River North's latest cocktail bar is another stunner—it's the Chicago branch of a much-lauded Miami hotspot. The vibe is tropical-meets-Midwest, with palm tree wallpaper and octopus decor along with dark wood panels and kitschy knickknacks. The turns out balanced, inventive drinks like an Oatmeal Old Fashioned and the Peppermint Twist Fuzz.
The country western bar is big, loud and a whole lot of fun. Whether you stop in for live music, barbecue (the pulled pork is the way to go) or a drink (whatever comes out of the frozen dispenser is worth ordering, as is the old fashioned), you're in for a good night.
Bartenders like to pretend their cocktail bars are speakeasies, but Liz Pearce's cool bar underneath Green Door Tavern actually is one. The secret door is still visible, and the decor consists of objects that have been there for decades, like a painting of FDR and a bullet-riddled Mobil sign. The drink list is printed on tarot cards, and a fresh offering is plucked from the deck each night. No matter which cards come up, you'll find well-made cocktails which change each day.
The gorgeous 18th-floor bar of the Raffaello Hotel boasts three prime sections: a handsome, dim interior full of tufted leather banquettes; a chic exterior deck lounge with open fire pits; and (our favorite) a narrow indoor-outdoor corridor where the marble floor and arched windows play against contemporary green stools. The bartenders serve a mix of classic cocktails and their own creations, like the pop culture themed Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black.
Since 1921, Green Door Tavern is a neighborhood favorite and one of the most low-key River North bars around. The menu offers elevated bar fare (think Scotch eggs, Chicago-style poutine and roast chicken), cocktails offer riffs on classics and the beer and whiskey lists are impressive. Pop by the Drifter, the basement bar that's located in the old speakeasy section of the bar, for a nightcap.
The Streeterville bar, from restaurateur Danny Meyer and New York’s Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog, features cocktails, a stunning view of the city and great food. Drinks are named for Chicago historical figures and incorporate unexpected ingredients such as the Carnival with cashew apple feni, aperol, chareau aloe liqueur, cinnamon, pistachio and lime or the Night Stong with suntory toki blended whiskey, rine hall apple brandy and mint tea. The dinner menu features snacks and small plates like saffron spaghetti and ocean trout.
When you want to keep the night going after Gilt Bar, head down to the basement library bar. Though still Sodikoff-trademark dim, the space has a warmer glow, and the cocktails (such as a thoroughly shaken whiskey sour and a beautiful negroni) are first-rate. Best part: Gilt Bar’s full menu (including ideal snacks like roasted garlic and balsamic with toast) is available to accompany them.
Like a secret chamber of debauchery, the red door to this State Street bar reveals no sign of what’s inside. Turns out it’s a small, dark space that serves cheap beers, cans and bottles out of a refrigerated case (you can also get them to go). The stools feel like they might collapse beneath you, but this is easily the most unpretentious bar in River North.