When you think of drinking in Chicago, you probably think of Al Capone and prohibition era speakeasies. A city so invested in it’s ability to get sloshed that of course it became the central hub of illegal alcohol distribution. Obviously, times have changed since then but the passion for booze persists–if you end up in Chicago, you’ll most likely hit a bar at some point. To avoid looking like a complete tourist, check out these suggestions.
Old Style is the PBR of Chi City (of course, PBR is also the PBR of Chi City). Old Style first rose in popularity as the drink of choice for Cub’s fans and blue collar workers but eventually made it’s way throughout Chicago and to the pubs and bars in the city’s “hip” Ukrainian Village and Wicker Park neighborhoods. It’s cheap, and honestly it taste like piss, but it’s unique to the city and “super cool” according to some people. Then again, for every one person drinking it ironically there’s probably half a dozen who genuinely enjoy it.
Our Recommendations: Hit up Rainbo Club 1150 N Damen Ave or Skylark 2149 S Halsted St if you’re looking for a dive bar/hipster haven. Alternatively, the Wrigleyville neihborhood is filthy with places hanging Old Style signs above their doors.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
Another staple of the hipster bar scene but honestly everyone loves it. If Irish-American isn’t Chicago’s largest demographic they’re certainly one of the loudest. Accordingly, Chicago drinking culture owes a debt to the Land of Éire. Whiskey is enjoyed throughout the entire city–with Jameo leading as a clear cut local favorite.
Our Recommendations: Everywhere in the city is gonna have Jameson on deck but cheap Irish pubs will most usually have the best whiskey specials. Try Galway Bay 500 W Diversey Ave or Vaughan’s 2917 N Sheffield Ave.
Green River Lime Soda
Tastes like South-side Irish pride–not available everywhere but ask any local and they’re sure to know what it is and wax nostalgic (the original brewery officially stopped production sometime in the 50s, but shut up, let these people have their moment.) If you see it on the menu, grab a glass for old times sake. If you’re looking for something alcoholic, it tastes a bit like Sprite and mixes well with vodka.
Our Recommendations: Random spots around the city like Eleven City Diner 1112 S Wabash Ave or Miller’s Pub 134 S Wabash Ave but expect to see it more often as St. Patricks day rolls around.
Goose Island Brewery Beer
Most Chicagoans are salty since this local establishment was bought out by Anheuser Busch but nothing can change the fact that Goose Island was one of the first, and is definitely the most prominent, of the locally-based craft breweries.
Outside of Bud, Miller, Coors and the aforementioned Old Style and PBR, Goose Island’s 312 is probably the most prevalent tap in the Chicago bar scene. Beer snobs will turn their nose up at this drinkable if otherwise unremarkable “urban wheat ale” but hey, if it’s good enough for Barry O, it’s good enough for us. Plus you gotta respect the fact that it’s named for Chi-city and a good first step in your exploration of the city’s craft brews (work your way up to Matilda, a Belgian-style ale widely regarded to be Goose Island’s masterpiece).
Our Recommendations: Basically any bar in Chicago, but the original Goose Island Brew Pub 1800 N Clybourn Ave is the best place to sample their latest and greatest concoctions.
The hard alcohol of choice for the young Windy City elite. You could just take it in shots but that’s soo pedestrian–most often, people are reaching for crazy flavors like Black Cherry or Cucumber, and mixing them with Coke or Sprite respectively for some admittedly interesting combinations.
Our Recommendations: The River North neighborhood is the definition of bougie yet accessible and home to a number of great cocktail bars like Gilt 230 W Kinzie St or Double A 108 W Kinzie St. The swank lounge ROOF atop theWit 201 N State St is a good choice if you’re staying downtown and looking for a seat above the city.
Whatever's on the Specials Board
Out in Wrigleyville, people tend to reach for whatever’s cheapest and then proceed to consume until they can’t see straight. Might be draft beer and it might be tequila shooters–this is the move if you’re looking to drink and indiscriminate in your taste.
Our Recommendations: The entirety of Clark street is packed with bars, clubs and miscellaneous watering holes. Local favorites include John Barleycorn 3524 North Clark or Slugger’s 3540 North Clark. But come Thursday night, most places are filled with a similar kind of drunken 20-somethings.
To really get a sense of Wrigleyville’s madness, come by on game day. Trust us, you don’t need to know a thing about baseball or even have the slightest sense of where you’re going to have a good time.
And the “bottomless” part is key here, because the only way to bounce back from a hard night out is to keep drinking through brunch. If you’re only visiting for a weekend why not spend most of it inebriated? Be sure the locals won’t hold it against you.
Our Recommendations: Broadway Cellars 5900 N Broadway and Deleece 3313 N Clark St are both great for brunch but if you’re looking for the ultimate hangover cure/shotgun start on your Sunday funday, head to Cheesie’s Pub & Grub 958 W Belmont Ave. $20 gets you a delightfully greasy grilled cheese and all you can drink mimosas, bloody marys & draft beer until 2pm.