Thank goodness Chicago’s hotel bars shed their dreadful image years ago as nondescript places to grab drinks before you hit the town. Considered hot destinations where even the locals frequent, the top spots range from high-concept cocktail lounges to ones boasting spectacular views of Millennium Park.
The next time you book a hotel room in the Windy City, pick a place where you’ll want to stay awhile and soak up the scene. Here are some of our favorites:
Originally a 1920s-era cocktail lounge, The Berkshire Room retained most of the original structure in its design when it opened in Acme Hotel Co. You’ll feel as though you stepped back in time as you sip classic and contemporary cocktails prepared by award-winning mixologists. It’s an especially popular after-work destination and weekends feature deejays spinning music to get you into proper chill mode.
Located in River North-based hotel Freehand Chicago, The Broken Shaker showcases Polynesian-inspired specialty drinks and share-able plates. The crowd's a great mix of locals, bar industry types and visitors, and guests are instantly welcomed like regulars. There's a lot of fun aspect to this menu, from the daily punch offering to "Pick-Nick Service"--The Broken Shaker's version of bottle service. Guests get a choice of a 375 milliliter bottle (think bourbon, vodka) and freshly squeezed juice. It arrives served in a basket.
Bar trends come and go, but one thing has always been consistent: Coq D’Or has outlived them all. The Drake Hotel’s dimly lit lounge has been around since the repeal of Prohibition and it maintains an authentic, sophisticated setting. Bartenders are well-seasoned and no-nonsense, with great storytelling skills. Their domain is a great place for settling into mid-week for something strong and stiff (Think Old Fashioned, whiskey neat). A pianist performs nightly.
Located on the 13th floor of Hotel Lincoln, the upscale rooftop lounge overlooks Lincoln Park. It's been around since 2013, but in 2015, the owners constructed a glass-enclosed patio rooftop, making it a yearround cocktailing option. J. Parker boasts a strong cocktail program, which includes classic and seasonal offerings, plus curated wine, spirits and beer lists. It seats 140 outside and 55 inside.
Michigan Avenue power shoppers flock to the Park Hyatt’s tony tavern that’s adjacent to the high-profile restaurant of the same name. It’s especially popular during the holiday and summer seasons, when visitors to Chicago are at an all-time high. The terrace attracts the area’s movers and shakers when the weather is warm; colder weather brings out those in search of snifters of whiskey. The cocktail program is seasonal, using fresh and local ingredients as much as possible.
The swanky Palomar hotel’s lobby bar attracts more locals than visitors. And while the bartenders have all the tricks of the trade to make exotic elixirs and such, they’re swift. You’ll have that cocktail in front of you in the same time it takes for them to crack open a beer. They’re also big whiskey aficionados, so the selection is vast, and it's one of our favorites in the Windy City. The “liquid library” is comprised of cocktails made with local and house-made ingredients.
The Financial District den positions itself as an upscale cocktail lounge to wind down in after a hectic day at the office. Its vibe is meant to resemble a traditional law library, with plenty of leather-bound books throughout the space and low-slung leather chairs and banquettes on which to settle down. Vol. 39 attracts a healthy number of guests staying at the Kimpton Gray Hotel, who blend in seamlessly with those who work in the area. One of the bar's biggest attractions is its unique Old Fashioned program, where imbibers may swap out the usual whiskey spirit in favor of brandy, cognac, mezcal or tequila.
Up & Up
The Robey, located in Wicker Park, is the first full-scale hotel property in the neighborhood. It's boutique style, and in the heart of the area's action. The 69 rooms comprise of a good mix of suites and standard guest accommodations. Imbibers may choose from Cafe Robey, Cabana Club and an all-day cafe, but the most impressive is the Up & Up rooftop lounge. Guests are treated to unmatched views of Chicago's skyline that you can only get from the west side of the city. The craft cocktails are just as fantastic.