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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The 100 best dishes in Chicago 2017: Drinks

These cocktails, brews and lattes are excellent until the very last drop

By Morgan Olsen and Elizabeth Atkinson

When we're not eating our way through town, we're on a liquid diet of exquisite cocktails, local suds and soul-warming coffee drinks. Baristas and bartenders kept our glasses full from winter to summer, but these were the best sips in the bunch.

RECOMMENDED: The 100 best dishes and drinks in Chicago

Photograph: Jason Little

Table Lager from Cruz Blanca Cerveceria

Restaurants Mexican West Loop

We’re all about low-octane beers that allow us to keep sipping longer. Weighing in at 3.7 percent ABV and dry-hopped, Rick Bayless’s Table Lager is a righteous match for all the tacos and tlayudas at his West Loop spot. $3–$6.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

La Cazuela at Del Toro

Restaurants Mexican Lower West Side

Margaritas are a must at this Pilsen mainstay, and since you’re having more than one, add the La Cazuela to your checklist. Smooth reposado is brightened up with lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit juices, habanero syrup, Squirt and pequin pepper. The best part? It never seems to end. $9.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Aperol spritz with sherry at the Waydown

Bars West Loop

You don’t have to give up the classic orange-hued sipper when the weather turns frigid. This West Loop rooftop bar (which coincidentally offers plenty of indoor space for winter) swaps sparkling wine for sweet, nutty sherry. $11.


Hibiscus Nectar Mead at Wild Blossom Meadery

Bars Lounges Washington Heights

Most of the meads at this Beverly bar lean sweet—so much so that you might classify them as postdinner treats. Before you write it off, try the Hibiscus Nectar, a delicately floral, honey-tinged masterpiece that’s just as good solo as it is mixed into a cocktail. $2–$7.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Thai tea egg cream at Spinning J

Restaurants Cafés Humboldt Park

Thai tea gets the soda-shop treatment at this darling Humboldt Park diner. This Creamsicle-colored sipper is a blend of carbonated water, milk and Thai-tea–flavored syrup, resulting in a lighter, more effervescent version of the Southeast Asian treat. $4.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Fernet and cherry cola at Boleo

Restaurants Argentinian Loop

In 2017 we started ordering low-ABV cocktails to keep the party going even longer, and this was the drink that kept us hanging out in the Loop hours after the workday ended. House-made cherry cola is spiked with Jelinek fernet to create a super sweet yet incredibly balanced concoction that we could sip all day. $10.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Bear Champ at Upstairs at the Gwen

Restaurants American River North

Cocktail expert Freddie Sarkis (Sable Kitchen, Broken Shaker) remixed this hotel bar’s menu earlier this year, injecting it with fun, interactive elements. We can’t get enough of the large-format Bear Champ, a soothing blend of bourbon, honey, lemon, earl grey tea, grapefruit and nutmeg is packaged inside a squeezable honey bear and served alongside glasses with wooden dippers. $24–$55.

Photograph: Ben Macri

Danish coffee at the Winchester

Restaurants American East Village

Coffee gets a boozy wakeup call from Genepy des Alpes (an herbaceous, minty liqueur), espresso-barley liqueur, cream and nutmeg. It’s a must-try morning alternative to mimosas and Bloody Marys. $10.

Photograph: Isaac Maiselman

Watered Flowers at Raised

Bars Cocktail bars Loop

When summer rolls around, this underrated hotel rooftop is an idyllic spot to sit and watch the night slip away. You’ll want a subtle, floral-soaked cocktail in hand for the occasion. Orchid- and cucumber-infused vodka is blended with lemon, strawberry syrup, egg white and Angostura bitters to create a mellow sipper that’s wildly refreshing. $15.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Rue Envy II at Alulu Brewpub

Bars Breweries Lower West Side

It’s not every day (or even every year) that we find an IPA that gives established local breweries a run for their money, but here it is. This Pilsen newcomer is producing a juicy and bright brew that’s wildly drinkable. We only wish we could get it at the corner store. $7.

Photograph: Jackie Gillum

Lemon Ice at Prairie School

Bars West Loop

This new West Loop watering hole pays homage to Frank Lloyd Wright and all things Midwestern, and you mustn’t leave without trying this graceful cocktail. A cheerful blend of vodka, sparkling wine and lemon juice is poured over shaved ice; it’s a boozy replica of the beloved Italian ice at Johnnie’s Beef in Elmwood Park. $15.

Photograph: Courtesy Apogee

Panda Party from Apogee

Bars Hotel bars River North

This tall, mysterious cocktail is filled with rum, cognac, ginger and absinthe, resulting in a strong and potent tiki-like taste. Be careful—this subtle, balanced sipper will sneak up on you fast. $14. No longer available.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Wolf Spice latte at Loba Coffee + Pastry

Restaurants Coffee shops Lake View

The Lakeview shop specializes in adventurous flavors, and this spice-infused house latte is no exception. Cinnamon and cardamom lead the pack, making it an ideal option for a frosty winter day. As you sip, the complex aroma wafts into your nostrils. $4.75.


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