2016 has been a great year for drinking in Chicago. The city’s bar scene grew exponentially, with seemingly nonstop openings all across town. Some of the most recent newcomers are also some of the most exciting additions, from a glamorous taproom in Pilsen to a colorful drinking den with Negroni coladas. Here are Chicago’s 10 hottest bars right now.
Must-order: Winter may be approaching, but you’ll forget all about that with one slurp of Bodega’s colorful colada. Unlike your typical beachy colada, this one brings a Negroni-style splash of Campari, which works well alongside sweet additions of pineapple and coconut.
Insider tip: Bodega is upstairs from another incredible cocktail bar, The Berkshire Room. So you may want to double down with a nightcap after you’re done at Bodega.
Must-order: You really can’t go wrong with any of the “culinary beers” on tap at Moody Tongue’s newly opened Pilsen taproom, from the luscious Sliced Nectarine IPA to the dessert-in-a-glass caramelized chocolate churro porter. They’re all designed to pair with the bar’s quirky food selections, which are strictly limited to oysters and German chocolate cake.
Insider tip: Keep your eyes peeled for limited-edition seasonal releases, like December’s bourbon barrel aged gingerbread imperial stout.
Must-order: For a no-frills spot like this one, the bar's certainly got some impressive cocktails going on. The namesake Native Negroni is a good example, featuring gin, pamplemousse liquor and Malort for an added dash of pungent Chicago flavor.
Insider tip: The shuffleboard bowling table is a fun touch.
Must-order: The concord grape julep is a sweet, fruity riff on the classic.
Insider tip: There’s no food at Spilt Milk, save for a nostalgic snack rack lined with popcorn and chips.
Must-order: This popular Wicker Park bar has extended its footprint to Roscoe Village, offering a number of rare beers on draft, plus inventive cocktails and a sausage-centric menu. Try the Jaguar Knight, a spiced chocolate old fashioned mash-up, and pair it with something equally rich, like the cheddarwurst (with pork, beef and white cheddar).
Insider tip: The Roscoe Village outpost recently added weekend brunch service, featuring breakfast-friendly beers like a coffee-scented brown ale and dishes like chilaquiles, poutine and shakshouka.
Must-order: The signature drink here is the Breezy, a refreshing, slushie-style libation made with yerba mate, falernum, soda, lime and your choice of spirit. It’s all served in a colorful plastic cup.
Insider tip: Don’t overlook the cafe items during the day, including some of the best croissants around, with flavors like guava and a Cubano-inspired ham and cheese.
Must-order: All six martinis are available as a flight of 1-oz. pours — a great way to find your favorite.
Insider tip: Guests can punctuate their evening of pomp and circumstance with a tableside dessert cart brimming with assorted confections.
Must-order: For the Dixie cocktail, essentially a glorified whiskey and Coke, the bar makes its own cola and mixes it with baking spices, caramelized sugar and Dickel No. 8.
Insider tip: Enter through the beautiful, illuminated alley along the south side of the restaurant — a nod to the homey Southern tradition of entering through the side of a building.
Must-order: Of all the dizzying drinks listed, one of the best examples of the bar's capabilities is the One You Didn’t, a plum-tastic tipple made with plum shrub, umeboshi vinegar, Visinata cherry sipping spirit and Ono Tuica Romanesca, a Romanian plum brandy created collaboratively by Seedling Farms, CH Distillery and Fat Rice’s Transylvanian janitor.
Insider tip: The Ladies' Room is reservation-only, and they can be made by calling Fat Rice during the day. Once you arrive, check in at the restaurant and you'll be escorted to the clandestine bar.