By Emma Janzen
These spots add to an already impressive bar scene
There’s no questioning that Chicago has some of the most respected and downright fancy craft cocktail bars in the country. We’ve got the inimitable Aviary, Michelin-starred Longman & Eagle, The Violet Hour and a helping handful of other spots that helped put the city on the map as the movement has spread and evolved.
Now, as some of the city’s best barkeeps fly the coop to open their own concepts, the latest slew of craft cocktail bars boasts a new mentality: the drinks should be top-notch, but the atmosphere a tad more laid-back. This evolution falls right in line with the larger national trend of bars aiming to make craft cocktail drinking more of a fun recreational activity, as opposed to one that requires a certain sense of pomp and circumstance.
So here are five excellent cocktail spots that opened in Chicago within the last year, shrouded in the guise of fun-loving neighborhood bars. A few are revamps of existing concepts and a few others were built from scratch, but all of these spots serve the same high quality level cocktails in environments that have a more welcoming, “everyone’s invited” feel.
Say the words “new speakeasy” and eyes will no doubt roll across the city, but this Wicker Park attic bar modeled after a French cabaret feels more artfully risqué than pretentious. Former Drumbar bartender Brian Sturgulewski (who also mans the beverage program at sister bar Fulton Market Kitchen) assembled a menu of tried-and-true classics to pay homage to the days of Prohibition, when many American bartenders fled to Paris to continue the profession legally. The bar, which sits above the Black Bull restaurant on Division, also plays to the cabaret theme with a program of live entertainment that includes jazz, flamenco dancers and burlesque shows. 1721 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622, bordelchicago.com