Paul McGee

Mixologist

Chicago

Chicago mixologist Paul McGee started his career in Las Vegas, where he spent four years behind the bar at resorts like Bellagio, The Venetian and MGM Grand. In 2003, he joined the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group as a bartender, and then served as the corporate mixologist for Puck’s restaurants around the country. In 2008, he left Vegas for Chicago and opened The Whistler in the Logan Square neighborhood with partners Robert Brenner and Billy Helmkamp. He parted with The Whistler in January 2012 to join Chicago-based hospitality group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, where he collaborates on new projects with R.J. and Jerrod Melman. McGee was part of the team that created the cocktail menu at Lettuce Entertain You’s RPM Italian, which opened in February 2012, and Three Dots and a Dash tiki bar in River North, which debuted in 2013.

  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What are the best bars in Chicago?

    My friend Stephen Cole runs Barrelhouse Flat. It’s a great-looking place with a casual spot downstairs and an upstairs area that feels more like an upscale parlor. And there’s a pool room with fireplace. That’s in Lincoln Park, about four to five blocks east from one of my favorite bars in town, Delilah’s. It’s a dive bar that’s been there for about 20 years — way before the neighborhood became as good as it is now. It has one of the most amazing American whiskey selections and scotch selections in the city. Owner Mike Miller is a huge enthusiast of whiskey, and it shows. He’s got stuff that you will never be able to get again. Delilah’s flies under the radar and is definitely a throwback to the late ’80s and early ’90s.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    When is the best time to visit Chicago?

    Summer is great because you can obviously go outside more and go swimming. But I like October and November the best. It really doesn’t start getting cold here until late November and early December. If you don’t like the cold, you’re pretty safe to come here in October or November. It’s beautiful with the leaves changing. Spring is pretty much nonexistent here.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What are the best neighborhoods in Chicago?

    I think Chicago is so great because of the different experiences that you can get within the city — the different feelings of the neighborhoods. We are in Logan Square. Our neighborhood is changing quite a bit. And then there are other neighborhoods that have great shopping, and at Lincoln Park, you can see a baseball game at Wrigley Field. And then the lake is right there — it’s beautiful. You can go swimming in the summertime if you want. Michigan Avenue is crazy busy and really congested but you can get in a cab or hop on a train and a few minutes later you’re in a different neighborhood with a different feel. The other thing I like about Chicago is there is a really good drinking and eating scene in many of the neighborhoods, albeit a little more understated. It’s not all getting dressed up to go out.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What is the best trip Paul McGee’s taken?

    The most recent one was the trip to Puerto Rico with friends, and we had a really relaxing time. One of the trips that I took was a number of years ago to Pebble Beach. I used to be a big golfer and stayed at The Inn at Spanish Bay, and it was a special place. The views, the golf and the resort itself are fantastic. The room we ended up staying in was on the first fairway at The Links at Spanish Bay. I’d been to San Francisco a few times, but I’d never been to Pebble Beach before. Just coasting along the 17-mile drive and seeing the cypress trees and cliffs and forests, it’s a really, really special place. And it’s someplace I’ve always wanted to get back to and I haven’t had a chance.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What does Paul McGee always bring home from his travels?

    I usually bring home some kind of booze. I usually seek out liquor stores that carry stuff I can’t get in Chicago. This summer, we drove down to Kentucky and New Orleans to pick out some barrels of whiskey for Bub City, which is one of the bars we just opened. On our way down, every time we gassed up the car, we’d hit a couple of liquor stores. I actually found one place in Mississippi, of all places, that had all kinds of stuff I couldn’t get anywhere else. I ended up picking up 10 or 12 bottles of whiskey. I hit the jackpot.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What does Paul McGee look for in a hotel?

    I think the main thing about choosing a hotel is the location itself and whether it is a nice central home base for us. We usually stay with friends in San Francisco and New York, but the few times that we’ve stayed in a hotel in San Francisco, it’s been in the Union Square or Nob Hill areas. But some of the amenities we look for there are the location and how the neighborhood feels. Also stuff like Wi-Fi and usually 24-hour room service come in handy when you’ve been hitting up bars all night long.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What are Paul McGee’s favorite hotels?

    There’s one that’s fantastic in Puerto Rico. There’s an island off the main island called Vieques, and there’s a W Hotel there that’s fantastic. It’s a smaller resort, maybe 150 rooms, but it’s got two private beaches and pools, and it’s a really pretty special place. When you go to Vieques, there’s not much else to do but relax. You’re not going to get any fantastic food or anything like that, but it’s more about relaxing by the pool or swimming in the ocean and stuff.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What are Paul McGee’s favorite restaurants?

    In New York, one of my favorite places to go and have drinks is Little Branch in the West Village. I really like Dutch Kills out in Queens. I think it’s doing some really good things out there. Mayahuel is in the Lower East Side, and it’s a great mezcal and tequila bar that makes a lot of cocktails. There’s such a great depth of bars, and even Manhattan has obviously a lot of stuff going on, but really Brooklyn has been blowing up the last couple of years with a lot of bars and restaurants. One of the ones that I really like to go to out there is Manhattan Inn. We have some friends who live in Greenpoint, so it’s pretty close. And Maison Premiere in Williamsburg.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    Who does Paul McGee travel with?

    I travel with my wife all the time, and she’s very good at keeping us on a tight schedule. Usually we go somewhere for just a few days, and there are so many places that I want to check out. She keeps us on a schedule so we don’t end up spending too much time in one place. It has to be like that.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Paul McGee answered the question: Paul McGee

    What are Paul McGee’s favorite cities?

    My two favorite cities to visit are New York and San Francisco. I think they’re both great drinking cities. They’ve got a lot of great bars and restaurants. If I’m typically going somewhere, I like to go to a bigger city that has a heavy density of great places to go eat and drink.