In this article, we’ll be embarking on a flavorful journey to explore the top five bars in Chicago renowned for their exceptional Whisky Sours. The purpose is to guide both locals and tourists alike through the city’s vibrant nightlife scene, highlighting establishments that have perfected this classic cocktail. Whether you’re a whisky enthusiast, a cocktail connoisseur, or simply someone looking to enjoy a memorable night out, this curated list is your passport to the best Whisky Sour experiences in the Windy City.
The Whisky Sour, a timeless cocktail, has enjoyed unwavering popularity since its inception in the mid-19th century. Combining the warming depth of whisky with the zesty freshness of citrus and the sweet balance of sugar, this cocktail offers an appealing blend of flavors that has captivated drinkers for generations. The beauty of the Whisky Sour lies in its simplicity, but the true artistry is in its execution. Chicago, with its rich history and thriving bar scene, is home to a plethora of establishments that have honed their mixology skills to elevate this classic drink to new heights. Join us as we delve into the heart of Chicago’s nightlife, one Whisky Sour at a time.
The Whisky Sour: A Classic Cocktail
The Whisky Sour is a cocktail that has stood the test of time, tracing its roots back to the 19th century. The first recorded mention of the Whisky Sour was in an 1862 book called “The Bartender’s Guide,” written by Jerry Thomas, who is often considered the father of American mixology. Despite its age, the drink remains a staple in the world of cocktails, illustrating its enduring appeal.
The popularity of the Whisky Sour can be attributed to its satisfying balance of flavors. At its core, it’s a simple cocktail, typically made with whisky (often bourbon or rye), fresh lemon juice, and sugar. The whisky provides a robust, complex base, the lemon adds a refreshing tartness, and the sugar brings a sweet counterpoint. Some versions also include an egg white, which when shaken, gives the cocktail a silky, frothy texture that elevates the drinking experience. The key to a well-made Whisky Sour is the balance between these components, ensuring that no single element overwhelms the others. It’s this harmony of flavors, combined with the cocktail’s rich history and simplicity, that has cemented the Whisky Sour’s status as a classic choice for drinkers around the world.
Criteria for Selection
To curate the list of top five bars in Chicago for the best Whisky Sours, we developed a rigorous selection process that primarily emphasizes the quality of the cocktail itself. We set out to find establishments that not only adhere to the classic Whisky Sour recipe but also bring their unique flair and creativity to the table. The perfect balance of whisky, lemon, sugar, and optionally, egg white, was the fundamental criterion, with bonus points for bars that offer an intriguing spin on the traditional recipe.
However, we also considered other factors that contribute to an exceptional Whisky Sour experience. The ambiance of the bar plays a significant role in the overall enjoyment of the drink. Whether it’s a cozy, dimly-lit speakeasy or a lively, modern rooftop bar, the setting can enhance the pleasure of sipping on a well-crafted cocktail. Similarly, exceptional customer service adds to the experience, making patrons feel welcome and appreciated. From knowledgeable bartenders who can share the story behind their Whisky Sour to attentive staff who ensure a smooth visit, good service was another essential factor in our selection process. In the end, the bars we selected excelled in both the quality of their Whisky Sours and the overall drinking experience they provide.
Situated within the vibrant, artsy neighborhood of Fulton Market, The Aviary is no ordinary watering hole. This high-end cocktail bar in Chicago is the brainchild of culinary visionaries Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, who are renowned for their Michelin-starred restaurant, Alinea. Upon entering The Aviary, you’re instantly transported into a world that artfully combines chic sophistication and adventurous creativity.
The Aviary’s ambiance can best be described as minimalist luxury. The interior is sleek, with cool metal and warm wood finishes, punctuated by imaginative lighting that draws attention to the vibrant bottles displayed behind the bar. Comfy seating spaces, arranged to foster intimate conversation, and modern artwork perfectly complement the overall aesthetic. The environment teems with quiet excitement, as patrons watch mixologists work their magic in the glass-enclosed “drink kitchen”, pushing the boundaries of conventional bartending.
Amongst their expansive cocktail repertoire, the Whisky Sour at The Aviary stands out as a testament to the bar’s inventive approach. Traditional whisky sour components – whisky, lemon juice, and sugar – remain at the heart of this concoction. However, The Aviary’s version takes the classic to new heights with the addition of unique variations. An example is their use of house-made, barrel-aged bourbon and an inventive sour mix featuring fresh, in-house squeezed and zested lemons, paired with a syrup made from turbinado sugar. The finishing touch is a red wine float that adds an unexpected depth of flavor, and a delightful aromatic foam instead of the conventional egg white, providing a rich texture without masking the underlying layers of flavor. The drink is served in a customized glass, echoing the commitment to detail that’s synonymous with The Aviary.
Aside from their reinterpretation of the Whisky Sour, The Aviary boasts an array of other notable drinks that challenge and delight the palate. The “In the Rocks”, for instance, is a hibiscus-infused Old Fashioned encased in a sphere of ice, which must be cracked open to be enjoyed. “The Jungle Bird”, on the other hand, is an elaborate rum concoction that arrives beneath a glass cloche filled with smoke, providing a multisensory experience.
Moreover, The Aviary’s multi-course cocktail tasting menu is another distinguishing feature. It is a gastronomic journey akin to a fine dining experience, but with cocktails as the stars of the show. Each course presents a pairing of beautifully crafted drinks with innovative small bites, providing an immersive experience that is both delicious and memorable.
The Aviary, thus, is more than just a cocktail bar. It’s a theater of drink innovation, delivering a cocktail experience that is as much about performance and surprise as it is about taste. With its unique ambience, intriguing drink presentations, and innovative flavors, The Aviary has truly become a destination in itself within Chicago’s bustling nightlife scene.
Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s trendy Logan Square neighborhood, Longman & Eagle represents a fascinating blend of comfort, creativity, and Chicago culture. With its raw brick walls, reclaimed wood accents, and vintage furnishings, this renowned bar exudes an ambiance of warm, rustic charm that welcomes patrons with a spirit of familiarity and friendship.
Longman & Eagle is not just a regular watering hole; it’s an establishment that provides a respite from the bustling city life, an escape into an atmosphere brimming with a refined yet relaxed vibe. A sublime place where old school meets the new, it’s perfect for those who are looking to explore the city’s dynamic spirit over a conversation and a couple of glasses of exquisite cocktails.
A signature feature of Longman & Eagle’s drink menu is their Whisky Sour. This classic drink, well-loved for its refreshing combination of sour and sweet, has been given a special twist by the innovative mixologists of the bar. It’s made with a hand-selected bourbon that carries rich notes of caramel and vanilla, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a dash of egg white for a creamy, frothy texture.
In a unique variation, they introduce a seasonal fruit-infused whiskey to the classic mix. It varies from summer peach to autumn apple, winter pomegranate, or spring cherry, providing an invigorating twist to the traditional Whisky Sour. The result is a delightfully refreshing, perfectly balanced cocktail that hits all the right notes, with the added layer of complex, fruit-based flavors.
Beyond their Whisky Sour, Longman & Eagle’s drink menu has many other distinctive offerings. They have an extensive whiskey selection that features a vast variety of labels from all over the world, including some rare and exclusive choices, making it a haven for whiskey lovers. Their inventive cocktail menu changes seasonally and emphasizes locally sourced and house-made ingredients. Whether you prefer your drinks fruity, spicy, smoky, or crisp, there’s a perfect concoction waiting for you.
Additionally, Longman & Eagle offers an impressive array of craft beers and a curated wine list that caters to a diverse palate, each offering a unique accompaniment to the food menu, which features inventive, locally sourced fare.
Not just limited to a well-stocked bar, the establishment also boasts a six-room inn upstairs, each room uniquely designed and reflecting the overall aesthetic of the place, providing a truly unique experience for those who wish to extend their visit.
At its core, Longman & Eagle is a perfect fusion of top-notch drink offerings, a welcoming ambiance, and an unforgettable experience that keeps locals and tourists coming back for more. It’s not just a bar; it’s a cornerstone of Chicago’s vibrant nightlife and culture.
Sitting in the heart of Chicago’s trendy River North neighborhood, The Berkshire Room is a name that resounds with cocktail enthusiasts, tourists, and city dwellers alike. Tucked inside the historic Acme Hotel Company, this craft cocktail bar is a proud testament to Chicago’s vibrant mixology scene.
Upon entering The Berkshire Room, patrons are greeted by an eclectic blend of vintage and contemporary designs. Original marble and masonry mix with rich, dark wood and leather, offering a luxurious yet approachable atmosphere. The room is warm and ambient, punctuated by subtle lighting that highlights the bar’s well-stocked shelves. The Berkshire Room captures the essence of a sophisticated cocktail lounge while maintaining a touch of rustic, old-school charm.
A trip to The Berkshire Room is incomplete without experiencing their rendition of the classic Whisky Sour. The bartenders here have gained a reputation for their meticulous attention to detail and innovation, and this is nowhere more evident than in their Whisky Sour.
The Berkshire Room’s Whisky Sour begins with a base of high-quality bourbon, bringing forth the familiar rich and robust flavors that whisky enthusiasts love. To this, they add fresh lemon juice, lending a citrusy zing that perfectly complements the sweetness of the bourbon. Instead of simple syrup, however, the bartenders here use a house-made syrup which infuses an unexpected depth of flavor.
What sets this Whisky Sour apart is the bar’s unique variation: a seasonal fruit puree that adds an interesting twist to this classic cocktail. Whether it’s a fresh strawberry puree in the summer or a spiced apple puree in the fall, this unique touch keeps patrons coming back to see what new flavor profiles the next season will bring.
While The Berkshire Room may be renowned for their Whisky Sour, the creativity doesn’t stop there. They offer a wide range of craft cocktails that highlight an array of spirits and flavors. A standout is their Dealer’s Choice, where patrons can select their preferred spirit, flavor profile, and glassware, leaving the rest to the capable hands of the skilled bartenders.
In addition to the remarkable drink selection, the bar is also home to a rotating selection of draft beers and a diverse wine list, ensuring there is something to please every palate.
The Berkshire Room is not just a bar, it’s an experience – one that embraces the history and spirit of Chicago while offering a refreshing modern twist on the classic cocktail bar. The mix of laid-back luxury, top-notch drinks, and stellar service make it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic taste of Chicago’s vibrant bar scene. Whether you’re a whisky aficionado or a cocktail explorer, The Berkshire Room’s innovative and ever-changing menu is sure to delight.
Tucked away in the heart of Lincoln Park, a neighborhood rich with history, sits The Barrelhouse Flat – a landmark destination for whisky enthusiasts. This unpretentious bar in Chicago is housed in a charming pre-war building that seamlessly blends classic and contemporary.
From the moment you step into the warm, intimate space, the rich hues of exposed brick and well-worn hardwood floors welcome you. The tastefully distressed vintage decor is complemented by modern industrial accents, creating a vibrant but inviting ambiance reminiscent of an old-school speakeasy. The Barrelhouse Flat is as much a feast for the eyes as it is a treat for the palate.
The star attraction at this trendy bar is, undoubtedly, their Whisky Sour. The Barrelhouse Flat takes this classic cocktail and gives it a unique twist that keeps patrons coming back for more. Their mixologists artfully blend smooth whisky, tart lemon juice, a touch of sugar, and an egg white to create a frothy, velvety concoction that feels indulgent with each sip. The drink is then adorned with a dash of Angostura bitters and a cherry, creating a delicate balance between sweet and sour notes.
The unique variation on the traditional Whisky Sour at The Barrelhouse Flat is the Smokey Sour. This inventive drink utilizes the bar’s impressive collection of peated whisky. The smokey undertones of the whisky are enhanced by the tartness of the lemon and the creamy froth from the egg white, taking you on a flavorful journey from the first sip to the last.
The cocktail menu doesn’t stop at the Whisky Sour, though. The Barrelhouse Flat boasts an extensive list of house cocktails, many inspired by the Prohibition era, as well as a carefully curated selection of craft beers and wines. Notably, the ‘Old Pal’ cocktail is a favorite among patrons, with its exquisite blend of rye whisky, dry vermouth, and Campari.
In addition to the drinks, The Barrelhouse Flat features live music and DJ sets that further enhance the vibrant yet cozy ambiance. Whether you’re a whisky connoisseur, a cocktail enthusiast, or simply in search of a memorable night out in the Windy City, The Barrelhouse Flat offers an experience that’s both uniquely Chicago and universally appealing.
Delilah’s, nestled comfortably in Chicago’s bustling Lincoln Park neighborhood, is an iconic establishment in the city’s vibrant bar scene. Known for its eclectic, edgy charm and a whisky collection that is second to none, Delilah’s is a cherished destination for locals and visitors alike.
The moment you step into Delilah’s, you’ll be transported to a classic punk rock haven filled with a unique sense of character and charm. The bar’s ambiance is an amalgamation of rustic charm and punk aesthetics, boasting of walls adorned with vintage movie posters, dimmed Edison bulb lighting, and an old-fashioned wooden bar. As punk or alternative music rumbles softly in the background, the bar’s energy is undeniably welcoming yet unapologetically distinctive.
Delilah’s is perhaps best known for its magnificent selection of spirits, but a standout amongst its offerings is the classic Whisky Sour. This drink, a delightful fusion of smooth bourbon, lemon juice, sugar, and egg white, is masterfully crafted by Delilah’s skilled mixologists. The frothy, citrus-kissed finish of this classic cocktail has been delighting patrons for years.
Delilah’s Whisky Sour is a symphony of flavors, beginning with their selection of bourbon. This whisky is chosen carefully for its notes of caramel and vanilla, which weave their magic into the drink. The citrusy tartness of fresh lemon juice cuts through the whisky’s richness, and a touch of sugar rounds out the flavors. A hint of egg white lends a creamy texture and a frothy top, making every sip a delightful experience. It’s this careful balance of traditional ingredients, coupled with their expert bartending techniques, that sets Delilah’s Whisky Sour apart from the crowd.
An intriguing twist to their Whisky Sour is the “Delilah’s Sour,” which brings a unique touch of the bar’s punk attitude to the cocktail. The “Delilah’s Sour” swaps the bourbon for their proprietary Delilah’s blend Scotch whisky, an addition that introduces a smoky undertone to the classic cocktail. This in-house variant with its earthy notes has become a crowd favorite, creating a unique experience even for seasoned Whisky Sour aficionados.
Delilah’s, however, is not just about Whisky Sours. The bar prides itself on a whisky collection that runs more than 800 bottles deep, with selections from every whisky-producing nation on the globe. For those looking for something more adventurous, Delilah’s offers an assortment of punk-inspired cocktails such as the “Rancid,” a tequila-based concoction, or the “Descendent,” a refreshing gin and tonic variant with a secret mix of bitters.
The bar also features weekly events, including its famous Rock-n-Roll nights, where patrons can enjoy their drinks while grooving to vintage punk and rock tracks. The annual Whisky Fest is another highlight, attracting spirit enthusiasts for an exciting showcase of the world’s finest whiskies.
In essence, Delilah’s offers an unforgettable experience steeped in character, fueled by an extensive collection of spirits, and enriched by a unique punk-rock charm. Whether you’re a whisky connoisseur, a cocktail enthusiast, or someone looking for a memorable night out, Delilah’s stands as a beacon of spirit-laden camaraderie in the heart of Chicago.