Whatever kind of drink you’re in the mood for, whether it’s a bottomless mimosa or a expresso martini happy hour drink , one thing for sure is the best cocktail bars in Chicago are at every street corner, so sipping on a finely-crafted cocktail is only seconds away.
From top-notch margaritas to more innovative cocktail concoctions and everything in between, the Windy City and its abundance of revered mixologists have the answers to whatever it is you’re after.
Based on our experiences at Secret Chicago, our reader’s most popular choices, and a scrupulous assessment of settings and drinks quality, we’ve filtered through the noise to gather the best cocktail bars in Chicago.
Our first mention goes to a bar that was recently recognized as one of the top 50 best bars on the planet by worlds50bestbars.com.
Described as a Japanese dining bar on the bar’s website, Kumiko is “a place where we honor the way of the cocktail and the way of hospitality,” according to its creative director and internationally-renowned bartender Julia Momosé.
An elevated food menu is matched by an exquisite range of cocktails, all of which blend Japanese ingredients and techniques to offer something unlike anything else in the Midwest, let alone Chicago.
Momosé’s creation of a cocktail bar with Japanese sensibilities is a truly unique experience, and sitting down with a cocktail at this upscale yet relaxed restaurant bar in the West Loop, you’ll immediately see why it is so revered.
More information can be found at barkumiko.com.
Address: 630 W Lake St, Chicago, IL 60661
While Kumiko offers a more minimalist direction with its cocktails, Three Dots, and a Dash provides quite the opposite. Bursting with flavor and color, the cocktails at this tiki speakeasy are as exciting to look at as they are to taste.
Also named one of The World’s 50 Best Bars but this time by Drinks International, Three Dots and a Dash is a tropical oasis hidden below the bustling streets of River North that will transport you to Polynesia.
Cocktail expert Kevin Beary leads a dedicated team who concocts their creations using the freshest exotic fruits, flowers, and spices, mixing them with the finest rums, spirits, elixirs, and syrups made in-house. Drinks come elaborately presented in tiki totems, clamshell bowls, treasure chests, and more.
More information can be found at threedotschicago.com.
Address: 435 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Located in the heart of Wicker Park, The Violet Hour has a James Beard Award-winning bar program featuring a seasonally rotating cocktail list of pre-prohibition style libations.
This esteemed establishment gets its name from T.S. Eliot’s famous poem The Waste Land and is credited with kickstarting Chicago’s cocktail craze.
In addition to the rotating cocktail list inside, an ever-changing mural is featured on The Violet Hour’s facade, where a discrete door hides an elegant setup speakeasy with crystal chandeliers, draped curtains, candlelit tables, and a sprawling marble bar.
You’ll struggle to find a swankier Chicago cocktail bar than The Violet Hour.
More information can be found at theviolethour.com.
Address: 1520 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
4. The Aviary
Well-known among locals, The Aviary in West Loop has been captivating clients with its meticulous cocktail creations since opening in 2011.
Some of the options at The Aviary could be mistaken for a science experiment but believe us when we say that science is to be trusted.
The bar’s Junglebird, for example, 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 Alinea, it’s no wonder it’s one of the best cocktail bars in Chicago.
More information can be found at www.theaviary.com.
Address: 955 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
5. Nobody’s Darling
Entering this “adult playpen for cocktail lovers,” as the bar describes itself, you’ll see the stirring words of Alice Walker’s poem ‘Be Nobody’s Darling’ that lends the bar its name. Behind the bar, more magic stirs in the form of its incredible cocktails, which are part of the reason Nobody’s Darling is such a treasured Andersonville escape and one of the best cocktail bars in Chicago.
When Nobody’s Darling was opened by two Black lesbian friends, Angela Barnes and Renauda Riddle, in 2021 Washington Post called it “a perfect cauldron of our differences,” highlighting that the Black-owned, queer-owned, women-owned bar emerged in the face of hostility at Chicago gay bars and a national decline of lesbian bars.
Some months later, Barnes and Riddle saw their creation nominated in the Outstanding Bar Program category in the 2022 James Beard Awards, a testament to the bars flourishing reputation.
The community-based cocktail lounge has risen to the zenith of Andersonville’s most beloved bars offering a range of modern and classic cocktails inspired by Black history.
More information can be found at nobodysdarlingbar.com.
Address: 1744 W. Balmoral Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
6. Las Fuentes Restaurant
Many reading this will have kicked back in the enchanting outdoor oasis and listened to the trickle of the Las Fuentes fountain while sipping on one of their finely crafted cocktails.
The family-owned restaurant has been serving Chicagoans traditional Mexican food and drinks since 1982, and they sure know how it’s done. Check into the charming courtyard when the sun is shining and order an Especial Margarita, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.
More information can be found at lasfuentesrestaurant.com.
Address: 2558 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL, 60614
7. Billy Sunday
According to Google, the Old Fashioned was America’s most popular cocktail-to-go in quarantine. If you were one of those who contributed to that title, you’re going to want to order an Old Fashioned at Billy Sunday.
In addition to their classics, the award-winning bar in Logan Square Park offers more adventurous options and “a library of vintage spirits” to peruse — you know, with your taste buds.
More information can be found at billy-sunday.com.
Address: 3143 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647
8. The Scofflaw
Another celebrated cocktail bar in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood is the gin-focused Scofflaw, so, of course, it makes the list of best cocktail bars in Chicago.
If gin is your drink, Scofflaw is the place for you. With a dazzling array of gin drinks, both ‘baroque’ and affordable, and mouthwatering global cuisine, you’ll surely get your money’s worth at this trendy late-night cocktail bar.
With a comfortable Victorian-style salon, around a casual bar area, and a spacious patio, you can enjoy the warm service and a rotating lineup of critically acclaimed gins, whatever the weather and whatever the occasion.
We recommend the Ruby Thief, a Bluecoat Gin-infused cocktail with green chartreuse and apple juice. As described on its website, this drink will “steal your heart.”
More information can be found at scofflawchicago.com.
Address: 3201 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
If you’re reading this, there is absolutely zero chance that drinking a cocktail in a sophisticated Cuban-inspired bar nearly 100 years old does not appeal to you.
That’s exactly what you’ll find at Sparrow. Another bar with a Prohibition-era feel, this Gold Coast gem offers some exquisite rum cocktails in an art deco building that dates back to 1927.
Inspired by the great hotel lobby bars of the 1930s, this trendy bar was originally designed to be an escape for locals in search of a nightcap or late-night rendezvous. You’ll feel like you’ve darted back several decades or strolled into an old movie at Sparrow, and we love it.
More information can be found at sparrowchicago.com.
Address: 12 W Elm St, Chicago, IL 60610
10. The Victor Bar
“Since opening in 2016, this bar has been recognized across the city as a destination for balanced cocktails and empathetic bartenders,” reads The Victor Bar’s website.
These understated introductory words reflect the mood within this intimate old-timey cocktail bar. Located in Chicago’s Northcenter neighborhood, The Victor Bar offers a cozy retreat with rustic exposed brick walls and a Parisian vibe that provide the perfect space to sink one of their remarkable cocktails.
More information can be found at thevictorbarchicago.com.
Address: 4011 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
11. The Sixth
Lincoln Square’s award-winning The Sixth, is a trendy hangout from the experienced cocktail team of the Fifty/50 Restaurant group. Seasonal ingredients inspire a variety of ever-changing creations throughout the year, all of which never fail to hit the mark.
Though all of their cocktails are top-tier, Whiskeys are the Sixth’s specialty. The bar gets its name from when, during the early history of distillation in America, whiskey production was so common it was said that 1 in every six men was involved, whether distilling it, or transporting the grain. or milling it.
If you can catch it, we recommend their Weston with Dark Matter Coffee, Wheated Bourbon, and Pipe Tobacco Essence and the option of adding a drain of chocolate CBD if that floats your boat. The Hidden Gem rye and vermouth with hibiscus and hints of citrus is another solid option if you’re not keen on Whiskey.
More information can be found at thesixthbar.com.
Address: 2202 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
12. Vol. 39
Located on the second floor of the boutique Kimpton Gray Hotel in the downtown area, Vol. 39 is another brilliant cauldron of creation, with head bartender Jess Lambert putting together a range of mouthwatering mid-century-inspired bespoke cocktails.
Neat leather law books line the walls of this 1940s-style lounge, while tufted-leather sofas and velvet chairs reinforce this decadent bar’s elegant aesthetic.
At the top end of the ‘Classically-Inspired’ cocktail menu is the ‘Vol. 39 Vintage Old Fashioned’ at $35.00. It is Lambert’s signature and comes with 30-year-old Armagnac, a house blend of cognac, Demerara sugar, Angostura, and Calvados legal precedent.
‘Living The Dreamsicle’ from the bar’s ‘Nostalgia Cocktails’ is a cheaper option at $16.00 and mixes spiced rum with orange crush redox, lime, Licor 43, and egg white.
More information can be found at vol39.com.
Address: 39 S La Salle St #200, Chicago, IL 60603
13. Lazy Bird
Located in the cellar level of The Hoxton in Chicago’s Fulton Market District is a swanky cocktail and music lounge by the name of Lazy Bird. Like Vol.39, it’s an upscale bar with lavish furnishings and hardback books placed carefully along one wall.
There are regular nights of live music from local artists and 52 cocktails to choose from while sitting back and absorbing the bar’s dazzling atmosphere—making it one the best cocktail bars in Chicago.
More information can be found at lazybirdchicago.com.
Address: 200 N Green St, Chicago, IL 60607
14. Osito’s Tap
Osito’s Tap is another young cocktail bar on this list, having only opened in 2019. The speakeasy-style hideout, however, offers an incredible cocktail experience.
Situated in the back of the long-standing, family-owned Moreno’s Liquors, Osito’s Tap 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 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 you can bet they know a thing or two about how to best enjoy them.
More information can be found at ositostap.com.
Address: 2553 S Ridgeway Ave, Chicago
15. The Whistler
Last but not least—the shows, the music, the galleries, and of course, the cocktails — if you’ve never been, you must check out The Whistler. One of the best cocktail bars in Chicago comes with an award-winning ever-changing cocktail menu; you can be sure you’ll be wowed by something on The Whistler’s menu, perfectly made contemporary favorites or innovative Whistler originals.
As well as a reliable cocktail bar, The Whistler is a gallery, record label, and venue that hosts live music, DJs, and film screenings.
At $9, the Edge of Tomorrow cocktail is an affordable and appetizing option made with vodka, dry vermouth, cinnamon, lemon, and branca menta.
More information can be found at whistlerchicago.com.
Address: 2421 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
[Featured image from Unsplash]