Even if helicopter taxis and butt implants don't evoke images of a certain South American sweet spot, the mention of Carnivale should send you straight to Rio. While Chicago's Brazilian community doesn't nearly match the size of its Polish or Puerto Rican counterparts, plenty of local culture makers and shakers—musicians, DJs, promoters and dancers—are committed to spreading the Brazilian love. We found up a few spots that know how to mix a mean capirinha, break out the bossa nova and samba the night away.
Sonotheque This Wicker Park bar caters to an electronic music-savvy crowd of twenty-and-thirtysomethings, and the monthly Braziliance party is no different. The first Thursday of every month, owner/DJ Joe Bryl and friends choose a theme (a past event paid tribute to bossa nova star Antonio Carlos Jobim) to guide the night's musical journey. Expect to hear tunes rarely played State side while you watch video performances by artists like Elis Regina on the flat screen above the bar and sip specialty cocktails like the Braziliance ($7), a mix of Maker's Mark, sugar, fresh mint leaves and fresh lime juice. If you pre-party on Flo's Brazilian eats beforehand, you'll bypass Sonotheque's $10 cover.
n Samba students, Brazilian natives and curious newbies from all over town come to N Tuesday nights to enjoy the spicy sounds of Bossa Tres, a trio that plays various Brazilian genres, including samba, forro and, of course, bossa nova. There's never a cover, and the dancing becomes increasingly intense as the night progresses. You might even catch a group sing-along. The band performs in the back of the two-room space, so if you find yourself feeling out of place, the front room will offer solace in the form of stiff capirinhas ($8). Knock back a cocktail along with a plate of tapas and you'll feel like you're in Rio, no matter how biting the wind.
SushiSamba Rio You'll pay a pretty penny for the Brazilian Peruvian Japanese cuisine at SushiSamba Rio, but the food won't disappoint and the parties are even better. On Favela Wednesdays the restaurant hosts a live band playing a mix of samba, Latin and house music on an elevated stage in front of a screen projecting Carnivale footage. Acrobats, capoeristas and breakdancers will get your blood pumping just by watching. If you'd rather save on dinner but want to see the show, slide up to the sushi bar for a sambatini ($11),a specialty cocktail that changes monthly and features combinations like Bacardi Limon, peach schnapps, Spanish sparkling wine, lime and mango juice and mint leaf.
Swirl Wine Bar If acrobats and breakdancers are a bit much, the low-key style of Swirl might be a better foray into Brazilian culture. While the bar features live music every night it's open, only Fridays host jazz and samba fusion by Trio Mare. A professional crowd packs the place after 11 p.m., but don't expect a dance party to break out among the clad-in-black, almost clubby scene. It is a wine bar after all. Still, after a few slices of the caramelized pear, onion, garlic aioli and mozzarella-topped thin-crust pizza, ($11) and a bottle of wine, you'll have a hard time resisting the sexy samba sway.