Taste of Chicago

Drinking at Taste of Chicago: The Free, The Cheap, and The Boozy

If you are willing to wait in line, you can get free drink samples.
If you are willing to wait in line, you can get free drink samples. Photo: Galdones Photography

For the past few days, Taste of Chicago has enjoyed a string of pleasant, sunny days; don’t expect them to last. Starting today, temperatures will climb into the mid-80s, with 90s expected tomorrow. This all means that it is more important than ever to stay hydrated while sampling the best from the fest. Though not quite as numerous as the food choices, there are still plenty of drink options, and not all of them cost money. Check out our guide below to see how to keep from getting too thirsty at Taste of Chicago.

You should first consider taking the responsible route. According to Taste of Chicago’s Tips page, “No coolers containing alcoholic beverages will be permitted into the event.” So, though you can’t legally get blitzed for cheap at the festival, it does mean that you can bring in as many jugs of water as you’d like. Don’t feel like lugging it all the way from home? There are Walgreens conveniently located at 36 South Wabash Avenue, 30 N Michigan, and 15 W Washington Street.

Still, if you absolutely refuse to bring in your own non-alcoholic drinks, here are the options:

The Free
If you’re crafty and don’t mind waiting in a few lines, it is totally possible to survive on nothing but free drink samples. We spotted booths for Ocean Spray, Pepsi Max, and Sierra Mist (pictured above), and we are sure there are more.

The Cheap
Water and soft drinks are abundant and relatively affordable. We mean, they are affordable in relation to other major festivals around town. You’ll still have to shell out more than two dollars for each, and that seems like a waste when you could be getting more food. That said, you’ll certainly need something after a sample of Lao Sze Chuan’s dry chili chicken.

The Boozy
The idea of sipping an ice cold beer in the middle of Grant Park is an appealing thought. We’ve already mentioned that you are forbidden from taking in your own stash of booze, so what are your options? In general, the selection of beer is relegated to Budweiser and Bud Light, and each costs about five dollars. That isn’t exactly highway robbery, but it is undoubtedly more than you’d pay at the corner bar.

Want something with a little more character than Bud? We suggest making your way to Buckingham Fountain, where we found a beverage stand selling Stella Artois, Becks, and even Goose Island Summertime. Each beer costs 11 tickets, which breaks down to a hefty seven dollars a drink, but they are 16 ounce portions.

If you’re looking to get sauced for cheap, the best option may actually be wine. Sure, you’ll probably have to drink Gallo Family Vineyards, but each is going for 7 tickets, which is still under $5 a drink.

Drinking at Taste of Chicago: The Free, The Cheap, and The Boozy