Sure, you could drink a cocktail mixed and served by a bartender. Or you could not be a total loser, and instead get in on what all the cool Chicago kids are ordering these days: draft cocktails. Here are the 10 places in Chicago doing 'em best:
Grab a vinyl booth inside the former home of Empire Liquors, and sample through drink recipes compiled by Ronnie Higgins, formerly of Bar Deville and Bangers & Lace.
On tap: Currently unnamed daily specials by the glass or carafe -- like gin, lime, grapefruit, and honey; cachaça, lime, raspberry, and ginger; or gold rum, lime, pineapple, and Angostura
Also noteworthy: A crazy number of obscure canned beers (Evil Twin Hipster Ale, Surly Coffee Bender, Wexford Irish Cream Ale), plus draft ciders (oooOoOOOOOoooOOO)
All of their draftiness goes well with Asian dishes, which you're gonna order a bunch of, since they offer stuff like crispy double-fried chicken with kanzuri dipping sauce.
On tap: Rotating specials like the calamansi daiquiri (rum daiquiri with calamansi citrus from the Philippines)
Also noteworthy: Sake by the glass, shochu, weird Japanese beers like Echigo Koshihikari Lager
Just a stone's throw from Matthias Merges' aforementioned Yusho, Billy Sunday keeps the Prohibition era vibe alive with old-fashioned china and old-time photos, without all the liquor-banning nonsense.
On tap: The Kent (gin and tonic), The Hart (rum and tonic), The Octli (tequila and tonic), The Aquinas (rye whiskey and tonic)
Also noteworthy: Booze sodas, house-made tonics, all sorts of head-scratching ingredients like those in the Harvey Wallbanger (genever, sac’resine, caramelized orange gomme, Galliano sachet)
This cocktail lounge and wine bar from the crew behind Mercadito boasts six draft cocktails on its 24-page drink menu.
On tap: BBQ Daisy (tequila chipotle, Memphis BBQ bitters, Combier), Alice Fay (vodka, pecan-brown sugar syrup, Old Style lager), Big Nose Gets Lei’ed (melon tea-infused white rum, grapefruit, pineapple, grenadine), Deep Dish Manhattan (whiskey, vermouth, Averna, Malort), Misty in the Mountains (mescal, pineapple, beets, ginger, honey)
Also noteworthy: Rotating cocktails on tap like The Derek Smalls (bluegrass vodka, cucumber, mint, grapefruit bitters), slushies like The Fiery Balls (bourbon and raspberry), a Bloody Mary menu, and wine by the inch
The Playboy-plastered pool dive from DMK provides a wide variety of sliders and boilermakers.
On tap: Cornbread Moon (bourbon, maple syrup, allspice dram), Lizard Boots (Pitu Cachaca, rhubarb, Fruta Bomba bitters), Pocket Watch (vodka, ginger, Campari), Burma Shave (jalapeño-infused tequila and strawberry), Swingin Doors (bourbon, ginger, grapefruit, raspberry)
Also noteworthy: Bottled cocktails like the Pisco Punch and Sarsaparilla Sling (buckets of four for $36), in addition to frozen Mescal Mules
A modern seafood shack serving up standards from oyster po' boys to Maine lobster rolls.
On tap: Burma Shave (jalapeño-infused tequila and strawberry)
Also noteworthy: Several mule variations (bourbon, rum, tequila, gin) in addition to the usual vodka or mescal, and a grape juice (aka wine) menu
Pair cocktails with the small but delicious selection of Mexican dishes, from their pulled chicken nachos and fish tacos to the chicken enchiladas.
On tap: Hub Punch (Grey Goose Le Citron, Licor 43, tequila, pomegranate)
Also noteworthy: $36 pitchers of the "Slushy of the Moment", and the non-tapped Hub Punch (aka a "regular" cocktail)
The South Side cousin to Yusho and Billy Sunday also sports draft cocktails, as well as 112 seats around a U-shaped bar with a pair of library ladders hung overhead to house glassware.
On tap: Gin and tonic, rum daiquiri, Paloma (tequila, house-carbonated grapefruit soda)
Also noteworthy: Strange brews (Vander Mill Totally Roasted, Brewery Vivant Undertaker), house-made wine apertifs
Ada features 40+ cocktails and a serious seared octopus entree.
On tap: Corner Store (tequila, Campari, grapefruit), Picnic Basket (rum, Lemon Hart 151, ginger syrup), Devil’s Haircut (tequila, strawberry, Fruta Bomba bitters)
Also noteworthy: Rare beers (Off Color Apex Predator, Central Waters Mudpuppy)
Come for the 84in HD video wall, stay for the liquor taps.
On tap: Whatever liquor you want to pour yourself from 12 table tap-equipped booths (Absolut, Jameson, Jack Daniels, or Avión) -- poured by the ounce along with carafes of mixers (cranberry, tonic, soda, pineapple, etc.) served on the side
Also noteworthy: Six wall taps!
1. A101462 East 53rd St, Chicago
2. The Revel Room1566 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
3. Yusho2853 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago
4. Billy Sunday3143 W Logan Blvd, Chicago
5. Tippling Hall646 N Franklin St, Chicago
6. Henry's Swing Club18 W Hubbard St, Chicago
7. Fish Bar2956 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago
8. Hub 5151 W Hubbard St, Chicago
9. Ada Street1664 N Ada St, Chicago
10. Public House400 N State St, Chicago
A10 is one of the best places to indulge in creme brulee, on-tap cocktails, and awesome brews. Not particularly in that order.
RR is the Wicker Park bar that you'll find yourself at every... single... Friday for brews, cocktails, and a fist-pumping crowd.
Because apparently not everything in Japan gets lost in translation, former Charlie Trotter's exec chef Matthias Merges drew on the energy and community he discovered in the country's street food scene when conceiving Yusho. His architect wife channeled his vision into an eclectic space with a bar made from century-old wood beams and a skylit back room projecting anime. Crunch on salmon and chicken skins while you sip a boozy soda or one of the formidable offerings of Japanese and domestic beers. Then share a bowl of mentaiko carbonara, a seaside leaning take on the Italian pasta with spicy cod roe and bucatini from sister restaurant A10.
This 50-seat tavern has an appropriately turn-of-the-century feel courtesy of its china-filled hutch, lantern-esque lighting, and old-timey photos of people not smiling. While small plates are served, the libations here rule.
From the folks behind Mercadito Hospitality, Tippling Hall is a beer hall/cocktail lounge that focuses on "global comfort food" and boasts a highly impressive cocktail menu.
This River North hub is home to over 22 slider options on its menu, as well as serious drink options (buy a bottle of Jack and get free Coke refills all night!), playing cards, vintage Playboys, and pool tables.
DMK's seafood concept, with outposts in Lakeview and Navy Pier, reimagines the quintessential seafood shack by taking inspiration from both New Orleans and New England. Expect east and west coast oysters, lobster rolls, po' boys, and gumbo, plus s'mores and oyster shooters and cocktails. The Lakeview location has bar and booth seating, as well as a seasonal patio.
With a menu that includes sushi rolls, great burgers, and a decent amount of wit ("Celebrate all you want, but we don't sing Happy Birthday."), choosing a standout from Hub 51 wasn't easy. But that doesn't mean we didn't do it -- oh, no, we did, and the winner is Hub's small but delicious selection of Mexican dishes, from their pulled chicken nachos and fish tacos to the chicken enchiladas.
The accolades for this Bucktown bar-slash-restaurant begin with the cocktail menu, which features classic drinks (G&Ts, Old Fashioneds, Moscow Mules) alongside completely new and exciting ones you've likely never tasted before. Then there's the food: the dinner menu is heavy on small plates, but there are meatier mains, like prime ribeye, as well. Finally, there's the backyard patio, which is way more casual than the restaurant's interior with picnic tables and a ping pong table.