Chicago-Near South Side
May 11, 2018
While speakeasies have certainly been all the rage in recent years (with many fine examples landing on our pages), The Drifter manages to be a genuine groundbreaker in the genre. Why is it so special? Well, for starters, it’s the first one we’ve come across that is located in the actual space of a real former speakeasy, and on top of that, their combo of cocktails and unique atmosphere is easily one of the coolest in Chicago. No other place in America was more associated with Prohibition and its assorted vices than Chicago, and one needn’t look further than The Drifter for the hard evidence. During Prohibition, the small basement room housed a clandestine drinking den, with barrels of booze being smuggled in through a hidden door and poured. After Prohibition ended, the drinking moved back into the light, and the doors were closed on the space, after which it eventually became a storage room. When The Drifter opened, they simply picked the best period artifacts that were laying around, cleaned up, and opened the doors, and this all results in as authentic of a speakeasy as you will ever find. While the backstory is great, it’s the special atmosphere that will keep us coming back. We love the ‘Barnum & Bailey’s meets Pin-Up Calendar’ motif they’ve got going on, with everything from old tattered American flags, bullet-riddled gas station signs, a banner for a circus oddities show, and a rotating roster of vaudevillian and burlesque performances . This all helps keep the atmosphere laid-back and quirky, but the bartenders still crank out cocktails you’d expect to find at the finest mixology den in town, minus even the faintest whiff of pretension.