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Soif Wine Lounge
Photograph: Courtesy Soif Wine Lounge

15 secret speakeasy bars to discover in Chicago

Sneak into these covert speakeasy bars for classic cocktails and old-school entertainment

Morgan Olsen
Emma Krupp
Written by
Morgan Olsen
Contributor
Emma Krupp
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The clandestine drinking of the Prohibition era may no longer be necessary, but Chicago is still home to a thriving network of underground bars perfect for imbibing away from big crowds—and you (probably) don't have to worry about the feds raiding these contemporary speakeasies. Hidden beneath Chicago restaurants and through alleyways, these tucked-away locales offer intimate, dimly-lit settings and cocktail menus dreamed up by some of the city's top mixologists. Plus, they often double as some of the best wine bars and jazz clubs in the city. Ready to drink on the down low? Here are some of the best speakeasies in Chicago—no secret password required.

RECOMMENDED: Uncover more of the best bars in Chicago

Time Out Market Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

You’ll need something to wash down all the eats at Time Out Market Chicago, and we found just the folks to help: Shelby Allison and Paul McGee (formerly the co-owners of Lost Lake) are the mix masters behind Secret Sound, a hidden speakeasy that specializes in tropical, rum-soaked cocktails that will transport you to a faraway island. Located behind a window on the second floor of Time Out Market, you can order a drink beginning at 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Chicago speakeasy bars

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Loop

Many of the watering holes on this list are intimate, but the Chicago Athletic Association's Milk Room is a true micro-bar, with just eight seats available to guests. Though the cocktails here cost a pretty penny (upwards of $40–$50 a pop), they're crafted with rare vintage spirits like 1970s Cointreau, porto. After you're done with the boozy history lesson, get some fresh air and take in the views upstairs at rooftop lounge Cindy's.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

The Green Door Tavern used to be patronized by Chicago gangsters, taking its name from the discreet entrance on the side of the building. If you walk down the metal staircase leading to the bathroom, you’ll notice a knickknack-covered door to a room that housed a speakeasy in the ’20s. Today it's the entrance to the Drifter, a craft cocktail bar with live entertainment and funky decor. Guests are invited to order from a stack of custom-made tarot cards that act as a constantly rotating menu. Sit back, sip your drink and take in old-school entertainers like contortionists and belly dancers.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Wicker Park
  • price 3 of 4

You won't see any signs for Violet Hour, only a long line of people waiting outside of an ever-changing, abstractly painted building. Once inside, the first thing you'll spot is a list of "house rules," which limits cell phone use (take your calls outside the bar) and outline contraband (domestic beer, White Claw, top shelf vodka and late ‘90s club cocktails). Seating areas are designed to be cozy and private so that guests don't have to shout over ambient noise. Plus, the crew behind the bar comprises some of the city’s most talented bartenders, who mix classics and seasonal concoctions.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • South Lawndale

Moreno's Liquors has stocked Little Village with shelves upon shelves of tough-to-find tequila and mezcal for more than 40 years. Head to the back of the store, though, and you'll find a neon Chihuahua sign guiding you to Osito's Tap, a tucked-away space that once housed a Bohemian bar (true to the neighborhood's old Czech heritage) and an underground bookie joint. Nowadays, the bar serves a drink and food menu inspired by Little Village's Latinx community, with an especially strong showing of agave cocktails and michelada options, plus a hefty selection of draft beer. Cozy up in high-backed leather booths indoors or venture outside to the not-so-secret patio for a drink in the sunshine.

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Emma Krupp
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

You won't soon forget an evening at the Office, a tiny speakeasy hidden below lauded cocktail bar the Aviary in the West Loop. Your best bet is to reserve one of four bar stools for the Office Hour, a 60-minute guided experience that includes two bespoke cocktails and food pairings (ideal for pre- or post-dinner tipples). Booze aficionados can spring for the Dusty Bottle Experience, with three vintage classic cocktails that are mixed using spirits from 1960 to 1980—a blast from the past in liquid form.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Logan Square

Styled after the intimate bars of Paris, Soif—pronounced "swaf," like the French word for thirsty—is a romantic hideaway for wine lovers, with a rotating wine list of around 50 to 60 bottles served in a subterranean space below Testaccio in Logan Square. Sidle up to one of the bar's plush velvet banquettes to peruse a menu that highlights small batch and limited production wines (like grower Champagne, which is produced in small volumes by the same person who grew the grapes) as well as natural and orange wines.

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Emma Krupp
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Irving Park
  • price 1 of 4

In addition to its library and museum, both packed with historical acquisitions, the Irish American Heritage Center boasts a cozy limited-hours pub with free live music (Irish, of course) and Guinness-absorbing classics like fish and chips. If everyone were as beer-minded as the Irish, cultural institutions would be flooded with the thirsty and eager to learn.

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Emma Krupp
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Things to do
  • West Loop

Hidden behind a fully functioning barber shop, this raucous late-night spot is dark and outfitted with wood paneling, a checkered floor and divey lounge furniture. It's where the beard trims end and the imbibing begins. Grab a seat at the bar and order a cocktail and a smash burger. A rotating cast of DJs keeps the dance floor packed into the wee hours of the morning.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lake View
  • price 2 of 4

Perhaps one of Chicago's most exclusive speakeasies, Room 13 is accessible to members and guests of the Old Chicago Inn, where the bar is housed. Make friends with someone who's in the know and obey the strict dress code (cocktail or business casual) before sidling up to the bar for classic cocktails that are crafted from recipes that date back to the Jazz Age. Hotel guests can opt to experience Room 13's cocktail flight, a tasting of four tipples along with historical commentary from your bartender.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North

The menu at this underground speakeasy—located beneath celebrity chef José Andrés' flagship restaurant, Jaleo—centers around one ingredient: Jamón ibérico, the dry-cured Spanish ham that's prized for its smooth, nutty taste. You'll find the jamón nestled into dishes like a foie gras terrine served with ibérico de bellota as well as on the drink menu, which includes savory beverages like the Consomé Cocktail, a combination of a house-made pork consomé with palo cortado and amontillado sherries topped with egg foam. 

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Emma Krupp
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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Booze Box
  • Bars
  • Izakaya
  • West Loop
  • price 1 of 4

From the outside, you wouldn’t guess that Sushi Dokku in West Loop has something to hide, but insiders know about the subterranean bar with izakaya-style small plates that waits below. Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll feel like a covert spy on a mission for boozy cocktails and quality hip-hop music. Head to the alley just behind Sushi Dokku (not sketchy at all) and look for the red light above a door—you've successfully found Booze Box. Psst! If you can’t find it, the staff will be happy to escort you downstairs.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
  • 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.

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower West Side

Try googling “The Alderman Chicago” and you’ll be lost in a sea of city websites—and maybe that’s intentional. The 16-seat speakeasy-style bar, tucked away in an tiny, candlelit side room of Pilsen Yards, offers an intimate hideaway for sipping through beverage director Lance Bowman’s sophisticated cocktail menu, plus a long list of spirit pours. Staff are eager to help indecisive visitors sort through the not-insignificant cocktail list, but we're particularly fond of the bar's tea-based concotions; Becky on the Beach pairs toasty genmaicha with rum, bitters and lime for an earthy-yet-tropical sipper. A word to the wise: Don’t show up without a reservation, especially on the weekends.

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Emma Krupp
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Bars
  • River North

The folks behind Three Dots and a Dash surprised us with a bar-within-a-bar concept called the Bamboo Room, where guests can sip cocktails mixed with rare and high-end rums. The 22-seat area offers a menu curated by beverage director Kevin Beary; expect simple, well-balanced beverages that are more refined than their Three Dots counterparts. In the mood for something bespoke? Order a Dealer's Choice and your bartender will create a custom, off-menu rum cocktail based on your imbibing preferences. 

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Morgan Olsen
Global Food & Drink Editor
Advertising
The Library at Gilt Bar
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

Ever feel like going somewhere where no one knows your name? That's the vibe at the Library, which is located below Gilt Bar in River North. The dark, library-themed bar is open Thursday through Saturday, slinging classic cocktails and hearty bites from upstairs. Heads up: The Library doesn't take reservations, so plan on trying your luck at walking in. 

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Emma Krupp
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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