Hotel bars carry a certain stigma: uninspired, übercorporate settings designed for business-class nightcaps after a long day of traveling. Bland, pedestrian—no thanks. But not all hotel bars are created equal, and some are even starting to compete with Chicago's best bars. These new gems at some of the city's finest lodgings pull out all the stops to present a top-notch experience. Be careful, though. You may find yourself wanting to grab a room for a quick staycation by the end of the night.
The best hotel bars in Chicago
Sip an innovative cocktail while enjoying a breathtaking view of Chicago's skyline at the rooftop lounge of Wicker Park's Robey hotel. Try the Coyote, a powerfully smoky blend of Ardbeg Scotch and grapefruit bitters, named after the tower in which the hotel resides. If sweet is more your style, order a Kid Koala or a Sweet Boys Only—the drinks are built around eucalyptus and pineapple, respectively. Be prepared for a wait—the lounge only seats 35 people—but when you get to the front of the queue, also be prepared to be blown away.
Shelves of hardbound books take up most of the interior wall space at this downtown bar, and neatly upholstered chairs and marble tabletops make the room seem at once classic and modern. The drinks follow suit. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail is as fancy as it sounds: a decadent mix of falernum, orange curaçao and two types of rum. Classic cocktails are given personality: The whiskey sour comes fluffed to cloudlike proportions and sprinkled with an edible glitter called "disco dust."
Drinks are divided into three main categories at this bartender's take on a classic "corner store" in River North: fizzy, boozy and frosty. Order a Purple fizzy beverage, a grape-brandy–based cocktail that tastes like purple even though it may appear clear. For something stiffer, try the Traveler, which is bourbon-based and arrives—true to its name—in a 200-milliliter glass flask. On warmer evenings, grab a frosty Negroñi Colada from the gently swirling machine behind the bar.
Sit at the bar or grab a table overlooking Michigan Avenue on the rooftop of this sprawling high-rise hotel standing tall between Rush Street and the Magnificent Mile. Dark spirits are the theme, in case the whiskey-filled cabinets in the entrance didn’t tip you off. The bar is so serious about its whiskey, in fact, that it has its own exclusive series of bourbon, Baptiste, from Ravenswood’s KOVAL Distillery. Ordering either of the premium cocktails on the menu—the Huntsman or A Curtsy and a Bow—will prompt a visit from the mobile bourbon bar complete with theatrics as the bartender tops the drinks with a dry-ice “Tonka fog” or a rooibos tea smoke.