There’s no shortage of places to enjoy a smooth glass of whiskey in the Windy City. But for those looking to delight the senses with more complex and robust offerings, you want to find a watering hole that has plenty of options to choose from. In the last decade, even the basic neighborhood pubs have diversified their selection because of the demand for world-class whiskey. If you’re new to the city, you can find a plethora of Prohibition-style speakeasies, cocktail lounges, and dive bars to choose from. We’ve assembled this list of bars that can help the true aficionado find new favorites – including moonshine, scotch, and beyond.
1. Delilah’s Chicago
While Delilah’s offers over 800 different whiskeys from across the world, it would be oversimplifying it to call it a whiskey bar. With regular movie nights, beer festivals, art openings, and DJs regularly spinning punk rock, there’s never a dull moment for patrons. Not only is this one of the best whiskey bars in Chicago, but it also has one of the most diverse bottle selections in the country. While Delilah’s certainly is not upscale, it’s a homey and affordable place that has drawn regular customers for over two decades. The punk rock theme carries on to the furnishing, with duct tape holding together quite a bit of the upholstery. While you’re there, take advantage of the rotating whiskey specials. They change daily and are never more than $3. Or try one of their unique house offerings, made in collaboration with Compass Box.
2. Sable Kitchen and Bar
Recently recognized as one of the best hotel bars in the country, Sable offers a book-length list of whiskey bottles from around the world to try. The upscale ambiance and world-class menu make it great for a date night, or you can mingle with travelers staying at the adjacent Hotel Palomar. The bartenders are true masters of the craft, so even if you prefer your bourbon or rye unadulterated, don’t skip the cocktails. Give the Government Issued Old Fashion a try. Rather than the classic mix of bourbon and rye, this drink twists it up by subbing in rum for the bourbon for a more complex flavor profile.
3. Untitled Supper Club
This establishment focuses on American Whiskeys, with over 550 bottles brewed in the States – the largest selection of its kind. The renowned burlesque performances and delicious shared plates make it a great place for group hangouts, as long as you follow the business casual dress code. The non-descript, signless exterior alludes to prohibition-era secrecy, but the interior is anything but subtle. The spacious speakeasy has multiple rooms, including a whiskey library, and there is plenty of space to dance on jazz nights. Try some of the single barrel offerings for a unique, cask strength offerings from renowned brewers across the country.
4. The Duke of Perth
Hitting the scene in 1989, The Duke of Perth was the first tavern in the city to serve single malt scotch to patrons, and currently offers the city’s largest variety of single malt scotches. In keeping with the classic pub vibe, there are no TVs to distract you from your company. The cozy, two-room bar gets crowded quickly, so come early to find a spot and take in the Scottish inspired decor. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the Duke offers all-you-can-eat fish and chips, and the Sunday brunch buffet will fuel you up or help you recover as needed. Order a flight to find your favorite single malt, or try some ales from across the pond when you’re ready to slow things down.
5. Clark Street Ale House
While the name may suggest otherwise, Clark Street Ale House has a diverse selection of over 300 world whiskeys, and a spacious beer garden to enjoy them in when the weather’s right. But even on cold nights, there’s plenty of indoor seating to accommodate a crowd. It’s also one of Chicago’s 4 am bars, so you can take your time enjoying the extensive offerings. The laid-back vibe attracts a wide variety of guests, and the lack of kitchen means there’s no pressure to order food if you’re only interested in a drink. But there are plenty of pretzels on hand to keep you thirsty. The Clark Street Ale House is perfect for scotch lovers. Experiment with a single malt you’ve never tried from their extensive menu.
6. The Grafton Pub and Grill
With a hefty assortment of high-quality whiskey and live Irish Folk throughout the weekend, The Grafton offers a taste of the Emerald Isle in your hometown. This cozy pub also has some incredible burgers and full-on Irish breakfasts throughout the night. If you’re not feeling the music, sit in the front room and you’ll be able to carry a conversation without having to shout. Of course, you should order an Irish Whiskey while you’re there, which traditionally uses unmalted barley for a nuttier flavor. But don’t sleep on their selection of Japanese single malts and blended whiskeys, which are more akin to scotch.
Regularly hailed as the best rooftop bar in the city, Drumbar distinguishes itself by offering a wide assortment of rare, limited-release bottles. The intimate indoor lounge and spacious terrace offer plenty of space for couples or groups to enjoy their creative, whiskey-heavy cocktails. Go on a Friday for 15% off all whiskeys and a live DJ to amp up the party. If you need something more invigorating to enjoy a dance, try a cocktail. Order the “Different Body, Same Mind” for a unique spin on a Manhattan using Japanese whiskey.
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