I’ve worked downtown for 10 years and just stumbled across the coolest cocktail bar I’ve seen in a long time – yes, 2 blocks from my office. Called Vol. 39, this rare gem is located on the second floor of the year-old Kimpton Gray Hotel. I hesitate to write this in fear of overpopulating it…
Complete with great history, an amazing by-the-glass wine list (very hard to find), and a classic dark and sultry Chicago feel, this space has it all. The walls are lined with real law books (used by the prior owners from New Life Insurance) complete with highlights and dog-earred pages to prove their worth.
The wine list is unique and filled with fascinating options created by Lauren Parton, Vol. 39’s brilliant Sommelier. How many times do you see an Italian Kerner (Marco Donati) in an American bar, let alone by the glass? Or a brilliant Burgundy by the glass? Yes, the Thomas Morey Santenay Vieilles Vignes is pricey at $24/glass but an absolute treat to find and drink with its smoky, black pepper, and cherry seduction.
Even the Sauvignon Blanc is interesting at Vol. 39 where the Ermacora ($17/glass) is poured tasting of gooseberry, lime, wet rocks, and white flowers. There’s a Sancerre option in the Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fumé ($19/glass) as well, attesting to the emphasis on classic wines with a twist of the unusual.
You can also find elusive dry Riesling here with the Paul Blanck selection from Alsace. Wafting aromas of slate and mineral have real staying power through the classic stone, floral, and tropical fruit flavors that linger long after the spicy finish.
If you’re a Cabernet fan, you’ll be pleased to know that Round Pond “Kith and Kin” Cabernet Sauvignon is the by-the-glass option at Vol. 39. Priced at $24/glass, this robust red is perfect for a dusky evening surrounded by leather sofas and all those nostalgic books. You can perch near the corner windows with a floor-to-ceiling view of LaSalle and Monroe and watch the world go by.
Vol. 39 is open Monday through Saturday from 3pm-Midnight during the week and 3pm-11pm on Saturday. If you’re looking for a quiet classic space with incredible attention, service, and unique offerings, this is a must-visit. Vol. 39 even offers a Champagne and caviar option. Live jazz is also on-hand on Saturdays.
If you’re more into a rooftop scene, the Boleo bar on the hotel’s 15th floor offers a hip and vibrant Latin-infused vibe with a retractable roof in the summer months. It sports one of the best Willis Tower views around and is open year-round, Tuesday and Wednesday 4:30pm-Midnight and Friday and Saturday 4:30pm – 2am.
The Kimpton Gray Hotel itself is brand new and offers easy access to downtown attractions, public transportation, and any Financial district business meetings. Private space is also available on the 2nd, 14th, and 15th floors offering a great alternative to the traditional office scene.
Make sure to add Vol. 39 to your list of truly special bars in Chicago. You’ll be enchanted with the experience.
Chicago native Lauren Parton jumpstarted her career on the culinary side of the food and beverage realm, working as a line cook in the renowned kitchens of La Tache and The Signature Room. Eager to pursue further teachings, Lauren then began the certification process for becoming a Sommelier in 2009. She then joined the opening bar team at award winning Drumbar, working as a bartender alongside famed bartender Benjamin Newby, where she developed a passion for fusing the worlds of food and beverage to create innovative drinkable and edible cocktails. From there, Lauren was instrumental in leading the award-winning beverage programs at the W Hotel and Loews Chicago. Described as the “Greatest Mixologist in the World” by Emmy-award winning daytime television host, Steve Harvey, Lauren soon after coined the term “Libationist,” a tongue in cheek play on made up words used to describe molecular bartending. Now, as Sommelier of Vol. 39, Lauren looks forward to bringing non-mainstream wines to the forefront of the sophisticated lobby bar’s expansive wine program in her efforts to make lesser known varieties easy to understand and digest. When she’s not behind the bar, Lauren enjoys tooling around her patio garden, traveling, and hanging out with her husband John and their dog, CK Dexter Haven.