December 5, 1933 was a joyous occasion for cocktail, spirits, beer, and wine enthusiasts in America because it was the official end of Prohibition in the United States. No matter what you’re imbibing this weekend, you’ll want to raise your glass to toast Repeal Day and all the folks who made it happen. As an added incentive to celebrate this nation’s rich history, we’re highlighting some of our favorite drinking destinations, from modern lounges paying homage to their glorious predecessors to vintage venues that have been around almost as long as Repeal Day itself.
Cleverly named in honor of a baseball player-turned evangelist who was vehemently against drinking during Prohibition, Billy Sunday (3143 West Logan Boulevard) deftly re-creates the popular cocktails of the time. You’ll find the Harvey Wallbanger and Old Fashioned, but also little-known libations like Hoar’s Frost, created in the early 1930s and made with gin, orange Curaçao, lemon, rum, and grenadine. The bartenders occasionally dress in the fashion of ‘tenders of those times, complete with vests and sleeve garters.
Bordel Cabaret & Cocktail Bar (1721 West Division Street) nods to the times of speakeasies, but in classic European fashion, and of course, oozes more sexiness than any bar in its vicinity. It’s inspired by the first modern caberet in the Latin Quarter of Paris, which is why you’ll be bombarded with flamenco performers, burlesque entertainers, jazz artists, and more. At the heart of its theme is the punch program, which you’ll appreciate if you’re rolling with a big group. They change with the seasons and never disappoint.
Coq d’or (140 East Walton Street) fetes its anniversary, too, on the day after Repeal Day. Remember how crazy long those lines used to get during Hot Doug’s heyday? Yeah, it was something like that on opening day at this legendary cocktail lounge at the Drake Hotel. What’s cool is that many of the original food and drink items remain on the menu, so go ahead and order favorites like Bookbinder soup made with red snapper or oysters Rockefeller. Oh, and this is a perfect place for a Bloody Mary or gin martini.
A list of throwback taverns wouldn’t be complete without including at least one Al Capone hangout. Green Mill (4802 North Broadway)–with its secret underground tunnels for a quick escape–was one of his favorite Chicago spots and we can understand why. With quiet corner booths, a darkly lit setting, and live jazz almost every night, it’s a player’s paradise. Plus, the cocktails. They were cranking out Manhattans long before they became fashionable again. Another Capone haunt is now known as the rustic, Italian-focused Gioco (1312 N. Wabash Ave., 312-939-3870) in the South Loop. Capone and company used to congregate in a secret dining room directly behind the main dining room. There’s no indication of a door. You have to be in the know to find it. It’s used primarily as a private dining room today, but the front room bar is also a popular stopover for cocktails for residents of the area.
While Capone actually hung out at Green Mill during his Chicago reign, a place like Untitled Supper Club (111 West Kinzie Street) would definitely capture his attention if he was around today. It has everything he appreciated: beautiful women performing burlesque onstage, one of the largest whiskey collections in the country, a lounge dedicated to Champagne, and live swing bands. There’s also a full kitchen, which means His Gangster-ness would have certainly reserved the biggest booth every weekend to indulge in a dry-aged New York strip and seafood tower filled with oysters, snow crab claws, shrimp, and grilled Maine lobster. Since he’s not here, you’ll have to do it for him.