A “Fine-Dining Approach” to Drinking: The Aviary Offers Full-Course Cocktail Tasting Menu in Chicago

Chicago’s posh The Aviary bar applies the same “fine-dining approach” to cocktails that made Alinea one of the most renowned modernist restaurants in the world. Both are part of the culinary universe created by the highly awarded chef Grant Achatz. The lounge’s unique drinks—featured in the beautiful collection The Aviary Cocktail Books—have drawn eager imbibers to the venue and its sister space, The Office, both located in the city’s West Loop.

Lounge at the Aviary / Photo: Christian Seel

Positioned directly below The Aviary, The Office is a cozy, 22-seat speakeasy that boasts one of the world’s largest collections of rare spirits. There, just one chef, one bartender and one server work together to deliver one-off cocktails to suit your desires and mood. Upstairs, The Aviary takes creativity to a new level with presentations incorporating molecular gastronomy, custom service ware and an ever-evolving seasonal menu. The attention to detail includes an entire room with an ice chef dedicated to creating custom cubes.

The kitchen behind The Aviary’s “birdcage” / Photo: Courtesy of The Aviary

In addition to à la carte selections, The Aviary has curated several unique experiences. The three-course cocktail progression moves from delicate to rich creations, with guests able to choose different options. A five-course cocktail tasting menu with small bites of paired food, designed by the chef and bar team, offers a shared experience for the entire group. And the seven-course kitchen table experience, served in the midst of the culinary action, highlights the best that The Aviary has to offer, appropriately paired with food. This year’s more popular drinks include Great Pearing, a foggy caramel pu’er tea, chanterelle, pear, pine nut and whiskey concoction with a yuzu popsicle ready to be licked or bitten. In the Rocks comes as an ice sphere with the cocktail inside; it is served with a slingshot positioned on top, and the guest is instructed in how to crack open the ice. There are several versions: The latest is made with The Glenrothes Whisky Maker’s Cut, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Amaro Nonino, Campari and Angostura bitters. And we all loved Wicked Ass Pineapple, a creamy cocktail poured over mini charred pineapple ice spheres, which allows temperatures and flavors to come together as one.

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