From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. An awning over a discreet door in a West Loop industrial neighbourhood is the only sign that some of the world’s most exciting cocktails await. But step inside The Aviary, and it’s all subtle opulence, not that you can really tell because it’s so moodily lit.
Besides, your eyes are mesmerized by the team of mixologists hard at work behind the barred windows of the cocktail kitchen, as if captured in a sort of gilded cage.
There is always an element of theatre in a good bar, the dazzle of lights bouncing off a mixing glass, the rows of bottles lining the back bar like so many punters, the deft drama of the barkeep shaking a cocktail to his own overture. But the Beaufort Bar actually is a theatre, or was, back when it was the renowned cabaret stage at The Savoy, where the composer George Gershwin was known to strike up the band from time to time. When the hotel was renovated and reopened a decade ago, it was transformed into this glamorous Art Deco bar, all darkly gleaming in black and gold, perhaps the most romantic saloon in all of London.