavy. It’s made with Glenmorangie Original with David Nicholson 1843 bourbon, Cocchi di Torino vermouth, Grand Marnier and topped with a Laphroaig whiskey float. The topper gives it a peaty taste while Grand Marnier brings out floral notes in the Scotch. $15.
Estereo is hands down our favorite new place to sit all day and drink (if only we were allowed to!), and we’d be crazy to tell you to stick to just one drink there. But start out with the frozen, a Brugal Cuban-style frozen daiquiri—it has a strong punch of rum out of the gate with a sweet finish. $11.
Head bartender Jess Lambert (Sable Kitchen & Bar) heads up the bars at the Kimpton Gray—a welcome addition to the Loop’s drinking scene. Vol. 39 feels posh without being pretentious, and Lambert’s cocktails fit right in. Try the Spanish Armada, served in a glass goblet with Lustau Spanish brandy, rum, blended Scotch, Jamaican #1 bitters and curry bitters. Strong and hefty, this one serves a hint of spice for a spirit-forward sipper. $12.
A night at the Northman, the Lincoln Square cider bar that opened this year, calls for sampling multiple fermented beverages. An absolute must while it was on the list was the Northern Spy Barrel-Aged Ice Cider from Vermont’s Eden Specialty Ciders. On the sweeter side, this guy’s been sitting in French oak barrels for a year, giving it a nice woody complexity. No longer available.
Matty Eggleston (Nico Osteria) and his team have come up with a number of drinks that practically leap off Spilt Milk Tavern’s menu, but the cheapest and (thankfully) most interesting is pineapple soft serve topped with a different cocktail daily (ours was a light gin-based sherry concoction). They’ll blend the whole thing up and serve it to you with a straw. Just make sure you don’t get brain freeze sipping this guy. $9, seasonal.
Pickles are one of the best things on the planet. Beer is also one of the best things on the planet—which has to be why the geniuses at Marz Community Brewing and PQM put this beer together. It’s your traditional Berliner Weiss, plus dill. It’s perfect with any sandwich at PQM. $7.99/bottle, $7 pint.
Sometimes you just want a really good Hefeweizen, which is exactly what Dovetail delivers. (Then again, Dovetail delivers all their beers extremely on-style, helping Chicago beer geeks learn a thing or two about traditional styles without crazy additions). It’s a light 4.8 percent ABV, letting you have a pint or two without getting too buzzed. The golden hue of this brew has us swooning even before we take our first sip, and that rich fruity taste, with just the right touch of acidity, finishes the job. $5/.3L, $7/.5L; seasonal.