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A Chicago Bar That Is Worth The Price: The Aviary

3/22 Nightlife & Music Grant Achatz
(credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for TIME)

By Kimberly Bellware

When one of the arguably greatest chefs in the world opens a cocktail joint, expectations are inevitably high. Grant Achatz, the former French Laundry study and mastermind behind Alinea and Next, brings his imaginative take on food and drink to his cocktail bar, the Aviary.

With the current wave of excitement over mixology and craft cocktails, the Aviary is both spot-on relevant and an immediate leader in the modern speakeasy movement. Each drink has some element of interactivity - far beyond the basic muddle and mash of "fancy" drinks. Some are brewed, distilled and chipped before your very eyes, with drinks frozen in globes or decanted into bizarre, fascinating serving ware. One of the most popular, The Rocks, is a robust cocktail somewhat like a zippier Old Fashioned - except served in a giant golden ice egg that the drinker gets to gleefully shatter with a slingshot-like contraption.

3/22 Nightlife & Music Signature Cocktails

Taste as much as presentation has been considered for the Aviary's drinks with some of cocktails crafted into such a stunning visual display it seems like a shame to drink them down. Cocktails start around $15 to $20, with a prix-fixe option available as well; for $45, patrons can choose one drink from three different set (each set is about four or five drinks) for three cocktails in all.

Apart from stellar spirits, The Aviary creates a true sense of occasion with unbeatable hospitality and attention to details: coats don't clutter the already cozy seating area because staff take them off your hands and stash them til you're ready to leave. Ladies are offered purse hooks for their bags to keep their accouterments of the floor. In bad weather, the lounge (which is not particularly close to any subway stops) discreetly and promptly hails cabs and produces umbrellas to keep patrons dry, safe or both. Though they aren't the first lounge or restaurant to take such pains to serve their patrons, they do it consistently and stylishly, and seemingly with just a hint of magic.

Kim Bellware is a writer, producer and print maker living in Ukrainian Village. Her non-writerly pursuits involve soccer, perfecting Spanish tapas recipes and spending more time seemingly fixing her bike than she does actually riding it.


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