Chicago bar guide March 2013

    American Junkie
    The fourth in a mini chain of West Coast-based eateries, the sprawling River North location for American Junkie aims to stand apart from its predecessors. For one, the menu is chef driven and seasonal, but for our purposes, we’ll concentrate on the beverage program. It caters to a post-collegiate crowd with familiar cocktails that have been elevated, yet not too intimidating for newbies. You’ll find ultra-fresh juices in the vodka and gin drinks, plus fresh, seasonal berries in the mojitos. What should certainly be a hit are the kegged cocktails, which are set to change every season. The Jim Beam Black Tea (Jim Beam Black, peach liqueur, unsweetened tea, lemon juice) should be an especially big seller during the warmer months for those chilling under the retractable rooftop.
    Chicago Cut Steakhouse
    The very business-minded steakhouse made a splash on Chicago’s dining scene a few years ago when it debuted with an iPad wine list. That was pretty innovative back then, but now its specialists are on to curating a cocktail menu with modern takes on the classics. The French 75 gets a facelift as the “Chicago 75,” with wild elderflower liqueur and house-made simple syrup replacing superfine granulated sugar. We’re equally excited about the rum Old Fashioned and something called The North Side (paying homage to Chicago’s rich drinking landscape, no doubt) made of pear-infused vodka, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, mint leaves and soda water. All are perfect sippers as spring approaches and it’s time to settle onto the patio alongside the Chicago River.

    Lady Gregory
    It’s an unassuming neighborhood restaurant with decent fare and a loyal following, but what makes Lady Gregory stand out is its intense spirits selection. The bar staff has traveled all over the world to seek out the best whiskeys possible, resulting in an extensive list of more than 300. The selection, of course, includes a comprehensive Irish whiskey list, considering Lady Gregory is named in honor of the famed Irish author. The list is appropriately assembled in thick, leather- bound books. Now, this is how you should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
    The Library at Gilt
    We loved Curio, especially after discovering that it was modeled after the basement bar where that awesome shootout took place in “Inglorious Basterds.” But the owners were getting antsy and wanted to do something different, which resulted in dimly lit The Library. While this particular Library boasts an immaculate collection of classic tomes you should have studied in A.P. English, you won’t have to stay in the quiet zone. The music cranks out at the perfect level as you sip on signature cocktails from the same menu as upstairs Gilt Bar. Traditional tipplers are the name of the game at Gilt, from the Paloma to Pimm’s Cup.
    Off Site
    The guys behind Longman & Eagle are incredibly busy with a number of projects in the works, so it took everyone by surprise when they suddenly opened Off Site Bar in the back of the restaurant. It’s only 150 square feet with several seats supposed to serve as a waiting area for those dining at L&E. But why leave if you can get the full cocktail menu of contemporary and classic drinks? Plus, soon they’ll launch Saturday Sausage Shop, a weekly event with two or three sausages made in-house by the sous-chef. You now know where to find us every weekend.
    Written by Audarshia Townsend

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