'Tis the season for eggnog and yule logs and peppermint-flavored everything. For the month of December, restaurants and bars throughout Chicago are rolling out a cornucopia of dishes and drinks to celebrate the holidays, from newfangled hot toddies to Santa-themed pop-ups. Here are the best places to get into the Christmas spirit in Chicago, and what to eat when you’re there.
Through December 31, Lost Lake is transformed to Santa’s Sippin’ Surf Shack, a holiday rendition of the popular Logan Square tiki bar. The halls have been fully decked, the Christmas music is on heavy rotation and the bar looks like the North Pole staff went on vacation in the Caribbean, with festive, fruity drinks to match. Lost Lake partnered with Boilermaker in NYC and Latitude 29 in New Orleans for the occasion, with each spot sharing cocktail recipes with one another. Drinks include the Nantucket Sleigh Ride, a tangy, spicy combo of two rums, grapefruit, lime, apricot and allspice, and the Chinatown Christmas, a particularly potent option that mixes scotch and plum wine with Chinese five spice and Angostura bitters.
3154 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-293-6048
CH Distillery is another bar that takes on a different identity for the month. This time, the West Loop spot has morphed into Bigbee’s, a vintage holiday department store, and has outfitted accordingly with tons of Christmasy decor and frosted front windows. Among the drinks are a gingerbread mule made with CH Vodka, gingerbread spices, fresh ginger, brown sugar and citrus, garnished with a gingerbread cookie. For food, expect kitschy bites you’d likely find at a holiday party, like cheese balls, deviled eggs and fondue.
564 W. Randolph St.; 312-707-8780
For a taste of Feliz Navidad, Topolobampo has a wonderful, fragrant dessert for the holidays called a crispy buñuelo, a regional fritter that’s made only around Christmastime in Oaxaca (though other regions make it year-round). Topolo’s version this year is inspired by those of Mexico City, which are thicker and shaped like a flower. It's served with Maya nut cookie crumble, pecan blondie and cranberry salsa for a tart counterpoint, and is finished with rompope ice cream (like a frozen Mexican eggnog).
445 N. Clark St.; 312-661-1434
Next door at Topolobampo’s casual little sister, XOCO, rompope is made into a silken sauce and poured over rum raisin bread pudding that's flecked with some pomegranate for crunch and acidity. The restaurant is also offering a holiday dessert of crispy rosette fritters with Mexican chocolate soft serve, mint-chocolate sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles.
449 N. Clark St.; 312-334-3688
Mulled wine, ginger liqueur and pumpkin spice round out the drink list at LUXBAR this month, with a couple cocktail specials that sing of the season. The Clarence Gets His Wings adds floral, tart undertones to traditional mulled wine by infusing it with FEW Standard Gin and a splash of lemon. Then there’s the decadent Stroke of Midnight, a rum-based drink enriched with a whole egg and pumpkin spice syrup, along with Art of the Age Snap Ginger Liqueur and some Angostura bitters.
18 E. Bellevue Pl.; 312-642-3400
As if The Bristol weren't cozy enough, it went ahead and added the ultimate eggnog to its menu for the season. The house nog combines bourbon, Courvoisier, Brugal Añejo, a splash of Benedictine, housemade spice syrup, a whole egg and cream, and the aromatic drink is finished with a dusting of nutmeg.
2152 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-5555
Stop in for a hot toddy called the Long Way Home. It’s an elevated take on the standard, made with Cognac, scotch, lemon, honey syrup and oolong tea, and garnished with caramelized honey foam and orange peel. There's also an eggnog-inspired cocktail on hand, dubbed the Punk-In Flip. Made with a whole egg for body and richness, it’s got pumpkin-infused bourbon, nutmeg and Becherovka, a Czech herbal liqueur.
11 W. Illinois St.; 312-955-0439
Corridor Brewery & Provisions
The merriest beer on the market right now is the Rabid Rudolph, courtesy of Corridor Brewery & Provisions. It’s a warming, malty cherry quad scented with ingredients evocative of holiday feasting, like cherry, plum, raisin and toffee.
3446 N. Southport Ave.; 773-270-4272
Seeing as Acanto is conveniently across the street from Millennium Park, home to the city's main ice skating rink and Christmas tree, it's an ideal haven for Downtown travelers looking for a special holiday treat. Because you can never have enough alcohol this time of year, even the yule log at Acanto is boozy — a rum-spiced cake rolled with rum-infused cream, Amarena cherries and fudge, and bedecked with more chocolate and candies.
18 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-578-0763
Southern France Patisserie
The bakers at Southern France Patisserie have been busier than elves this year, whipping up all sorts of holiday specials. They’ve even got foie gras macarons, available via special order by the dozen, but only if you've been really good this year. Other options include eggnog bonbons made with white chocolate and eggnog ganache, mulled wine bonbons with cherry, Chinese five spice and dark chocolate ganache. For the two types of yule logs, one has Dark Matter coffee mousse, caramel, hazelnut dacquoise, milk chocolate coating and caramelized hazelnuts, while the other rolls up Madagascar vanilla mousse with tarte Tatin apples, milk chocolate caramel crunch, sablé breton cake and white chocolate glaze.
1405 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-857-1478
The Duck Inn
Head to Bridgeport for some of the best renditions of holiday cocktails this year, courtesy of The Duck Inn’s Brandon Phillips. Oh, and the glassware is seriously on-point too. The classic Tom & Jerry gets the brûlée treatment, with Phillips dusting the rich drink with spices and sugar and torching the top. Another fun one, served in a moose mug, is the You Serious Clark?, Phillips’ homage to his favorite holiday movie, Christmas Vacation. It’s a minty rum drink that's made with a whole egg and misted with Clear Creek Douglas Fir Eau de Vie to finish and add a bit of Christmas magic.
2701 S. Eleanor St.; 312-724-8811
The Soho House bar/cafe/restaurant is getting into the spirit of the season with its 12 Days of Cocktails menu, which kicks off December 14 and runs through Christmas. Each day will feature a different drink inspired by the song, available nightly from 4–7 PM. Some to look forward to include the turmeric- and cayenne-spiked Swan Dive & Flip, a rum and gin number that's made with a whole egg and accented with a fried rosemary garnish. Another is the Maid in Chai, an ode to Eight Maids a Milking with lemon juice, maple syrup, heavy cream, bourbon vanilla chai tea concentrate and Buffalo Trace bourbon. The drink is surprisingly light for a cream-based cocktail, and pleases with its chai-maple combo.
113-125 N. Green St.; 312-521-8000
Kanela Breakfast Club
Start the morning right with a plate of Kanela’s eggnog pancakes. These festive flapjacks are made with an eggnog batter and garnished with apple cranberry compote, nutmeg and a drizzle of brandy crème anglaise.
The Kitchen Bistro
When you're done Christmas shopping up and down State Street and Michigan Avenue, you need a treat at The Kitchen Bistro. Eggnog and mushrooms make for an unexpectedly wonderful pairing, with candy cap mushrooms flavoring a gelato that's doused in an eggnog “magic shell.” (The mushrooms are dried and made into a powder, which when churned into ice cream, produces a maplelike flavor.) Brandied cranberries and Gold Micro Whoppers add a bit of color, crunch and fruitiness to the mix.
316 N. Clark St.; 312-836-1300
Sable Kitchen & Bar
Between the new sweet potato pie dessert and a cereal-inspired eggnog cocktail, there’s lots of merriment going on at Sable Kitchen & Bar these days. Courtesy of sous-chef Jeffrey Williams, the pie is a deconstructed version with honey cookie crumble and spiced ginger cake, served in a bowl and topped off with maple-butter ice cream, candied pecans, sweet potato chips and bourbon maple drizzle. To drink, head bartender Mike Jones gets whimsical for his Cereal Circle, a breakfast-y nog splashed with cherry brandy and sherry, and given a playful spin with housemade Cheerios syrup and a Cheerios dust garnish.
505 N. State St.; 312-755-9704
Stella Barra is keeping things refreshingly straightforward with its eggnog custard. It’s a sweet, creamy bowlful of eggnog custard topped with crushed Chinese five-spiced pecans for some added texture and a little bit of heat.
1954 N. Halsted St.; 773-634-4101
Robert’s Pizza Company
It’s not too often you get to eat a pizza inspired by ballet, but taking a cue from the world premiere of the Joffrey Ballet’s re-envisioned Nutcracker, the Streeterville restaurant has created a Nutcracker pizza. It’s a fruity, nutty mix of fig-infused burrata, fresh mozzarella, toasted walnuts and dates.
355 E. Ohio St.; 312-222-0905
Dos Urban Cantina
Rompope takes the stage at Logan Square’s Dos Urban Cantina, where pastry chef Jennifer Jones Enyart embraces her festive side with a particularly indulgent sundae. Here, she spikes her Mexican-style eggnog with rum and makes ice cream out of the mix, serving it with spiced pears, whipped cream, caramel sauce and grated nutmeg. A couple of special add-ons include polvorón crumble, which is a type of Spanish shortbread cookie, and jamoncillo de leche, a Mexican candy similar to fudge.
2829 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-661-6452