It's shaping up to be a great year for drinking in Chicago. The city’s bar scene continues to grow exponentially, with seemingly nonstop openings all across town. Some of the most recent newcomers are also the most exciting additions, from a reimagined Logan Square watering hole to a ski-themed hot tub bar in River North. Here are Chicago’s 10 hottest bars right now.
Must-order: Unique cocktails by local bar star Dustin Drankiewicz include a standout pisco sour enriched with brown butter and cinnamon. To eat, try the asparagus and Asiago omelet.
Insider tip: Deadbolt features live music seven nights a week at the bandstand. Follow @deadboltbar on Twitter to see who’s playing.
Must-order: The bar is stocked with cozy, transportive concoctions like boozy frozen hot chocolate spiked with Green Chartreuse (a classic combo in the Alps region) and Snöw-wein, a riff on German mulled wine made with red wine, orange zest and cloves.
Insider tip: Bunny Slope is only accessible for private parties. Probably for the best, considering it’s a hot tub bar. BYO bathing suit, but the bar provides fuzzy robes should you want to slip into something comfy.
Must-order: New beverage director Caitlin Laman has really put her stamp on the menu, featuring mezcal front and center, along with a bevy of varied spirits. One drink that’s both delicious and altruistic is the Bridges Not Walls, which sends $1 from every order to a local Logan Square school. It’s made with mezcal and ancho chile, plus strawberries and Thai basil to help temper the smoke and spice.
Insider tip: The bar serves its “House Café” all day at the bar and next door at sister restaurant Johnny’s Grill. Perfect for afternoon sipping, it’s a dry coffee cocktail made with cacao horchata.
Must-order: Though it's sure to become one of the hottest alfresco spots in Chicago once spring and summer come, for now, folks are flocking to the outdoor fire pits, bundling up with provided blankets and sipping comforting libations like Knob of the Bat, a cardamom-spiced rye whiskey cocktail, or the potent Nascar on Christmas, which mixes fruity Calvados with St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram and bitters.
Insider tip: Those fire pits are hot commodities. Arrive early to snag one of the chairs surrounding Park & Field’s two fires. They even provide s’mores kits for do-it-yourself marshmallow roasting and assembling.
Must-order: Winter may be lingering, but you’ll forget all about it 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, 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: 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: 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 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 one-ounce pours — a great way to find your favorite.
Insider tip: Guests can punctuate their evening 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.