The bad news: Summer’s unofficial halfway point, the Fourth of July, has come and gone. The good news: Counting Labor Day, we’ve still got nine weekends of summer drinking to go. The Chaser, for one, plans to make every sip count. Here, the top five bars on my to-drink list—from a few old standbys I’ve yet to see this season to a couple of newbies that deserve another visit:
1. Village Tap: This is one neighborhood bar worth leaving your neighborhood for. Grab a picnic table on the back patio of this Roscoe Village watering hole and order up a couple of pitchers from its list of megapours, arguably the city’s best. To drink: Two Brothers Domaine DuPage or Lagunitas IPA ($16 each).
2. The Drawing Room: Sometimes summer is about slugging brews in beer gardens; sometimes it’s about putting on that slinky dress you can’t wear in the winter, no matter how warm your coat is. To drink: Get gussied up and order my so-simple-it’s-genius favorite, the slightly spicy Drawing Room Manhattan ($13).
3. Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar: A bundle of high-buzz bars have opened this summer (Terrace at Trump, Roof, District), but this cozy joint is the one spot I can’t wait to head back to. The wine list reads like a love poem to grapes, and you’ll love where your money is going: into the pockets of a trio who have worked themselves into the ground bringing quality vino to Humboldt Park. To drink: the 2008 Muga Garnacha Rioja, a Spanish rosé ($26 a bottle).
4. Simone’s: This Pilsen bar opened with a bang in February, thanks in part to its Pop Rocks–rimmed cocktails, but the spot’s latest drink roster is both wildly imaginative and trendy (The Terrace at Trump serves something just like its Elderfizz—a mix of St. Germaine and cava—only more expensive). To drink: Peter’s Pickled Pepper, made with Reyka vodka and jalapeno- and thyme-infused pickle brine ($9).
5. La Finca (3361 N. Elston Ave.; 773-478-4006): I’m still mourning the death of Pontiac Café, my go-to spot for pints (always plural) of margaritas, but this Mexican restaurant-bar in Avondale almost hits the nail on the head. While the massive patio may not be quite as good as Pontiac’s for people-watching, it’s a prettier place to kick back—and way less crowded than the nearby El Cid 2. To drink: a pitcher of ’ritas ($22).