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The 10 Hottest Bars in Chicago Right Now

By Sarah Freeman
July 7, 2014
Photo by: Nick Murway

What makes a bar cool? Is it the impressive list of curated cocktails, the perfect combination of dim lighting and cozy booths, or perhaps just the right vested bartender? Each of the 10 bars on our hottest list mix up their own version of je ne sais quoi — served straight up.

  • Photo by: Arnold Klein

    CH Distillery

    Why It's Hot: The sleek bar overlooks glistening stills filled with vodka, two types of gin, rum and whiskey. Spirits can be ordered in flights or are transformed into cocktails such as The Baron Takes Tea, made with Earl Grey-infused gin. For the most authentic experience, opt for the traditional vodka service with pickles and rye bread.
    Must-Drink: Cease and Desist (Lapsang Souchong-infused London dry gin, ginger, honey and lemon)
    Insider Tip: The bar can only serve spirits made in-house.

    564 W. Randolph St.; 312-707-8780

  • Henry's Swing Club

    Why It's Hot: In 1947, John Lee Hooker sang about a bar in Detroit where music blasted, people danced all night and the vibe was so electric that you couldn’t help but join the fun. It was called Henry’s Swing Club, and DMK Restaurants hope to recreate that nonstop party at this bar opening tomorrow in the former Lao 18 space. Expect strong cocktails, pool tables and a slider-centric bar-food menu created by Michael Kornick.
    Must-Drink: Corktown Swizzle (Beefeater gin, pineapple syrup, orange curaçao, Cocchi American and Peychaud’s bitters)
    Insider Tip: In addition to games of pool, guest can purchase decks of playing cards or Uno.

    18 W. Hubbard St.; 312-955-8018

  • Kaiser Tiger

    The only problem with the Bacon Bomb (five pounds of pork and beef sausage wrapped in bacon) is that you can only get it at one place. No more. The meaty masterpiece that put Paddy Long’s on the map is now available at the beer and bacon bar’s second concept, a sausage and suds restaurant on Randolph Street. The specialty is sausage, eight types, served with a side of Belgian fries and a plethora of dipping sauces.
    Must-Drink: Off Color's Scurry Nitro Altbier-style beer
    Insider Tip: Don't miss the new 200-seat beer garden located behind the restaurant.

    1415 W. Randolph St.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    Lagunitas Taproom

    Why It's Hot: The South Side is now home to the city’s largest brewery. Expect 32 varieties of Lagunitas, plus a menu of brew-driven food like soft pretzels with IPA beer cheese, brats slow-cooked in beer and an imperial stout ice cream float. Don't miss the house burger, made with a mix of brisket, short-rib and sirloin that can either be chargrilled or griddled “diner-style.” 
    Must-Drink: Little Sumpin' Extra
    Insider Tip: Brewery tours are held when the taproom is open, from Wednesday through Sunday.

    1843 S. Washtenaw Ave.; 707-769-4495

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    Lone Wolf

    Why It's Hot: This Heisler Hospitality/Barrelhouse Flat collaboration fills the West Loop’s boozy hangout scene's gaping hole in a way that makes patrons feel like it's been on the culinary-driven street all along. Food is provided by Pleasant House Bakery, with a special summer menu created by guest chefs.
    Must-Drink: Girolamo Sour (Luxardo Amaro Abano, Luxardo bitters, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white​)
    Insider Tip: The hot spot is packed on the weekends. Come during the week to snag a stool.

    806 W. Randolph St.; 312-600-9391

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    Rhine Hall

    Why It's Hot: Brandy is most certainly having a moment in Chicago. Thankfully, one of the hottest booze trends in town has a new home at this West Side distillery. Settle in at the brandy bar, which serves cocktails like the Bixby’s Double, a cider-based concoction named after the Michigan orchard where most of the apples are grown.
    Must-Drink: Brandy old fashioned
    Insider Tip: It's only open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, when food trucks make regular guest appearances.

    2010 W. Fulton St.; 312 243-4313

  • Slippery Slope

    Chances are good your next sloppy night (followed by a hazy morning) will happen at this latest bar from the team behind Scofflaw. Between Dark Horse drafts and bottled cocktails, it's difficult to hold back at this decidedly raucous hangout. 
    Must-Drink: Slope Manhattan (rye, Carpano Antica vermouth, curaçao and Angostura bitters)
    Insider Tip: The walkup window near the door slings drunk munchies including a chili-covered tamale known as the Mother-in-Law.

    2357 N. Milwaukee Ave.

  • Sportsman’s Club

    Why It’s Hot: Heisler Hospitality's latest is a drinking den for the urban hunter/gatherer/hipster. Inspired by a French hunting museum coupled with Chicago tavern sensibility, the 35-seat space is like a deer-head-adorned woodland lodge with a cozy fire-lit backyard.
    Must-Drink: Amaro shot
    Insider Tip: A massive backyard opened this summer and plays host to pop-up BBQs.

    948 N. Western Ave.; 872-206-805

  • Three Dots and a Dash

    Why It’s Hot: Much like the original tiki bars of the 1930s, Three Dots is meant to be a tropical escape, or perhaps a rum-soaked wormhole. The windowless cavern below Bub City is decked out with carved wood totems, faux thatched walls and a white onyx bar shaded by a grass canopy. And a lot of rum, but that's a given. Classics such as mai tais and surprises like the gin-based Saturn round out the menu.
    Must-Drink: Dr. Funkhouser (mezcal, arak, Jamacian rum, blackberry, pomegranate, lime, pineapple and Falernum)
    Insider Tip: Avoid the River North crowd by going on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

    435 N. Clark St. (entrance through the alley off Hubbard St.); 312-610-4220

  • Whiskey Trust

    This “French-hillbilly” bar specializing in blended whiskey and small-batch vodka sits next door to Boystown’s newest nightclub, Chloe’s. More than just a straight spirit dispensary, the cocktail program follows a “farm to glass” approach thanks to urban forager David Odd, while the booze-filled menu includes the likes of Virginia oysters chased with a shot of Trust Whiskey and mignonette.
    Must-Drink: Johnny Ringo’s Epitaph (Trust whiskey, Cherry Heering, Italian vermouth, Laphroig 10-year and Bitter End Memphis BBQ Bitters)
    Insider Tip: Bottles of the Trust Whiskey and Trust Vodka are available for purchase at the bar.

    3206 N. Halsted St.


Places Mentioned

Sportsman's Club

Bar • Ukrainian Village

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
Lone Wolf

Cocktail Bar • West Loop

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
Rhine Hall Distillery

Cocktail Bar • United Center

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
CH Distillery & Cocktail Bar

Cocktail Bar • West Loop

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostI
Whiskey Trust

Bar • Lakeview

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
Slippery Slope

Bar • Logan Square

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
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