Start brushing up on your sugar skull-making skills. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is officially celebrated Nov. 1 and 2, but a slew of local hangs are already breaking out the azucar--and the alcohol. With the Mexican holiday comes a host of traditions: concocting elaborate, colorful skulls made of sugar; creating ofrendas, or altars, to honor deceased loved ones; and bringing meals, carnations and, yep, liquor to their graves. But the drinks aren't just for the departed; these spots offer holiday specials fit for toasting life.
Meztiso Latin Bistro & Wine Bar
Adobo Grill -- Wicker Park
If geography makes bringing tequila and mescal to your relatives' graves difficult, drink to them at the bar instead. This eatery offers several tequila flights that should get the job done, including the Muy Macho, Suave y Guapo ($10.50), which is how you'll be feeling once you've slung back these sippers. While you're there, try items from the Day of the Dead menu, including an appetizer of vegetarian enchiladas topped with pumpkin seed mole ($7.95), and the traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead) with Aztec chocolate dipping sauce ($6.95).
Why not just clink drinks to a dearly departed workday at happy hour? For $50, you can try a flight of four tastings of the Mexican liquor mescal--which, like tequila, is made from agave--from the Oaxaca region, home to one of the largest Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico. Or go cheaper with a glass of Don Maguey Cream ($12), a creamy, sweet mescal also from Oaxaca.
Get into a proper Day of the Dead mood at this Buena Park bar with the Black Martini, a sultry mix of vodka and Chambord ($7). Plus, this spot's conveniently located just a few blocks from Graceland Cemetery, where Chicago's dead reside on more than 100 acres. We're not demanding you bring offerings, but what better time to tour the elaborate tombstones of some of the city's most famous deceased? Look for railroad magnate George Pullman, "White City" planner Daniel Burnham and architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
Or, for a break from the bars visit the nation's largest Dia de los Muertos exhibit, "The Journey Home," featuring works by dozens of artists and many ofrendas paying homage to three important Chicago artists who passed this year: Carlos Cortez, Ed Paschke and Allen Stringfellow. Plan your visit around the sugar skull demos (10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. Through Nov. 4) or reserve a spot in a make-your-own class on Oct. 29 ($10).
Allison Knab is a metromix special contributor.
Originally published October 24, 2005.