Where The Insiders Imbibe

Dante LoPresti hosts "Tippling Tuesdays" at Double A. (Photo: Double A)

One thing's for certain: There's no shortage of fun to be had when it comes to nightlife in Chicago. But the real insiders know to avoid the city’s most popular bars on the weekend.

You'll typically find the top toques and master mixologists out and about Monday through Wednesday at industry-focused parties. What's cool is that even if you're not in the industry you're welcome, but you just gotta be cool. You know, don’t sweat the culinary and bar stars as they get a rare chance to chill out.

Anyway, three particular events stand out, attracting a heavy contingent of insiders. Every first Monday of the month, there's Shift Drinks happening at new-ish underbar Watershed that’s located in Pops For Champagne.

The concept of Shift Drinks—engineered by Pops' Colleen Healy and GT Fish & Oyster’s Daniel de Oliveira—is awesome. A well-known chef is paired up with an equally popular mixologist to guest bartend behind the bar. They come up with signature cocktails, and a portion of the proceeds from that night’s tips benefit their favorite charities.

Just some of the past guests have been chefs Michael Carlson (Schwa), Graham Elliott (Grahamwich, graham elliot) and Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia) as well as star-tenders Adam Seger (Hum Liqueur), Lynn House (Blackbird) and Charles Joly (The Drawing Room). There is no admission charge and drink specials are $9. Shift Drinks happens 9pm-2am every first Monday of the month.

Paul McGee photo via This Is A Cocktail Blog

Another great industry party is Tippling Tuesdays, which occurs every week at Double A, which is located on the lower level of Mercadito.

Mixologist Dante LoPresti holds down the fort at the basement-style bash that also features a guest bartender. Each week the event spotlights a particular spirit and the evening’s signature cocktails are made from that spirit. Thus far, they’ve featured gin, bourbon, champagne and tequila.

If you arrive early (6-7pm), you’ll be able to take advantage of the complimentary punch made from that spirit. A deejay spins hard-hitting tracks to set the mood, and the spot typically fills up fast. No cover charge; 6pm-2am every Tuesday. Cocktail prices vary.

And the Book Club concept is exactly what you think, but much, much cooler. The Whistler bartender Paul McGee got the idea from his wife's monthly book club meeting and decided to transform it into a drinking and thinking event at his Logan Square lounge.

Held every first Wednesday of the month, Book Club transforms The Whistler into the theme of your dreams, especially if you consider yourself a cocktail aficionado. McGee owns a cocktail recipe book collection of about 30 (and of course it’s still growing), which include his favorite tomes The Gentleman’s Companion (1939) by Charles H. Baker Jr.; The First Art of Mixing Drinks (1948) by David M. Embury; and Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas (2007) by David Wondrich.

He's already had Polynesian and turn-of-the-century (19th century) themed events that highlight cocktails from those books. Guests also get to choose from a number of selected cocktails from the featured book.

In its few short months, the event has managed to attract a high-profile industry restaurant and bar crowd, including the likes of Brad Bolt (Bar DeVille), Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), former Blackbird chef Michael Sheerin and others.

Book Club goes down 6pm-2am every first Wednesday of the month. No cover, but early arrival is strongly recommended. Cocktail prices vary.