Credit: Paul John Higgins

Back when smoking in bars was still legal, snagging logoed matchbooks from local watering holes served as a way to chronicle (and vaguely recollect) whatever went down the night before. Each book of matches acted both as a reminder and a memento of that night at [insert bar here] when [insert degenerate friend here] fell off a bar stool and yakked on some girl’s shoes as “Thunder Road” played on the jukebox.

Now that the ashtrays have long been discarded, today’s clues to last night’s exploits often come in the form of check-ins and Instagram photos. But we at the Reader know that Chicago’s bar scene—as divey in spots as it is posh in others, as depraved as it is elevated—deserves better keepsakes. So, what’s the best way to chronicle the high and low points of that south-side drinking tour, that unstoppable jukebox playlist, that lineup of formidable cocktails, that 7 AM bar crawl? Forget the smartphones, forget even the matchbooks—we wrote them all down.Kevin Warwick

The seven narratives in this year’s Bar Issue are far from the be-all and end-all of the Reader‘s alcohol-induced ambition. Not even close. Check out our Neighborhood Bar Guide for an ever-expanding database of worthy bars across Chicago—along with a few chasers for good measure.

A 7 AM bar crawl

We woke up early (on a Saturday!) to “investigate” the bizarre, sometimes dingy, culture of drinking with the sunrise.

A hangover cure—at a cost

Two Reader staffers intentionally drink too much, purposefully get hungover, and determine whether Chicago’s first hangover clinic is really all that.

A collection of curious cocktails

Eight bartenders contribute an unusual and delicious creation to our dream cocktail list.

Craft beer from the inside: A Gchat

To get a feel for the business, talk to the people doing the work.

Red Lion pub offers a respite—and a stiff manhattan—for weary film buffs

A conversation about the great western director John Ford with bartender Joe Heinen

A six-pack of south-side bars

Drinking below the 31st (Street) parallel

Twelve essential watering holes

Chicago booze enthusiasts (including Reader staffers) share their expert tips for drinking across the city, from morning to late night to the morning after.

Reader readers built their very own jukebox

We asked what would be in the perfect jukebox, and you queued up the tracks.