photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is…blah, blah, blah. You need a drink. And you need it now. With all the caroling, ornaments, good tidings and all that jazz, downing a cocktail—or eight—is necessary to keep up your spirits during this season of good cheer. Sure, sipping some eggnog will work, but if you need to sneak away from the holiday hot spots, you need to know where to go.
This is where the well-trained professional Humbuggers of Centerstage come into play. If you've been stuffed to the ears with Santa talk or packed up to the rafters with Rudolph, sneak away and grab a beer while your spouse dawdles at the wrapping paper exhibit.
Shopping at Macy's on State Street
Drink at Infield's
With 10 floors of merchandise, Marshall Fie—err—Macy's is still Ground Zero for holiday purchase power. And in a brilliant move, the suits that ran Field’s put a bar in the basement. Just steps from the Chicago Pedway and nestled between the kitchenware and sportswear departments, InField's stocks a full bar to occupy Dad while the womenfolk go spend-crazy. Or vice-versa, of course.
Sports-themed with numerous televisions to prove it, Infield's offers a small selection of draft beers, with the usual suspects of domestics and imports (like Sierra Nevada and Heineken) on tap. Walnut Room slammed as usual? You'll find a sizable bar food menu, with pizzas, burgers and the like, here.
On (or off) the Rink at Millennium Park
Drink at Gage
Strapping on a pair of skates and going for a spin on the ice is one of the coolest things to do during winter in downtown Chicago. That is, of course, if you know how to skate. If you can't join in the reindeer games because of bad ankles, lack of skill or an aversion to falling down, shuffle to the Gage.
One of the newest additions to the near-Millennium Park dining options, Gage bills itself as a gastropub. It is, quite simply, a good bar with some tasty grub. For $12, the Winter Classic cocktail, a mix of Bacardi and pumpkin-spiced cider, rimmed with sugar and nutmeg, should not be missed. Beer and wine are on hand, but cold weather often calls for a good scotch or whiskey, which the Gage has in spades.
Checking out Christmas Around the World at Museum of Science and Industry
Drink at Cove Lounge
Don't let the two-block walk deter you from stopping by this favorite watering hole of University of Chicago students and Hyde Park locals. It'll take plenty of time for your family to check out the 50 Christmas trees, each honoring different cultural communities, decorating the expansive museum—time enough to sneak away and have a couple cocktails in the company of scholars and drinkers alike.
The Cove has very few frills: darts, a jukebox, cheap pitchers of beer and other low-priced drinks. But the pub’s cozy interior, decked with nautical wall fixtures, makes for the perfect place to hide out from the world on a cold afternoon or evening.
Wandering the Lincoln Park ZooLights
Drink at Ravens
After all that exposure to brightness, this subterranean bar's dim environs provide a welcome respite for your eyes, not to mention some cheap pints and talkative bartenders. Just make sure you've had your fill and gotten on your way before one or so; otherwise, you're sure to experience your second 'zoo' of the day, courtesy of lots of drunken Lincoln Parkers looking to prolong their buzz with loud jukebox tunes and shots. Or maybe that's your thing.
Shopping the Mag Mile
Drink at Pippin's Tavern
Out of the hundreds of stores on the Mag Mile, you're going to need at least one place to order a beer after you drop a hundred bucks on Aunt Matilda's special sweater. Yes, a cocktail will definitely be in order after dropping that kind of coin—and Pippin's is your place.
A lone outpost of sanity in a sea of near-Viagra Triangle priceyness and pretension, Pippin's keeps it surprisingly uncomplicated and inexpensive: The domestic bottle-of-the-month will usually only put you back $3. The dark interior makes for a great escape from the throngs of shoppers and tourists. It calls itself an "Irish tavern," but it's really just a good place to watch the Gold Coast go by—and mutter "bah humbug" from your barstool.