There’s a theory that the long-stemmed, wide-brimmed martini glass emerged during Prohibition to make dumping drinks quicker in the event of a police raid. Alas, the likelier story is that the triangular glass was designed to keep martinis colder, longer. At these seven Chicago bars, you’re going to want to hold on tight to those stems – these martinis are too good to spill.
Marty's Martini Bar
Bar, Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
Located in Edgewater, this chic martini bar is beloved by locals – so much so that the small space is typically very crowded. Though Marty’s Martini Bar is always bustling, the customer service continues to be topnotch, with expert bartenders and attentive servers. The décor is inspired by French painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, with dim lighting and nods to bawdy saloons akin to the Moulin Rouge. Regulars rave about the strong drinks, served up in large martini glasses and priced reasonably. One of the most popular cocktails on the menu is the traditional French 75 martini, which feels appropriate considering the sultry ambience.
On the corner of Kedzie Avenue and Armitage is a bar and restaurant unlike any other: a legendary establishment specializing in gin cocktails. Scofflaw takes an artist’s approach to mixology; don’t be surprised if one of your favorite cocktails comes out in a style unlike what you’ve seen before. Yes, this cocktail bar focuses on gin, but it offers something for everyone, no matter the palate. Every few months, Scofflaw introduces a new specialty cocktail menu. Spring 2018’s menu highlights include the First Flower, a gorgeous combination of Prairie Gin, Cocchi Rosa (a bitter wine made with dried rose petals), Luxardo Aperitivo (an herbal, citrusy liqueur), lemon, and egg white.
This distillery in the West Loop uses local ingredients to make vodka, rum, gin, and flavored liqueurs. Partnering with Illinois farmers, CH Distillery produces organic, grain-based vodka. On a tour of the distillery, visitors can get a glimpse of the process and taste the local vodka paired with rye bread and pickles, just like it’s served in Russia. Martinis made with Aquavit are available, as are spicy Old Fashioneds. One fun twist on an old classic is the Rosemary’s Baby, a martini made with CH Peppercorn Vodka, rosemary herbs, and lemon juice. This is an excellent spot for cocktail enthusiasts who also love supporting local businesses and agriculture.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday, visitors can catch live jazz music at this stylish martini bar in Chicago’s South Loop. The lush velvet curtains and candlelight create a romantic and elegant vibe. The walnut bar itself is 28 ft. (8.5 m) long, which is plenty of counter space for the happy hour crowd. Martinis range from classic (gin or vodka with a splash of vermouth) to intricate (pear vodka shaken with St. Germain). One of their wilder options is the Sexy Sangria Martini, a surprising blend of Hennessy Black Cognac, strawberry purée, and champagne. It’s impossible to choose just one, so try a couple, sit back, and enjoy the music.
This delightful little Italian bar and dining room offers delicious drinks in its cocktail lounge and hearty cuisine in its dining room. Customers rave about the stellar tiramisu, calamari Calabrese, and antipasto. The cocktail offerings include an array of specialized martinis, such as the Gin Blossom, a flirty combination of Hendrick’s Gin (infused with rose and cucumber), Licor 43 (a Spanish liqueur with notes of citrus and vanilla), a splash of lime, and an orange garnish. This is just the tip of the iceberg. With names like The Last Word and White Death Manhattan, martinis at Club Lucky are no joke – and always worth the trip.
Uncommon Ground is a restaurant and bar with four-star certification from the Green Restaurant Association. In fact, there are two locations in Chicago: Edgewater and Lakeview. With a heavy focus on sustainability and green operations, this is a terrific place to try out some innovative cocktails. Try the house-infused ginger vodka in the Agripolitan. Mixed with watermelon puree and muddled basil, the ginger vodka adds a sharp flavor to this sweet cocktail. There’s also the simpler Lemon Ginger Martini, made with the same vodka and a splash of citrus syrup. If it’s summer, a table outside is the perfect accompaniment to any cocktail.
This tiny, hip bar in River West serves up some of the best cocktails and martinis around. And tiny is perhaps an understatement: at its widest, the bar spans 15 ft. (4.6 m) and at its most narrow, a mere 3.5 ft. (1 m)! It’s worth the effort to squeeze in among the other 20 or so patrons, as this is the place for the best versions of all the classics. Regulars say the gimlet is your best bet. Served with gin or vodka, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and egg white, this is a great place to start. For a less crowded experience, head here in the summer, when outdoor seating is available.