Given that the weather makes staying inside necessary for, like, nine months out of the year, Chicagoans have developed quite an affinity for drinking, and, of course, when it's finally nice enough to go outside, it's like, "Yay! Now we can drink outside!" As a result, there is no shortage of places to get your booze on, and Senior Editor Matt Lynch is here to recommend his favorites for any occasion.
Best Cocktails: Opened by an alum of the Violet Hour (which would certainly be in the running for this spot as well), Barrelhouse Flat has both an encyclopedic repertoire of old classics and a monthly rotating selection of intriguing innovations from the talented staff.
Best Cocktails for the Decision-Challenged: Scofflaw has a tight, well-conceived, reasonably priced, gin-focused menu. Yes, they have some non-gin drinks. Yes, you should give one of the gin concoctions a shot, even if you think you aren't a gin person.
Best Drink: If you're a cocktail novice, Balena conveniently rates its Amaro-heavy cocktail menu on a scale of 1 to 10 from least to most bitter. My preference lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, so the Francesco (Averna Amaro, Templeton rye, Carpano Antica & Cointreau), rated a 5, is right in my wheelhouse.
Best Beer Bar: Bangers & Lace has 32 taps that rotate constantly, consistently offering brews you won't find many other places in the city. The most interesting stuff's usually located in the six-pack, an antique ice box with a hodgepodge of taxidermy resting on top of it.
Best Brewpub: Although they've now started bottling and canning thanks to the massive brewing facility seen above, (whose taproom is also worth a visit), the original Revolution Brewing is still the place to get beers you won't find on the shelves, and pair them with bacon-fat popcorn or a burger topped with house-made pastrami.
Best Brewery: North Center's Half Acre is more well-integrated into its neighborhood than any other brewery in the city, and it became even more visitor-friendly with the addition of its taproom, with 10 beers steadily pouring, plus experimental one-off casks and firkins on Fridays.
Best Place to Day Drink: Though, I admit, it seems like it's reached to the point where one has to camp out to score a seat on the patio on a nice day, downing taco-accompanied margaritas and cold ones at Big Star remains well worth the effort.
Best Wine Bar: Mark Mendez's Spanish menu makes Vera a worthy destination even if you aren't drinking, but his wife Elizabeth's wine program makes it equally worthwhile if you don't plan on eating. Pro tip: do both.
Best Club: My personal taste tends more towards double-fisting fine craft beers (see up top), but I can say that Studio Paris is a favorite among my more club-inclined friends, and draws a pretty eye-opening list of international talent.
Easiest Place to Get Laid: I've heard The Hangge Uppe described as a "late-night institution" and a "perpetual sh*t show", with the labyrinthine downstairs blasting every old song you've ever wanted to belt out after having a few too many. Full disclosure: I've had friends meet their spouses here, so that one night stand may end up being the best (or worst) thing that ever happened to you.
Best Dive Bar: Happy Village's two ping-pong tables are NOT employed for drinking games, but rather for table tennis that can get surprisingly heated. But there's still plenty of drinking going on, particularly in the tented back patio that looks like someone is preparing to host a high school graduation party.
Best Local Bar: Old Town Ale House has gotten love from Anthony Bourdain and the late Roger Ebert in the last several months, but that doesn't seem to have inundated it with tourists as of yet. Fine, I did see Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde there recently, but Jason has Second City & Improv Olympic ties, so it's cool. And Olivia Wilde can drink wherever she pleases.
Best Jukebox: It's a personal preference, but I tend to like my jukeboxes with music as old as they are, and Richard's Bar is a throwback dive with a jukebox full of classics. If you tend to like things a little more up to date, Simon's Tavern does a phenomenal job keeping theirs interesting.