When Paul McGee, perhaps the city’s most beloved mixologist, decamped from craft cocktail mecca the Whistler to the behemoth restaurant chain Lettuce Entertain You in February 2012, his acolytes all but set his famous beard ablaze in protest. Last summer, they put down their matches. McGee’s new bar is the best to open in Chicago last year, thanks to an outstanding 16-cocktail menu (eight classics, eight originals, all impec- cably executed) and irresistibly kitschy Hawaiian charm.
Weekdays find the subterranean space packed to the gills with smart- suited business types. Come weekends, River North glitterati descend. Not to be outdone by the clientele, drinks are as decorative as they are strong—such as the Jet Pilot, a potent mix of three rums, cinnamon, lime juice, grapefruit juice, absinthe, and bitters, dressed to the nines with a cinnamon stick, pineapple leaves, citrus peels, and edible flowers. If your crew is among the lucky ones to nab a cushy leather booth, celebrate with one of McGee’s famous themed punch bowls ($45 to $65).
Who’s there: Pretty young things and professionals (with loosened ties)
What to order: Painkiller No. 3 and, for your own good, a snack (try the coconut shrimp)