Top 10 Chicago cocktail lounges to quench your thirst


You prefer it shaken, not stirred. You are the life of the party. The Most Interesting Man in the World was actually based off you. If these words could have been stolen from your online dating profile then swipe right on these sleek, stylish and cozy cocktail lounges that are sure to warm the cockles of your cocktail heart.

Scofflaw
Henry Rollins once said that gin "gives you a rush, makes you warm inside, makes you lose your head." Well, we figure if you're going to lose your head anyway you might as well do it at Scofflaw, a Victorian-style bar worthy of Sherlock Holmes' swagger and home to so much gin it could make your head spin (if you drink too much, that is). Its chill vibe, however, means that you can leave the top hat at home, if you so desire. Choose from a plethora of gin-focused craft cocktails or ask for your gin unadulterated. Take a sip and let the gin do its magic.

Vol. 39
Did you ever wonder where Don Draper would go if he were a Chicagoan? Well, we are pretty sure we just spotted him on the second floor of the Kimpton Gray Hotel. Here at Vol. 39 plush leather sofas are enveloped by distinguished wall-to-wall encyclopedias that practically beckon you to have a nightcap. It's the perfect locale for Draper to wine and dine and even snag a beautiful room if he's so lucky. While we don't condone debaucherous nights that rival Draper's, we do think that handcrafted ice spheres, cart service tableside and a good stiff Old Fashioned is what's in order.

Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar
Sometimes all you are looking for a simple and low-key spot to rub elbows with the locals, and just "cocktails and chill" (wait, is that a thing?). This half packaged store half Bridgeport neighborhood bar has been around since the mid-80s, but don't let this place fool you: when you step inside you'll be in Maria's packaged paradise (Yes, that is a chandelier of bomber bottles above your head). Choose from unique wines from all over the world or seasonal house cocktails (all of which are $10) like The Corpse Reviver or Sloe Ken Fizz (because absinthe makes the heart grow fonder, right?).

Larry's
Nestled inside the Lawrence House in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood is Larry's Bar, a casual bar reminiscent of a Miami Beach cocktail lounge but with all the old-fashion Chicago glitz of the 1920s. From the classic New Orleans Sazerac to the signature Larry's cocktail (a mouthwatering Old Fashioned done Larry's way) you'll be pleased as rum punch that this classy bar has now called this northern Chicago neighborhood its home. So snag some handcrafted cocktails until the clock strikes midnight and then head over to Capone's popular hideout, Green Mill, for some mind-altering jazz.

Estereo
Even though traveling to Cuba is not without its laundry list of restrictions for the everyday jetsetter, you can still find Old Havana-esque nirvana within the confines of Logan Square's Latin American bar Estereo, which features fresh agave spirits, a fancy espresso machine and live music. With wall-to-wall windows to let in the beautiful light of a Chicago summer, this place would have made Hemingway leave Key West in a heartbeat. Visit Estereo around 11AM (when it opens), and enjoy a strong-brewed coffee and pen the next great American novel, or wait until the sun sets and revel in refreshing citrus cocktails and a little dancing.

The Violet Hour
If you are fortunate enough to discover The Violet Hour's hidden door behind the bustling streets of Wicker Park you will be handsomely rewarded. You will immediately be cloaked in elegance as you are whisked to your high-backed leather chair illuminated by tea lights. Enjoy artisanal, intelligent cocktails with an array of liquors to satisfy even the pickiest alcohol aficionado. If you're with a group, consider the The Violet Hour Punch No. 5, which happily serves 5-7 for only $55, or choose your own glorious cocktail and don't share with others. You'll leave The Violet Hour feeling just a little more refined and a whole lot fancier.

Billy Sunday
Old Blue Eyes crooned about Chicago being that "town that Billy Sunday could not shut down" and Chicagoans are forever grateful. Tucked inside the cornucopia of Logan Square's delicious riches is this cozy speakeasy-style bar that is anything but pretentious but offers inventive potables that pack a punch (Oh, and try the New Orleans Milk Punch). On a warm summer night it's the perfect venue for taking in a drink and some savory treats while people watching.

The Aviary
If you want to be swankier than the swankiest swanksters then this four-star restaurant is sure to raise the bar (no pun intended). With locally sourced ingredients and a homage to traditional cocktails with the Aviary's very own personal flair added in for good measure you'll impress even the toughest critics. With doors opening at 5pm every night, it's a great date night locale or the perfect place to breathe life back into your weekends.

Lost Lake
Say goodbye to Chicago winter and "aloha" to this tropical paradise where you'll be soothed by palm tree wallpaper and Tiki bar décor that's reminiscent of 1930s glamour. Enjoy your vacation at this Avondale oasis as you sit back and sip an orchid-garnished Tiki drink swirling with overproof Jamaican rum, coconut, passionfruit and lime courtesy of Lost Lake's cruise...err, cocktail director, well-renowned Chicago bartender Paul McGee. You're sure to find a sanctuary in Lost Lake.

The Barrelhouse Flat
Whether you are a lifelong Chicagoan, a seasoned Second City dweller or a curious out-of-towner, Barrelhouse Flats is the place to be for cocktails. It's been lauded as one of the best cocktail lounges in the city. This is a pretty tall order but one that this Lincoln Park watering hole is all too happy to serve up (on the rock...with a twist). With over 75 tipples from which to choose, the traditionalists will be satiated with a hearty Manhattan while the adventurous spirit might find happiness in a Mexican Firing Squad (tequila, lima, grenadine, sugar and angostura bitters... hold the guns).


Stephanie Andrews has called Chicago home for 10 years. When she's not eating...err, writing...you can find her stunt doubling for film/TV or making her own cocktail bitters.