Best Chicago Spirits

May 13, 2011 7:00 AM

Few towns have a history of distilling quite like Chicago. Unfortunately, most of them were bootleg moonshine operations, whose legacies didn’t quite survive the end of Prohibition. Luckily, a new class of spirit-makers has appeared in Chicago, producing gins, whiskeys, and plenty of other intoxicating substances that aren’t brewed in a bathtub. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites made in Chicagoland or made by Chicagoans.

North Shore

Since their launch in 2006, the pioneers at North Shore have lead the way in bringing back artisanal spirits to Chicago. Their vodka and distillers gins have made waves, but their specialty spirits have raised the bar even further – they make one of the few American Aquavits, and their Corpse Reviver – an interpretation of a classic morning cocktail with gin, lillet, orange liqueur and a touch of absinthe (which they also produce).


Started in early 2009, Koval came onto the scene with their own spirits – ones not only Chicago-made, but organic and kosher as well. Wife and husband team Sonat and Robert work with their family to make exotic spirits like millet whiskey, rose hip liquor, and more. One of their more exotic products is a Bierbrand – a spirit made from beer – which comes from their next-door neighbors Metropolitan Brewing.


While Bittercube might be based out of the Milwaukee area, co-founder Ira Koplowitz got his chops from two years at Chicago’s own Violet hour. After two years of serving premium cocktails there, Koplowitz and Twin Cities resident Nick Kosevich came together to make a series of high-end bitters to enhance cocktails. Their flavors include exotic blends like the Bolivar (with chamomile, cinnamon and dried fruits) or the Blackstrap (with molasses, clove, sassafras and sarsaparilla).


One of the more unique spirits to come out of Chicago, Hum is a new type of spirit in the spirit of Amaros and other botanical liqueurs. Created by Chicagoan Adam Seger and London’s Joe McCanta, Hum’s notes of hibiscus, cardamom, ginger and kefir lime make a unique addition to sparking wines, vodka drinks, and many other cocktails.


(credit: Malort Flickr)


The most famous – and probably infamous – liquor in Chicago. A Swedish bitters, Jeppson’s is a juniper-laced 70-proof monster that the company describes it as such: “It is not possible to forget our two-fisted liquor. The taste just lingers and lasts – seemingly forever.” True words, as the liquor’s aftertaste kicks so strongly that an entire photogroup on Flickr is devoted to people’s faces after they ingest the “rugged and unrelenting” spirit.

Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukranian Village. He enjoys eating and drinking above his means, finding new music, and socially conscious hedonism.

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