Answers from Our Experts (2)
I think Belly Q — that’s Peter Vestinos, he’s been there for just a few months, and it’s Bill Kim’s restaurant. I think what Peter has done is really blur the line between the kitchen and the bar and use a lot of ingredients from the kitchen in the cocktails. Also I think he’s really matching the style and flavor profiles of the cocktails to the food. That’s a really remarkable program.
At Blackbird, the mixologist there, Lynn House, was at Graham Elliot. She grows a lot of her own foods, fruit and whatnot, and she’s a big gardener at home and brings that in and then does a lot of canning in the winter for her cocktails. I think that Blackbird is definitely one of my favorites. It’s one of the most consistent programs; she’s been there for a while and really has established a culture there. Those are a couple of the best ones in restaurants.
Opened in 2007, The Violet Hour in Wicker Park was Chicago's first new-fashioned craft-cocktail bar, and remains among the top cocktail destinations, which now number in the dozens. The gorgeous lounge was founded by a handful of alumni from New York City's famed Milk & Honey, widely regarded as one of the country's first craft-cocktail bars, and continues to offer seasonal menus of popular and obscure classics, as well as divine originals.
Newer to the scene is Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star chef Grant Achatz's molecular gastronomic cocktail lounge, The Aviary, in the city's Fulton Market neighborhood. The Aviary is home to the most original cocktails in town, from vacuum-potted tea-based infusions to an old fashioned iteration dubbed In The Rocks, a cocktail frozen in an ice sphere that must be burst before drinking. Downstairs from The Aviary is The Office, a tiny, 16-seat den of handsome leather couches and carefully curated vintage artwork. The Office makes hands-down some of the most delicious drinks in town, yours for a pretty penny: all are $20.
On an otherwise quiet block in Lincoln Park, Barrelhouse Flat offers an impressively dense menu of classic cocktails — nearly 75 of them — organized by spirit. Run by a Violet Hour graduate, Barrelhouse Flat serves classic cocktails with classic proportions: no more than three ounces at a time, lest you fall over from their potency.