Chicago is obsessed with rooftop bars. Maybe it’s because we spend months during winter cooped up in hibernation mode combined with our affinity for tall buildings, but on a warm day we all flock to the roofs. Even I admit: when I want to go for a drink in the summertime — day or night — my first thought is to head up to a rooftop.
The IO Godfrey is only on the fourth floor off the Godfrey Hotel, but its location in River North makes it a prime spot for panoramic views of downtown Chicago. The part indoor, part outdoor bar even has a retractable roof over one of the bars for when those out-of-nowhere rainstorms hit.
At night, the IO Godfrey has a distinctly club feel to it — with the appropriately dressed crowd to match. It’s practically guaranteed to have a line at the door outside and plenty of people paying for bottle service inside. If that’s your scene, it’s a great place — it just isn’t mine.
So I was surprised how different the vibe is during a Sunday afternoon. It feels more like a restaurant, with majority of people sitting at tables, many eating brunch or lunch. The vibe was even — dare I say — relaxing.
The second thing I was blown away by was the drinks. I decided to forego my usual whiskey drink since it was a hot summer day and went for the Lavender Lemonade ($14), a boozy mix of lemon, granita, lavender syrup and Grey Goose. But the best part is that it changes color! The drink arrives in two parts, the yellow lemon granita and the blue lavender with vodka. You’d think it’d turn green when mixed but it actually goes a bright purple.
Here’s how it’s done (spoiler alert!). The blue mixture is made with butterfly pea flower, a blue blossom native to Asia, that reacts when mixed with something acidic (ahem, lemon) that makes it turn purple. The New York Times recently wrote about the popularity of these “mood-ring cocktails” with an explanation of how they work. (We’ll ignore the fact that it mentions another Chicago bar instead of IO Godfrey.)
IO Godfrey has other cocktail tricks up its sleeve, too. The mixologists behind the bar have joined the molecular gastronomy cocktail movement that’s become popular across the country by creating drinks that are interactive (like the lavender lemonade) or are enhanced as they are consumed. Another favorite of mine was the White Sangria ($14) with Grey Goose Le Melon, a splash of Moscato Caposaldo and pureed frozen fruit ice cubes. As the “ice” melted, the fruit flavor of the drink increased. It was awesome.
The Spring Awakening ($14) was shockingly green, like the green juice smoothie of my dreams: herb-infused pear Grey Goose, cucumber, granny smith apple, pineapple and kiwi. And did I mention that most of these cocktails come as pitchers for $48?
Besides brunch, the IO Godfrey has a whole menu of food from shareable cheese boards ($12) and BLT sliders ($16) to full-sized burgers ($14-15), a duck quesadilla ($15) and lamb “lollichops” ($16). (All their menus are here.) The only hard part is passing up the Italian food from the Godfrey’s first floor restaurant, Dolce. But that’s a whole other story in itself.
Needless to say, next time you’re looking for a rooftop bar with incredible cocktails, head to the Io Rooftop at the Godfrey Hotel.
Go to the IO Godfrey for :: unique cocktails with a view. Notes :: Open Monday-Friday 2pm – 2 am, Saturday 11am – 3am and Sunday 11am – 2am. Happy hour is Monday-Friday 4-7 pm, with half off select menu items. Reservations are accepted (and do not require bottle service during the day) by calling 312.374.1830. Note that nighttime has a dress code (“upscale casual attire”).
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Disclaimer :: I was graciously treated to a bloggers’ event showcasing the IO Godfrey. As always, all opinions are my own.