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Issue 103 - Drinking in the Windy City

Whisky Magazine Issue 103
April 2012


This article is 6 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Drinking in the Windy City

Charles K. Cowdery takes us to some of his favourite haunts in this North American city

Chicago was established in the 1780s because its location, connecting the inland river system with the Great Lakes, was good for trade. One of its first buildings was a saloon. Since then, Chicago has never been without a formidable array of drinking establishments. Bars recovered quickly after the Great Fire of 1871, and even during the dark days of National Prohibition (1920-1933), thirsty citizens could usually find relief.

Chicago's illicit bars in those days weren't like the classic speakeasies for which New York is famous, with hidden entrances and whispered passwords. They operated more or less openly thanks to mutually beneficial co-operation between Al Capone's gangsters and Chicago's civic leadership, including its police.

Nelson Algren, the great literary chronicler of Chicago's seedier side, won his greatest acclaim for a novel about heroin addiction, but he was mostly a drinker. He drank whatever rot gut was cheap or, better yet, whatever somebody else was buying.

Chicago's drinking scene still has an ‘anything goes' ethos, reflected mainly in its diversity. You can sip your whiskey in wood-paneled luxury or among inked-up punk rockers, the choice is yours.

2657 North Kedzie Avenue, Chicago
Chicago's diverse neighbourhoods are where the fun is. Kedzie Avenue is the Main Street of Logan Square, site of a rare Chicago roundabout that circles a Doric column erected in 1918 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Il...

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