A's List: What You Should Be Sipping on 7 Sizzling Chicago Rooftops

The J. Parker features globally inspired cocktails. (Photo: Boka Restaurant Group)

by Audarshia Townsend

When it comes to rooftop drinking in Chicago, the competition is fierce. I remember when the only game in town was NoMI, which is still very good, but since it opened in the early 2000s, so many others have managed to grab the spotlight. We highlight some of the city’s high-flying stars and what you should be imbibing in the open air.

AIRE's High Fidelity cocktail (bottom) (Photo: Integrated Clark Monroe, LLC)

AIRE

Why We Love It: The Financial District destination serves as the perfect respite for an after-work gathering. Guests may settle into AIRE’s urban garden atmosphere that’s set against phenomenal 360-degree views of vintage and modern skyscrapers. It’s on the 24th floor of the Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago.

What To Drink: High Fidelity is a little bit of Southern hospitality in the Windy City. The base is a nicely aged bourbon enhanced by black tea syrup and rhubarb bitters. It’s garnished with a fresh lemon peel.

The Fibonacci cocktail at Apogee (Photo: The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group)

Apogee

Why We Love It: Dana Hotel & Spa is completely re-inventing itself in 2017 with new dining and drinking concepts. Apogee replaces clubby Vertigo Sky Lounge with a high-concept cocktail lounge. It’s great for groups—try to snatch up seats on the outside bar surrounding the firepit—who want to blow off steam with inventive large-format libations.

What To Drink: You’ll find many bright stars on Apogee’s menu, including Fibonacci, which is made with aquavit from local spirit leader North Shore Distillery, plus rum, fresh raspberry puree and lemon. It arrives in a vintage-looking, silver-plated punch bowl and adorned with fresh flowers. It’s ideal for couples.

Safe Spaces may be ordered in three versions at Celeste. (Photo: Jackie Trezzo)

Celeste

Why We Love It: You must get past the thumping Disco club on the third level to indulge in this magical space certain to make you feel like royalty. Celeste’s English-inspired roof garden is decorated with Victorian-style furniture that’s been modernized with tropical pattern upholstery. The best part? The lounge is open yearround now that it’s been equipped with a retractable rooftop.

What To Drink: What’s especially cool is that Celeste offers all its signature cocktails in three different large-format options. Guests may choose from The Gnome, which serves one for $18; The Owl, serving two to three for $40; and the double punch bowl, which serves up to five for $150. Got a whiskey drinking crew? Order Safe Spaces of Wild Turkey 81, apricot, lemon and Earl Grey tea. It’s garnished with candied ginger.

The J. Parker features globally inspired cocktails. (Photo: Boka Restaurant Group)

J. Parker

Why We Love It: The 13th floor is nothing but good vibes as J. Parker is the only bar in the city overlooking beautiful Lincoln Park. There are also nice views of the lakefront, which especially come in handy during the Chicago Air & Water Show weekend. You'll find it atop Hotel Lincoln, and it’s open yearround.

What To Drink: The globally inspired cocktail menu features tipples originating from places as far as Argentina and Thailand. Pacific Coast Highway is California focused, light and made with gin, an aperif, rhubarb, citra hops, grapefruit and lemon.

Sake Sangria is one of the Japanese-inspired cocktails at Noyane. (Photo: Conrad Chicago)

Noyane

Why We Love It: "Noyane" translates to "hidden roof" in Japanese, but if you're at eye level with this fashionable alfresco bar, it's easy to spot. Its sleek, minimalist design consists of muted slate colors throughout the venue, enhanced by fresh flowers, modern furniture and strategically placed light fixtures. Featuring sweeping views of some of the swankiest parts of downtown Chicago, Noyane is Conrad Chicago's seasonal rooftop lounge.

What To Drink: Many of the cocktails are modern renditions playing up the Japanese theme. There's sake sangria, Toki Old Fashioned (made with Japanese whiskey) and Kyoto Collins, which is amped up with green tea-infused gin.

Honey Hibiscus Royal at Raised (Photo: Matthew Lowell)

Raised

Why We Love It: Raised, located on the third level of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, offers spectacular views of Chicago, which include skyscrapers, boats floating along the Chicago River and the bustling foot traffic on State Street. It's a perch enjoyed by locals and hotel guests as they sip craft cocktails made with many local ingredients and spirits.

What To Drink: Raised’s Honey Hibiscus Royal is an updated version of the classic Kir Royale. The locally sourced organic wild flower honey is meant to balance the bitterness of the hibiscus liqueur, then the drink is topped off with prosecco.

The Coyote is one of the seasonal cocktails on the menu at Up & Up. (Photo: The Robey)

Up & Up

Why We Love It: From Up & Up’s perch, guests can see north of Wrigley Field and south of Guaranteed Rate stadium. That’s pretty fantastic for a hotel rooftop bar, and this one is on the 13th floor of The Robey. There are also sleek spaces to sit indoors and outdoors to sip seasonal drinks.

What To Drink: The menu’s always changing and experimenting with offbeat combinations. For The Coyote, Up & Up bartenders have whipped up a sinfully smoky sipper of single-malt scotch, Cynar 45, sweet vermouth and grapefruit bitters. It’s garnished with fresh rosemary and lemon peel.

See previous A's List columns right here.

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