Cocktail Revolution Hits Chicago Steakhouses

By Audarshia Townsend

At most Chicago steakhouses you can count on exceptional wine lists and decent gin martinis that are stirred—not shaken. But when it comes to the current craft cocktail craze, many places surprisingly haven’t yet jumped aboard. At Chicago’s Best Steakhouses, of course, we love to shake it up, so we gathered a few choice cocktails you might want to consider during your next outing.

III Forks. What’s admirable about this Loop steakhouse is that bartenders cater to both the craft cocktail crowd as well as those attracted to more frou-frou drinks. Sippers such as Bury Me In Smoke (Il Maraschino liqueur, Chartreuse Yellow, Del Maguey mezcal, No. 3 gin, lemon juice) and Chicago Gentleman (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Vermont maple syrup foam, Bitter Truth aromatic bitters, orange zest) appeal to those with more polished palates and easily pair with most steak offerings. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find a couple of cocktails that are better left for the conclusion of the meal. If you plan on skipping dessert, Kensey (10 Cane rum, St. Germain, pomegranate liqueur, triple sec, splash of lime juice) or The Nessa  (Absolut mango, Seven Daughters moscato, peach schnapps, raspberry liqueur, splash of lemon lime soda) are ideal alternatives.


SideDoor's smoked Negroni is available yearround. (Photo: SideDoor)


Bavette's Bar & Boeuf. The Doughnut Vault, the swanky little sweets shop owned by burgeoning restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff, remains the only booze-less project in his ever-growing empire (and that's likely because the spot is only open for a few hours during the daytime). With all his other projects, such as French-focused steakhouse Bavette's, Sodikoff enthusiastically highlights the cocktail program. A handful of classic sparkling wine cocktails are meant to complement magnificent cuts of prime aged ribeye and bone-in filet. We're particularly fond of the Champagne Smash (gin, Lillet rose, mint, lemon), M. Laurent (cognac, amaretto, crime de cacao) and absinthe-infused Death in the Afternoon. For those looking for something with more kick, whiskey cocktails are the way to go, including the Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, and Lion's Tail of bourbon, allspice and angostura. 

Chicago Cut Steakhouse.  With extensive wine lists etched on iPads, Chicago Cut takes its beverage offerings quite serious. That enthusiasm, of course, extends to the mighty cocktail list, which is mostly comprised of original elixirs. Many have been designed to enjoy on the patio overlooking the Chicago River, and they nicely complement most steak options. Drinks like the Moscow Mule (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Gosling’s Ginger Beer, fresh lime), Rum Punch (Atlantico Platino Rum, Atlantico Reserve, pineapple juice, fresh lime, Ango float) and Barrymore (Tito’s Handmade Vodka, strawberries, prosecco float, lemon) should be hits during the warm weather.  


JIMMY features a number of seasonal sippers made with house-made ingredients (Photo: JIMMY)


David Burke's Primehouse. Adjacent to the chef-driven steakhouse resides a hidden little cocktail bar called JIMMY, which serves as the Chicago outpost for a New York original. While the lounge is small in stature, the drinks menu features more than 20 choices of classic and contemporary sippers. It’s seasonal—with plenty of fresh fruit and house-made ingredients—and many of the spirits are small batch and locally sourced. JIMMY is best experienced as a “nightcap” hang, where you can wind down the evening after knocking back one of the aged steaks at David Burke’s. Some of the classics found on the permanent menu include the Hemingway Daiquiri, Rusty Nail, Sazerac and Singapore Sling.

SideDoor. The River North newcomer aims to attract a hipper, younger diner than its old-school counterpart of Lawry’s The Prime Rib. They’ve put a contemporary spin on classic prime rib favorites such as prime rib chili cheese fries, hand-carved prime rib sandwich, and a roasted meat board of prime rib, glazed short rib and prime Angus sirloin. The meats match the mixology program with original offerings like the Michigan Mustang (North Shore Vodka, house-made Fernet, cherry compote, ginger) and a Smoked Negroni  (Aperol, FEW barrel-aged gin, Punt e Mes and smoked ice cube). The cocktail menu is also seasonal

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