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2017 Best of Chicago
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Throw a Killer Cocktail Party

Winners for best barware, cocktail dress, entertainment, summer drink, fancy ice, host gift, bartenders, and preparty hairstyling.

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Photo: Dave Rentauskas

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Entertainment

1. La Tosca

This classically trained “Italian mambo” quintet provides refined background music that’ll actually make you want to pause the cocktail chatter at times and listen. The ensemble—with members from Bolivia, France, Panama, and Poland led by Andrea Falcone, an accordion player of Italian descent—performs everything from gypsy jazz to Brahms, all with an understated precision that can rise to full nightclub fury if the occasion calls for it. $400 an hour. infoandreafalcone@gmail.com

Summer Drink

2. Raymond Chester’s Sunshine Punch

This light and bright crowd pleaser, from the bartender at Lowcountry, features a cheery burnt orange hue and a tapestry of citrus flavors. Here’s how to make enough for 30 guests.

45 oz. Brugal Blanco Supremo rum
30 oz. Freshly squeezed orange juice
15 oz. Aperol
15 oz. Solerno blood orange liqueur
7½ oz. Carpano Bianco vermouth
60 dashes Bittermens Boston Bittahs
90 oz. Prosecco
2 to 4 Trays of ice cubes (the larger the cubes the better)
2 to 3 Cara Cara oranges, thinly sliced into rounds, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients, except the orange slices, in a very large bowl or container. Gently stir about 10 times. (Overstirring will water down the punch.) Strain into a very large punch bowl filled with ice and serve in coupes or Collins glasses garnished with orange slices.

Fancy Ice

3. JustIce

These crystalline blocks, cubes, and spheres won’t just look pretty in your guests’ libations. They’ll also melt more slowly than smaller cubes or crushed ice, so folks can take their time and not end up with watery sadness in the bottom of their glasses. $10 for a 20-piece bag. 1400 W. 46th St., icecoldjustice.com

Host Gift

4. Votive from Norcross and Scott

Less hassle than flowers, which send your host scrambling for a vase, this woodsy, blossom-scented candle by Chicago artisan Tatine ($19, plus Lassen matches, $8 a box, and brass matchbox cover, $30) will stay lit for about 16 hours. 1476 W. Berwyn Ave., norcrossandscott.com

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Bartenders

5. Carol’s Event Staffing

We don’t know whether Vince Vaughn’s wedding had any crashers, but it did have Carol’s waitstaff keeping the fun going. Carol Brewer has run her business for 23 years, so she’s learned a thing or two about how (and how much) Chicagoans drink. Her pro-grade bartenders, like Joshua Simpson (pictured), will work any size event, and they’ll even handle coat check. From $200. 5038 N. Lincoln Ave., carolseventstaffing.com

Barware

6. P.O.S.H.

This downtown emporium harbors a trove of vintage French glassware—pick up a set of old-school Champagne coupes—and Prohibition-era bar accoutrements, like a 1920s silver-plated ice bucket from a British hotel ($300). It’s just the right dose of ­nostalgia-tinged elegance. 613 N. State St., poshchicago.com

Cocktail Dress

7. Azeeza

Seen on the likes of Gabrielle Union, the Chicago designer Azeeza Khan’s flowy, diaphanous creations (like the shimmery Blake, $995, pictured) are a midsummer night’s dream. 900 N. Michigan Ave., azeeza.us

Preparty Hairstyling

8. Blowout Junkie

The stylists at the two chic, airy locations of this sibling-owned blowout bar use a deft touch—and luxe Kérastase styling products—to create sleek and modern looks that never stray into pageant-girl pouf. From $40. 445 W. Huron St.; 1219 W. Madison St.; blowoutjunkie.com

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