Given Chicago’s infamous history during Prohibition, it is only appropriate that the city should now have a thriving cocktail bar scene. These options cluster in the West Loop or River North, within walking distance or a short taxi ride from my recommended hotels. All maintain decibel levels conducive to relaxed conversation.
If you visit one cocktail bar in Chicago, make it The Aviary. Here, chef Grant Achatz, renowned for his three-star restaurant Alinea, applies the principles of molecular gastronomy to cocktails. One drink comes inside an egg-shaped piece of ice, which the guest breaks with a slingshot. My scotch-based cocktail involved a Bunsen burner. In lesser hands, this pageantry would be mere gimmickry. But the exquisite drinks never fail to have deep, complex flavors. Appetizers are available, and enthusiasts can order cocktail flights. Make reservations in advance.
955 West Fulton Market.