150 Years of Bacardi at The Underground

When you think of the concept of an “underground” nightclub you often think about New York, Vegas or L.A. but seldom of Chicago. Granted, Chicago has a fair number of clubs, but the vibe of a trendy, exclusive nightclub is simply not something that one thinks of when thinking about Chicago. Once you visit The Underground, however, you might just change your mind.

The Underground is located at 56 West Illinois Street, but don’t expect to see a big sign. Just like their name suggests, you more or less have to know that they are there in order to find them. On their website, the Underground describes themselves as “an avant-garde re-creation of a top-secret, military hideaway complete with hand-carved cocktail tables, a giant illuminated world map, lounge sofa seating, two bars, and lighting as soft and complimentary as it is dramatic.”

Last Friday, I had the pleasure to be invited to a special event at The Underground celebrating the 150-year heritage of Bacardi rum. This event was a continuation of (hopefully) a series of cocktail events called “The Art of the Cocktail.”   You can check out photos from their September event celebrating the Cosmopolitan.


The star of the evening was Benjamin Newby, general manager/operating partner of the Underground, but also a supremely talented mixologist. Just check out their regular cocktail menu and you will see just how inventive he can be.

Throughout the event, he gave us the history of Bacardi and of each of the four major rum-based cocktails featured in the evening: Cuba Libre, Mai Tai, Mojito and The Bond Girl. The presentation was highly theatrical, with costume changes, lighting changes, music and cocktail waitresses who kept changing their outfits to fit the theme of each drink. I certainly hope that they continue this series of cocktail-centered events, as both the venue and the staff are extremely well-suited for just this type of fun, theatrical presentation.

If you read reviews of The Underground, you will notice a wide diversity of opinions. Apparently (especially on weekends) it’s extremely difficult to get in and the lines can be ridiculously long. For their special events, however, the doors open earlier than their normal starting time and attendance at one of these events might just be the perfect way to experience The Underground without fighting the long lines. Although they have not announced any plans for another cocktail event, they are gearing up now for a series of fashion events in April. Here’s the information from their website:

Rockit Ranch Productions and Garmental.com present the Second Annual Style Series–showcasing the hottest fashions to hit the streets this season kicking off this Thursday night and continuing every Thursday in April! Doors open at 9pm.

RSVP to Styleseries@theunderground.com

Each week enjoy a runway presentation of the season’s latest fashion trends from brads including Ted Baker, Sass & Bide, Earnest Sewn, Ella Moss, AGGAB, and many more!

April 5th – Going Digital with bright-colored neons and trendy digital prints. Need we say more?

April 12th – Hyper-Local featuring all local Chicago designers’ styles, all modeled by Chicagoans.

April 19th – British Invasion featuring Britain’s own DJ Kayper. “Savile row to Portobello road,” a mix of British sophistication and London punk.

April 26th – Swimwear so get ready for summer as the Underground is transformed to a Hampton getaway!

Stylings by Suzanne Kopulos and Models provided by Factor Runway.

Described as one of the sexiest places in the world” by Cosmopolitan Magazine, The Underground was also named “One of America’s Top Ten VIP Lounges” by Playboy. The Underground may not be “your thing” and it’s certainly not my normal night out, but you should definitely try it out at least once. The venue is rather small and after midnight becomes extremely crowded, but the people watching is superb (celebrity sightings abound) and they do have some talented bartenders and a cool, hip vibe.


NOTE: Photo credit Tasya Menaker for all photos attached to this post.







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