The Signature Lounge at the 96th: A Drink with the Best View of Chicago

Written By Caroline in Reviews

One Clean Plate - The Signature Lounge at the 96th - Espresso Martini and Chicago's Best Sidecar Martini by Caroline Wik

The "Chicago's Best" Sidecar Martini (left) and Espresso Martini (right) at The Signature Lounge. (Click for full size.)

The Signature Lounge at the 96th

Inside John Hancock Center
875 N Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Plates
Hours: Sun: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Mon-Sat: 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Mon-Thurs: 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fri-Sat: 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Price Range: Cocktails: $13-$16
Wine & Premium Drinks: $30 – $150
Snacks: $8 – $15


Signature Room at the 95th on Urbanspoon

For locals and tourists looking to get a great view of Chicago, the logical response is to visit an observation deck on the top of one of the tall skyscrapers in the city (there are many of those.) The John Hancock building, while not the tallest, sits at the top of the Magnificent Mile and boasts one of the best views of the city.

There’s also a bar.

Two adults can pay the $17 fee each to visit the John Hancock Observatory, or, they can go a couple floors up to The Signature Lounge at the 96th – where the price is one drink per person.

Now, the drinks at The Signature Lounge are overpriced just like most bars in the city, but these are overpriced with a fantastic view.

Parts of the Signature Lounge overlook the Signature Room – the partnering restaurant immediately below – however the majority of its tables and booths line the windows overlooking downtown Chicago. Like the observatory, it can get ridiculously crowded fast, especially at night, so we used this as an excellent excuse to get drinks for lunch (What? There’s nothing wrong with drinking at noon!)

The elevator ride to the 96th floor is blazingly fast. When we got there it was only 11:10 – moments after the place had opened – and all the seats along the window had already been filled. There was no server or host around so after several minutes of standing around awkwardly we just took a seat. Almost immediately after we did the server rushed in bringing a snack to another table. She took our drink order and disappeared back into the kitchen.

One Clean Plate - The Signature Lounge at the 96th - Elevator Sign by Caroline Wik

Two special elevators take you straight to The Signature Room at the 95th and The Signature Lounge at the 96th.

We waited a painfully long time for our drinks to come out, although it was lucky in a way since one of the tables lining the window left before she could bring our drinks out, so we let her know we wanted their seat.

It wasn’t too much longer until our drinks arrived and by then I’d already snapped more than a dozen photos of the city. Mine was the Espresso Martini ($14) and Adam had the “Chicago’s Best” Sidecar Martini ($14.50).

The Espresso Martini was a mix of Thatcher’s Espresso liqueur, Absolute vodka and Bailey’s Irish Cream then garnished with coffee beans. It had a mild taste of espresso, cream and a punch of vodka – definitely going to wake you up at noon.

The Chicago’s Best Sidecar Martini was a blend of Hennessey V.S.O.P., Cointreau and lime juice, with a lime for garnish.

Both drinks were, overall, alright. Nothing mind-blowing but certainly far from bland or terrible. In all fairness this place is best for the view – not so much the food and drink. Unless you come here at an odd time like we did, expect a long wait just to get in.

Where’s your favorite place for a view? Anywhere with a restaurant or bar? Let us know in the comments! For more pictures check out our Signature Lounge Facebook Gallery and while you are there Like us too!

One Clean Plate - View of Chicago from The Signature Lounge at the 96th Caroline Wik

View of Chicago from our table at The Signature Lounge at the 96th.

Verdict: A Great View with Good Drinks

The Signature Lounge at the 96th is a decent bar with an astounding view of Chicago. The drinks are good but overpriced which is expected being a touristy spot. However, if the view is all you care about you can save a bit of money by going here and ordering a drink than going to the John Hancock Observatory two floors below. Protip: The view from the women’s bathroom is the best. Being a touristy place there may be a long wait to get inside unless you go at an odd time.

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