Eat + Drink

Don’t Do Dives? 4 Swanky Chi-Town Bars You Should Try

RM Champagne Salon (Photo: Anthony Tahlier/Courtesy RM Champagne Salon)

There’s a time and a place for dive bars, but some nights, you just want to sip something fancy. In Chicago, the craft cocktail scene is flying high, as mixologists continually one-up each other with their concoctions, whether it’s a modern twist on tiki drinks or molecular gastronomy in a glass. Next time you’re in the mood for something shaken, stirred or bubbly, check out these swanky Chicago cocktail bars.

The Violet Hour

chicago-best-swanky-cocktail-bars-violet-hour-02.jpgThe Violet Hour (Photo: Michael Robinson/Courtesy The Violet Hour)

You’ll have to look hard to find the hidden door at this candlelit speakeasy, but the usual line that forms outside will help guide you. At The Violet Hour, you’re expected to put away your cell phone, leave the baseball hat at home and dress for an evening on the town. The vintage-inspired atmosphere, the carefully constructed craft cocktails and the nattily dressed staff will make it worth your while. Even if there is a wait.

Three Dots and a Dash

chicago-best-swanky-cocktail-bars-three-dots-dash-02.jpgThe Main Bar at Three Dots and a Dash (Photo: Courtesy Three Dots and a Dash)

Head to the alley between Hubbard and Illinois streets and follow the blue light, making your way down a dark staircase lined with skulls. The spooky vibe ends immediately upon entering this bustling tiki bar, where each drink is served in a different style of vessel (a skull, seahorses, coconut shells, etc.), and has some combination of fruit juice, spices, fresh fruit and lots of booze. In fact, some of beverages come with a warning on the menu: “Drinks of impressive strength, please sip delicately.” Heed the advice, or a voodoo curse (aka killer hangover) is imminent.

The Aviary

chicago-best-swanky-cocktail-bars-the-aviary-3.jpgThe Aviary (Photo: Christian Steel/Courtesy The Aviary)

Molecular gastronomy meets craft cocktails at The Aviary, which is easily the best and most inspired drinkery in Chicago. Sure, the flavors of each drink are spot-on, but it’s the presentation that will keep you ordering another. A personal favorite: In the Rocks, an old fashioned that’s held inside of an ice orb. Order it, and you get to break the orb with a mini slingshot, liberating the beverage into the glass. It should come as no surprise that this only-in-Chicago spot is owned by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, who are also the masterminds behind Alinea, a world-renowned restaurant made famous by its culinary presentations and techniques.

RM Champagne Salon

chicago-best-swanky-cocktail-bars-rm-champagne-salon-03.jpgRM Champagne Salon (Photo: Anthony Tahlier/Courtesy RM Champagne Salon)

A parlor dedicated to bubbly? Where have you been all my life? This West Loop salon (to call it a bar feels like a sneer) is located off a cobblestone alley, making it a best-kept secret, even among Chicagoans. The intimate interior has the charm of a French estate, while the patio is a bohemian oasis in warm months. Come for the drinks, and stay for dinner—the French menu hits the spot, especially after a glass or two.