Eat + Drink

Best Handcrafted Cocktails in Chi-Town

Mixing Cocktails at The Betty (Photo: Ten Photos)

Finding a spot that serves delicious cocktails in Chicago has changed in recent years. A couple years ago, locals would have likely directed drinkers to some of the more high-brow lounges in the River North neighborhood. But these days, more and more gems are popping up in lesser-known areas. We combed through several neighborhoods in Chi-Town to find the best handcrafted cocktails the city has to offer

The Improved Scofflaw Cocktail at Scofflaw

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The Improved Scofflaw Cocktail (Photo: Ten Photos)

Scofflaw is a cross between your neighborhood bar and a fancy craft cocktail establishment. Head mixologist and co-owner Danny Shapiro created a gin-centric menu for the bar. The Victorian décor may give off a swanky vibe, but the prices won’t. The Logan Square bar’s best tasting drink is The Improved Scofflaw Cocktail. It’s a new take on the classic Scofflaw.

Reworked without whiskey, the cocktail is created using Scofflaw Old Tom Gin, Cocchi Americano, lime juice, house-made grenadine (made with pomegranate juice) and garnished with a cucumber slice.

The drink is delightfully refreshing. There are hints of floral notes from the Osmanthus blossoms in the gin, just the right amount of bitter sweetness from the pomegranate juice and an aromatic, crisp cucumber ties the drink together perfectly.

The Dirty Bird at the Sportsman’s Club

The Dirty Bird at Sportsman's Club (Photo: Ten Photos)
The Dirty Bird at Sportsman’s Club (Photo: Ten Photos)

The Sportsman’s Club is a former Polish dive bar-turned-French hunting lodge. The bar’s managing partners, Jeff Donahue and Wade McElroy, use their impressive background to create four cocktails that change every day. In addition to the daily drinks, their bartenders love to come up with unique concoctions on the spot.

Case in point: The Dirty Bird. Inspired by the Corn ‘n’ Oil from Barbados and Jungle Bird from Malaysia, bartender Graham Heubach created the Dirty Bird.

The cocktail takes ingredients from both cocktails and flies in an unlikely direction. Made with Cruzan Black Strap Rum, Campari, Falernum, lime juice and bitters, the cocktail is intense, bittersweet and ends on a citrusy note. It makes a bold statement and is the perfect drink to sip on while relaxing by the fire on the patio.

Cocoanut Grove Cooler at Lost Lake

Cocoanut Grove Cooler at Lost Lake (Photo: Ten Photos)
Cocoanut Grove Cooler at Lost Lake (Photo: Ten Photos)

Famed Chicago Mixologist Paul McGee brings Tiki culture to the north side, along with top-notch beach drinks at Lost Lake. One beverage that caught our attention is the Cocoanut Grove Cooler. It’s made with Scotch whisky, Batavia arrack, lemon, Curaçao, passionfruit, pomegranate, orgeat syrup and garnished with fresh pineapple.

The 16-year aged Scotch whisky gives the drink a smoky profile, which is counterbalanced with citrus undertones. The almond flavor in the orgeat leaves a smooth finish and the cocktail is absent of all the syrupy sweetness you might expect from a traditional Tiki drink.

The cocktail is accessorized with a colorful orchid, a Luxardo cherry and shaded by a bright umbrella, making the Cocoanut Grove Cooler a welcomed escape.

La Grande Dame at The Betty

La Grande Dame at The Betty(Photo: Ten Photos)
La Grande Dame at The Betty(Photo: Ten Photos)

Walking into The Betty may make you feel like you’re entering the set of “Mad Men.” The sophisticated surroundings at this West Loop bar mirror the drink menu, thanks to award-winning mixologist Peter Vestinos. And as the old adage goes, behind every good man is a good woman.

The La Grande Dame, which translates to “the great lady,” is made with gin, cognac, mint, lemon, grapefruit, Creole bitters and sparkling soda. The cocktail is a layered drink that evolves as you sip.

It starts off citrusy and as you drink it, the more spicy and herbal it becomes. The zesty flavor from the fresh lemon wedge and mint sprigs are prominent throughout, making the La Grande Dame worth painting your lips red or dusting off your finest pocket square.