You Better Work

Where to plan last-minute holiday drinks for your office mates

No time to plan an office holiday party? Don't sweat it; you're not alone. Instead, embrace spontaneity and toast the holidays with your co-workers at the following easily accessible downtown bars, no reservations required.

While you would need reservations to book its massive private party room, Howells & Hood, one of Chicago's largest beer halls, is usually a sure bet for an impromptu happy hour. The bar and restaurant occupies 17,300 square feet of indoor space and offers an impressive selection of domestic and international beers some 114 varieties deep. So even your picky boss can find one s/he likes.

If your manager's being a Scrooge about party costs, go divey at Stocks & Blondes, a favorite among the Loop's banking and finance set. You and your work friends can score great deals on pints of beer every day of the week, and shareable eats such as Wall Street Jalapeño Poppers ($6.50) and Fortune Wings ($8) will give you a simple, inexpensive bar-food fix on a budget (if you're not allowed to expense).

Working in South Loop? Stop in at Blackie's, a historic brick tavern that's been around since 1939. Martinis such as the Chicago River, made with Bombay Sapphire, blue curaçao, pineapple and orange juice, will run you about $7.50, while the small draught beer selection tops out at $5—making Blackie's one of the more affordable options around.

Perched on Upper Wacker Drive, Primebar's sweeping dining room is prime for quenching the collective thirst of your office comrades. Team-build and get festive over French martinis ($10), La Palomas ($10) and Manhattan Projects ($13) with barrel-aged bitters.

Owned and operated by Bottleneck Management, the same folks behind Howells & Hood, South Branch Tavern & Grille has great drinks and delicious, shareable appetizers, along with enough space to get in without a reservation. Schmooze with your boss over Bang Bang shrimp ($13), buffalo rolls ($12) and cornmeal beer-battered fried cheese curds ($10), and pick your poison from the tavern's lengthy drinks list.

Conveniently located near Amtrak, Metra and CTA stations, One North is a great after-work drinks option for co-workers commuting from both near and far. The cozy, mahogany-accented bar has floor-to-ceiling windows with breathtaking views of the Lyric Opera and is spacious enough to accommodate a sizeable number of walk-ins. Loosen up with craft cocktails (all $12) such as Grey Goose-based build-your-own Moscow Mules and an arugula martini with muddled arugula, lime juice, agave nectar and Tanqueray.

With any of these options, you'll be able to hold your head high at the office the next day.