The summer drinking bucket list

10 things to try before fall hits

  • Patrons pose for photos at The J. Parker in Lincoln Park.
Patrons pose for photos at The J. Parker in Lincoln Park. (Lenny Gilmore )
August 15, 2012|By Emily Van Zandt | RedEye

For those keeping track, autumn officially begins on Saturday, Sept. 22. That means you have exactly six more weekends to capitalize on all the drinks, views and indulgences that Chicago bars serve up in the summertime. A lot can happen in six weekends, but because tailgates and hoodies will be here before you know it, you'll want to plan ahead. Here are 10 must-try-before-September ideas to get you started.

Take photos of a great view: Sure, you haven't worried about filling up Facebook photo albums with evidence of your summer adventures for years. But that doesn't mean your profile isn't aching for a new cover photo. Nothing should provoke the jealousy of non-Chicagoans quite like the stunning view from some of the city's rooftop bars. Squeeze in one last round of happy hour drinks at The J. Parker, Drumbar or Roof at the Wit Hotel and you'll be set.

Unwind on a hidden patio: This gorgeous weather will be gone before we know it. While some of the best drinking of summer seems to take place on patios, rooftops and terraces, it's nice to get away from crowds for awhile. Instead of cramming in as many crazy parties as you can, make a point of enjoying a chill weeknight outdoors at a more low-key space such as the patio behind Longman & Eagle, Frontier, The Whistler or Ada Street.

Snack on grilled goodies: True, we can keep grilling season going well into fall. But soon you won't be finding many free hot dog nights or dessert menus boasting grilled peaches. Snack on these seasonal menu additions while you can.

Opt for muddled fruit: The warmer months are prime pickings for stone fruits (apricots, peaches) and berries, which explains why you're seeing so many blueberry mojitos on menus. If fruit-based cocktails are a guilty pleasure for you, be sure to get in your fill before bars have to start opting for frozen mixes to stand in for fresh fruit.

If you haven't tiki'd yet, do it: Ah, rum. It never quite goes out of style, but now more bars than ever seem keen to whip up traditional tiki cocktails such as the Painkiller, Zombie or mai tai. Hit a cocktail lounge such as Sable Kitchen & Bar or The Barrelhouse Flat to try one before the season changes and you start to get the side-eye from friends for not ordering whiskey.

Down the summer brews: Still have a leftover Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy sitting in the fridge? Never quite finished that Sam Adams summer sampler pack? Now is the time to haul it to a buddy's backyard and get rid of the stuff. Sure, the beer will keep for months, but you don't want to be that guy drinking summer brews in October.

Finish the cans: The same clean-out rule goes for the stockpile of pool-ready cheap canned beers you've built up. Cans are great, but they're much more necessary when you're near the water. Time to make room for some new fall additions.

Plan a day session: If you're looking to finish all your summer beer leftovers, there's really no better way than the scheduled day drink. Find a backyard. Find some friends. Find some music. Definitely find some food. Pretty soon backyard beer marathons will give way to living room DVD marathons, and it's just not the same.

Find your new favorite summer white: When it comes to summer wine options, nothing is quite as refreshing as a chilled, crisp white wine. So if you're typically a malbec-only kind of drinker, use these last few weeks of hot weather to experiment with your wine choices and come up with the perfect post-pool bottle of sauvignon blanc or chardonnay.

Scope out a fall football bar: There's no harm in dreaming about what's next in Chicago bar life: football season. If you don't already have a go-to for your team's games, do some research and make a plan to do some test runs before the season gets underway. Because nobody wants to be stuck at a bar with bad wings, flat beer and no sound.

Emily Van Zandt is a RedEye reporter. evanzandt@tribune.com | @redeyedrinks

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