At Sparrow, Step Back in Time to a 1927 Cuban Speakeasy

The historic refinement of the Gold Coast is certainly on display inside Sparrow, inspired by Chicago’s great hotel lobby bars of the past. Maybe it’s the city’s mobster history – that big Capone energy – that makes indulging at this Speakeasy-style bar feel so very right.

In fact, mere steps away is Butch McGuire’s, a pub that’s rumored to have been frequented by gangsters at the height of Prohibition. It’s been said that tunnels ran underneath, giving way to all sorts of illicit acts of trade and debauchery.


Image by Sparrow.

The Atmosphere at Sparrow

That risqué feeling continues when you step inside Sparrow – an elegant take on what feels like a throwback. Quintessential dim lighting leads you towards seating that’s discreetly tucked away; it seems an unspoken agreement that all things here should be kept low-key.

Subtle botanical features catch the eye, both in the form of wallpaper and potted plants scattered throughout. The vintage picture frames and dark wood trim also contribute to a sophisticated retro aesthetic. Maintaining their cool factor, Sparrow grants you a hotel key off the wall upon arrival, knowing it will be returned once when it’s time to ‘check out’ for the evening.


Image by Sparrow.

About the Cocktails

Despite the relaxed atmosphere, Sparrow’s Cuban-inspired cocktails are bold and charismatic, and rum is our leading lady. Specialty glasses are filled to the brim with creations to make your tongue tingle. This may just be the kiss of citrus that usually accompanies a rum spirit, but it’s more likely the lively and inventive flavor fusions. The Hotel Nacional cocktail is a cheerful concoction of pineapple rum, apricot liqueur, and lime juice, while The Floridita features maraschino, lime, and grapefruit flavors.

But standing out from the crowd (and the rest of the menu) is the Grasshopper: Sparrow rum cream, crème de cacao and crème de menthe, resulting in a stunning presentation with a generous mint garnish adorning the glass. The presentation is stylish but remains more subtle than other, more outlandish Chicago cocktail spots. Sparrow’s aesthetic aligns well with that of the Gold Coast’s – they personify refined elegance that doesn’t have to try too hard.

As Sparrow’s website touts, “We welcome all and don’t feel the need to flaunt; iconic in look and service,” we concur.

Visit Sparrow in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago located at 12 West Elm St, Chicago, IL 60610. Sparrow accepts walk-ins only.