Whiskey or Whisky? Bourbon, Wheat or Rye? Life is full of choices, but Chicago is a great city to dive into the many delicious varieties of spirits distilled from fermented grain mash. Whether you’re a recent graduate from the “top shelf” of the local bar looking for more, or someone who had made it “Suntory Time” long before Lost In Translation, here’s some of Chicago (and the world’s) best whiskey bars.
Aside from having one of the city’s best signs (a spinning motorcycle-riding skeleton), the Twisted Spoke has the honor of being the first bar in the world to put whiskey on tap. In addition to their extensive whiskey list, the Spoke offers occasional visits from Kentucky master distillers, Whiskey Fest events, and a fine menu for brunch, lunch or dinner. Most importantly: whether it comes tapped from one of the barrels at the bar or pulled from the secret stash, Whiskey Wednesdays gets you half off of any of their 500 or so whiskeys.
Longman & Eagle
The owners of the Empty Bottle may be better known for $2 PBRs, but that doesn’t mean that their sister bar at Longman and Eagle can’t be one of the classiest selections of spirits in town (although the PBR is still there, fear not). The menu is helpfully separated into “shots” and “sipping tastes” so that you don’t foolishly slug back a Pappy Van Winkle 23 year. They also offer a selection of whiskey flights – three tastes of single blends, whites, ryes or wheats.
The young upstart of the lot, Sable came out of the gate with grand ambitions – former Violet Hour bartender Mike Ryan and mixologist Jacques Bezuidenhout have assembled an impressive list of whiskeys, separated by country, region, and distiller – there’s no less than 17 offerings from Bruichladdich alone. Sable offers a regal environment (and high-end eats) if you’re looking to keep it classy.
Duke of Perth
Established in 1981, The Duke of Perth is a comfortable neighborhood hangout with a low-key Scottish take on traditional bar food and an all-Scotch Whiskey line-up of malts. Grab a bottle of Skull Splitter Orkney Ale, dig into a scotch egg burger, and by the time you sip your Glenmorangie, you’ll feel like you have dual citizenship.
Mike Miller stocks more than 350 bottles of whiskeys available, with a focus on the bourbon. He’s taught classes, written articles on the subject, and even has his own blend celebrating the 15th anniversary of Delilah’s. But make no mistake – Delilah’s is a punk rock bar, and you had best get your name written in chalk for the next pool game and listen to a couple Runaways songs before you sit down with whatever treasure Miller and the gang have poured for you.
Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. He enjoys eating and drinking above his means, finding new music, and socially conscious hedonism.