Many people like to frequent Chicago bars, whether it’s a cocktail or a mocktail. However, with many of them in the city, it can become difficult to navigate the crowded scene. Where are you supposed to date someone on a first date? Or where can you clink glasses with a group of friends? Or where do you find somewhere romantic to impress your partner on your anniversary? From intimate speakeasies to luxurious cocktail bars, we’ve compiled a list of the best bars in Chicago.
Not too many places are named the World’s greatest by Time magazine—that recognition alone tells you everything you need to know about Kumiko. When you enter the Japanese dining bar, a warm hug of perfumed aromas encloses you. And after reading the extensive cocktail list, you can see why.
Julia Momosé, the owner and mixologist, created an exquisite range of cocktails at Kumiko that blend Japanese ingredients with adept technique—creating a truly unique experience. However, the Japanese bar doesn’t feel too ostentatious. Its brick-exposed walls and gold-hued interior make this upscale restaurant feel relaxed and warm.
Address: 630 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661
There is only one bar in Chicago that forces you to take a minute before entering, examining the flush of colors and intricate details along the exterior. That’s because the speakeasy’s entrance is a discrete single door blended into a constantly rotating mural.
Once you find the handle, you’ll find three sultry salon-inspired rooms with a cluster of candlelit tables reminiscent of the prohibition era. The decadent indigo drapes create an elusive space between the separated sections. However, the wall of shelf liquor demands the room’s attention, with the bartenders preoccupied with creating one of their seasonally rotating cocktails. Whether shaken or stirred, you’ll find every cocktail sip luxurious and refreshing.
Address: 1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
3. Lazy Bird
This Chicago bar is where you gather before you engorge yourselves at one of Fulton Market’s vivacious and delectable restaurants—or where you come to wind the night down. One of the best bars in Chicago, Lazy Bird cosplays as a speakeasy, sneakily concealed in the basement of the Hoxton Hotel.
The dimly lit, floral-decorated room offers comfy, teal velvet seating, painting a swanky space. There are over 50 cocktails to choose from, and we guarantee there will be one to satiate your tastebuds. Whether you’re there for an intimate conversation or waiting for the clock to strike 9:30 to let the lively band rouse your dance moves, the bar will leave a dazzling impression either way.
Address: 200 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607
4. The Whistler
While we love a dim-lit sensual room to sip cocktails, we likewise love a place that reverberates rhythm, blues, and electric beats in a vast space. The Whistler is more than a bar; it’s a record label, gallery, and venue that hosts live music and DJs.
Combine that with their award-winning cocktail program—a list that changes daily, might we add—you’ll hear dulcet sounds of artists on a dais while sipping delicate, delicious cocktails like the sweet Rom ‘N Spring or the refreshing Island Time. However, who knows if those will still be on the menu when you read this? It’s that subtle detail that makes The Whistler one of the best bars in Chicago.
Address: 2421 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Deliah’s is one of the best Chicago bars for every whiskey aficionado out there. The space is entrenched with an obsidian decor—the grunge room echos throughout and is lit up by disco balls, twinkling holiday lights, and neon light fixtures. For a dim watering hole, you’ll feel right at home.
The casual spot has more than 300 varieties of whiskey to sip and more than 1000 beer and spirit options. And you’ll be surprised at how quickly the night goes, between the hitting balls at the upstairs pool table and the jukebox singing classic rock tunes.
Address: 2771 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
This Fulton Market bar is the quintessential place to indulge if you’re feeling like having a lavish night and don’t mind spending a few extra dollars. When you walk in, The Aviary immediately engages with all the senses, from the memorizing barback to fragrant smells.
The cocktail creations at the Aviary are more of a science experiment that will captivate and delight you all in one swoop. You’ll find drinks you’ve never heard of, like the Aviary’s Junglebird, which is an otherwordly concoction of rum, pineapple-lime syrup, Campari, and a string of pearls bobbing in the drink that pops in your mouth. From the same hospitality group as Michelin-Star Alinea, it’s no wonder it’s one of the best bars in Chicago.
Address: 955 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
There are a few notable effervescent bars around the city where you can grab a glass of wine with friends—no matter how long it’s been—the conversation flows as smoothly as an aged cabernet. All Together Now is a quaint spot, a quiet street brimming with wine bottles eager to be uncorked.
The modern cafe screams one of the best bars in Chicago. It’s a smaller space with unique seating between spots by the window and comfy turquoise leather bar chairs; it feels like a community. The wine list is extensive—either you can select one of the rotating wines on the menu or open and drink any of the 150+ wine bottles they keep on their shelves.
Address: 2119 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
8. Nine Bar
Nestled in the back of the Moon Palace Express sits Nine Bar, a speakeasy-style stylish bar in Chicago. The elegant setting was inspired by their travels through Tokyo and Hong Kong and the small alley bars they stopped in. Other inspiration comes from the movie Blade Runner. This is easy to see in the exposed brick, dim lighting, and neon touches that decorate the space.
The menu mixes Asian liquors (like baijiu, soju, and shochu) with Asian ingredients such as barley tea, Calpico– a yogurt-based Japanese soft drink, Sichuan peppercorns, and more. The cocktails play on traditional American drinks like an Old Fashioned or a highball but infused with a new flair.
Address: 216 W Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL 60616
9. Osito’s Tap
Osito’s Tap is in the back of the long-standing, family-owned Moreno’s Liquors and offers an array of agave-focused cocktails channeling modern Latinx flair. Mike Moreno JR, whose father first opened Moreno’s Liquors in 1977, is behind the carefully curated cocktail menu and has traveled throughout Mexico in search of the very best tequilas and mezcals to inspire his customized cocktails.
In fact, with over 900 different varieties of tequila and 600 kinds of mezcal, the family-based business is reportedly the largest retailer of tequila and mezcal in the United States. So rest assured, you’re in the right hands.
Address: 2553 S Ridgeway Ave, Chicago, IL 60623
10. Rainbo Club
If there were a bar scene that frequented the Strokes, The Cure, Radiohead, or any legendary rock band, it would be Rainbo Club. The local dive bar is easy to spot with its bright red neon sign pointing directly to the door.
Walking in, you’ll encounter a large open space with a wraparound bar, a few tables, and ample free range to stand. While the haphazard decor might not blow you away, the enigmatic coolness of the place will. The choice will be easy with a select number of beers on tap. If you’re looking for a neighborhood spot, this is one of the best bars in Chicago.
Address: 1150 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622