Perfect for pre-show drinks or a post-work hang, Château Carbide, the 24th-floor terrace bar of the Pendry Hotel in the historic Carbide & Carbon Building, debuted its inaugural Winter Garden experience Nov. 17, a night so cold that launch party attendees were grateful that the bar boasts two ample pockets of intimate indoor space to go with the handsome outdoor cabanas, dubbed “urban lodges.”

The wooden cabanas, which seat six, are furnished with gas fire pits and piles of warm blankets that took some of the chill off as we sipped warm whiskey cocktails and took in the nighttime splendor of the Jewelers Building before retreating to the bar’s chandeliered front room overlooking Michigan Avenue.

Under the hotel’s previous iterations, this part of the 24th floor served as nondescript storage space, the GM told me. The Pendry has done a nice job turning it into a classy cocktail haunt complete with a table for two tucked into an arched hideaway on the south end of the room that provides views of the four gold chandeliers and as many banquettes designed to hold larger parties.

In previous years, the bar closed during the cold months, but the hotel decided to give the Winter Garden setup a go from mid-November on into spring. The drink manager explained that the four cocktails on offer at the party are the bar’s winter signature drinks, and feature Fever Tree mixers. In addition to the hot Irish whiskey drink, which was sorely needed after our tour in the cabanas, there’s a delicious sidecar as well as a mellow tequila-based drink. The rum cocktail on offer had a bit too much banana for my taste, but overall, the drink program is on point. There’s also a small selection of seasonal light bites, including s’mores with giant marshmallows of different flavors.

In this era of roped-off cabanas at pools, beaches, water parks and bars, one wonderful thing about this winter garden is that, though the urban lodges are available to reserve on OpenTable for 90-minute sessions, if you show up and there’s an open one available, you’re invited to sit right down, the GM told me.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that a winter terrace bar experience just south of the Mag Mile will succeed as the Loop struggles to get its nightlife groove back, but if genuine hospitality, creative cocktails and a beautiful, intimate space count for anything, perhaps Château Carbide can make its Winter Garden an annual tradition.

Château Carbide‘s Winter Garden at Pendry Chicago, 230 N. Michigan Ave., 24th floor, runs from mid-November through spring, and is open Wednesday through Sunday evenings..

Photo by Frank Sennett