City guides

Best bars in Chicago

Explore Chicago's vibrant nightlife through a list of its most iconic bars, each offering a unique blend of history, ambiance, and mixology magic.

September 19, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 15
A view of the Chicago skyline, with the Chicago river in the foreground.

Beyond its iconic skyline and culinary delights, Chicago boasts a nightlife that's second to none. As you wander its streets, you'll stumble upon a myriad of bars, each with its own unique story to tell. From historic lounges to modern mixology havens, Chicago offers a bar for every mood and occasion. Let's embark on a journey through some of the city's most beloved watering holes.

The Violet Hour

Nestled in the heart of Wicker Park, The Violet Hour stands as a testament to refined elegance and sophistication. This bar is not just about drinks; it's about an experience. The moment you step inside, you're greeted by dim, ambient lighting that sets the tone for a relaxed evening. Plush seating arrangements beckon you to settle in and engage in intimate conversations. The bartenders, true craftsmen of their trade, concoct artisanal cocktails that are both visually stunning and palate-pleasing. It's a place where time seems to slow down, allowing you to savor every moment and every sip. 

The Green Mill

Steeped in history, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is a living relic of Chicago's vibrant past. Located in Uptown, this bar has seen it all, from the glitz and glamor of the roaring '20s to the notorious days of Al Capone. The walls, if they could talk, would regale you with tales of jazz legends who once graced its stage. Today, the Green Mill continues to be a hub for jazz enthusiasts. As you sip on a classic cocktail, the soulful tunes transport you to a bygone era, making you feel part of Chicago's rich tapestry of history. 

Broken Shaker

Located in the heart of Chicago's downtown, Broken Shaker offers a refreshing respite from the city's hustle and bustle. This rooftop bar, part of the Freehand Hotel, is a tropical oasis amidst the urban landscape. With its bohemian decor, lush greenery, and laid-back ambiance, it's easy to forget you're in the middle of a bustling metropolis. The drink menu is inspired by global flavors, featuring a mix of classic tiki drinks and contemporary mixes. Their bartenders, with their flair for experimentation, often infuse local and exotic ingredients, ensuring that every drink is a unique experience. Whether you're looking to catch a sunset or dance the night away, Broken Shaker promises a memorable evening.

Three Dots and a Dash

Hidden away in River North, Three Dots and a Dash is a treasure waiting to be discovered. This Polynesian-inspired bar is a haven for those who appreciate the art of mixology. The menu is a curated selection of tiki drinks, each with its own unique twist. The bartenders, with their flair and finesse, put on a show as they whip up these colorful creations. The ambiance is a perfect blend of island vibes and urban chic. With its thatched roofs and dimly lit interiors, you'll feel miles away from the city's concrete jungle. It's a sensory journey that's both exhilarating and relaxing.

Longman & Eagle 

Logan Square is home to many gems, and Longman & Eagle is undoubtedly one of its brightest. This establishment seamlessly merges the worlds of gourmet dining and spirited drinking. The ambiance strikes a balance between rustic charm and modern elegance, making it a versatile spot for both casual hangouts and special occasions. Whiskey aficionados will be particularly smitten with their extensive selection, which boasts rare and aged varieties. But it's not just about the drinks. Their farm-to-table approach to cuisine ensures that every dish is fresh, flavorful, and thoughtfully prepared. It's a place where culinary arts and mixology converge, promising an unforgettable experience. 

The Aviary

West Loop's The Aviary is not just a bar; it's a theatrical experience. This upscale establishment redefines the boundaries of traditional mixology. Here, cocktails are not just mixed; they're crafted with precision, creativity, and a touch of drama. The presentation is nothing short of spectacular, with drinks often served in unconventional vessels, accompanied by a cloud of smoke or a burst of flavor. The ambiance complements the avant-garde approach to drinks, with its sleek interiors and mood lighting. It's a place where every detail, from the decor to the drink garnishes, is meticulously thought out, ensuring that your evening here is nothing short of magical. 

Revolution Brewing

For those who have a penchant for craft beers, Revolution Brewing is a pilgrimage site. Situated in Logan Square, this brewery-cum-bar has revolutionized the local beer scene. With a commitment to quality and innovation, they offer a rotating selection of brews that cater to both traditionalists and adventurers. The interiors, with their industrial chic vibe, provide a laid-back setting where you can unwind and savor every gulp. Pair your drink with some of their delectable pub grub, and you're in for a treat. It's a place that celebrates the spirit of Chicago: bold, dynamic, and ever-evolving. 

The Whistler

The Whistler in Logan Square is where music and mixology dance in perfect harmony. This bar is a testament to Chicago's thriving indie music scene. With regular live performances spanning various genres, there's always something new to discover. The drink menu is equally eclectic, offering a mix of classic favorites and innovative concoctions. The vibe is casual and inclusive, making it a favorite haunt for both locals and visitors. Whether you're looking to groove to some tunes or engage in deep conversations over cocktails, The Whistler provides the perfect backdrop. 

Scarlet Bar

Nestled in the lively neighborhood of Boystown, Scarlet Bar is a celebration of life, love, and everything in between. Known for its vibrant energy and inclusive spirit, this bar has become a beacon for the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike. Their drink menu is as diverse as their clientele, offering everything from classic cocktails to innovative creations. But what truly sets Scarlet Bar apart is its events – from themed dance parties to drag shows, there's always something happening. It's a place where you can be your authentic self, dance like no one's watching, and create memories that last a lifetime. 


Rounding off our list is Deadbolt, a bar that epitomizes the essence of Logan Square's eclectic spirit. With its quirky decor and diverse drink menu, Deadbolt is a place where everyone, from the hipster to the businessman, feels at home. The vibe is relaxed, yet there's an underlying buzz of excitement. Whether you're looking to try a new cocktail or simply enjoy a cold beer, Deadbolt delivers. It's a testament to Chicago's inclusive and diverse culture, where everyone is welcome, and every night is a celebration.

Chicago's nightlife is a reflection of its soul: vibrant, diverse, and full of surprises. Each bar on this list offers a unique glimpse into the city's character. So, the next time you're in Chicago, raise a toast to its indomitable spirit and let these bars show you the time of your life. Cheers!


*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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