Like towns all over Illinois, Chicago is full of great bars and nightclubs, but if you're anything like me, nothing beats a glass of that smooth, brown spirit aged in a barrel — whiskey. During your time in Chicago, be sure to visit one of the great Illinois Made distilleries (personal favorite: KOVAL in Ravenswood). But if you're looking for good spirits with good service on top, here's a rundown of the best whiskey bars in Chicago — from one whiskey lover to another:
Sometimes the most impressive stashes of whiskey come in unexpected places. Case in point? Delilah’s in Lincoln Park. This charming punk-rock enclave boasts one of the most expansive whiskey stockpiles in town, with the shelves behind the bar teeming with over 800 bottles. This isn’t a craft cocktail lounge, though. Here, it’s all about slowly sipping on the rare selections of the good stuff and chasing it with a craft beer or two.
Mordecai, the chic bar inside the new Hotel Zachary next to Wrigley Field, is a cocktail-centric hotspot that also features one of the country’s largest selections of rare and collectible spirits, including an impressive selection of Pappy van Winkle releases. So if you’re like me and enjoy limited-edition pours and classic drinks, this is a must-do for some elevated imbibing. Wondering what’s up with the name? It pays homage to the legendary Chicago Cubs ace pitcher, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.
Named for the hotel that once stood on its plot, The Berkshire Room in River North is known for its boozy cocktails and boisterous yet relaxing living-room–style lounge atmosphere. This spot’s potent cocktail program presents you with a trio of decisions — you choose the spirit, profile and glassware and let the spirit-slingers do the rest. Highlights include the bourbon-intensive “Weston,” complemented with pipe tobacco and Chicago’s own Dark Matter coffee essence, or your father’s new favorite, the “Continuous Negroni” — a classic take on the standard that’s aged in a Pappy Van Winkle barrel.
Paying homage to both supper clubs and speakeasies, Untitled is a cocktailer’s paradise. Cozy up in their Whiskey Library or Parlour and marvel at their 550-plus curated selections of American whiskeys (it’s the largest of its kind). Their craft cocktail list is well-rounded, too, though we’re partial to their take on a classic Manhattan. Needless to say, their beverage program is no slouch and the prohibition-inspired vibe only adds to the experience.
Drumbar, on the 18th-floor of the Raffaello Hotel, has a brag-worthy selection of whiskey, scotch, bourbon and cognac. Just as impressive: the views of the city from the outdoor terrace. A top cocktail destination of its own, Drumbar finds inspiration for its recipes from various countries and states. Make sure to try the “Scotland," a fun take on a whisky sour.
Head up to Lincoln Square and experience Fountainhead, a homey neighborhood pub that is known for its Single Cask program of truly rare small-batch offerings from distilleries in the U.S. and overseas. It also happens to be one of the only places in Chicago that has been selected to serve single cask whiskeys from Scotland’s exclusive Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Another Chicago neighborhood destination is Andersonville’s Lady Gregory’s, an Irish pub for true whiskey fans boasting a 300-strong whiskey list and a great menu of comfort foods.
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