Craft Spirits Week Chicago

September 28 2012 - 12:09 PM

In case you haven’t noticed, the craft spirits scene is booming in Chicago. Like, big time.

It began in 2004 with Lake Bluff’s North Shore Distillery, was followed up by Koval — the first distillery within Chicago proper — in 2008, and continued last year with the debut of FEW Spirits in Evanston.

But just as Andy Warhol once said: “One’s company, two’s a crowd, and three’s a party.” And this party’s just getting started.

2012 has marked the start for three new area distilleries — Letherbee, Quincy Street, and Tailwinds – and, not uncoincidentally, it also marks the city’s first Craft Sprit Week.

Organized by North Shore, Koval and FEW, Craft Spirit Week Chicago is a collection of events around town focusing on the small batch work done here and elsewhere, and it brings together like-minded folks to celebrate everything scratch-produced. The festivities run next week — October 1 -6, 2012 – and feature interesting bar programs, spirit-driven dinners, and the Independent Spirits Expo.


The most-up-to-date details as well as times and prices (if applicable) can be found on the Craft Sprit Week Calendar of Events, but here’s a quick smattering of where the best drinks are to be had next week.

Tuesday, October 2 – Spirit Specifics

During the day, — Who needs work anyway? — there are two major educational opportunities with a whiskey class at the Columbia Yacht Club and the first of a four-part “Mezcal Master” class at Binny’s South Loop. Both are big bucks and require reservations. Space is limited.

The Art of Aperitifs and DigestifsMore up my alley, however, are the chances for hands-on learning happening later in the evening. Simultaneous cocktail and spirit tastings are popping up all around town with either no, or small covers. Serious whiskey aficionados can hit up Jerry’s in Wicker Park or Delilah’s for spirit samples, but those looking for something a little more out of the ordinary might want to check out Evolution Wines & Spirits in Bucktown — which is featuring unusual rums from Great Lakes, Old Sugar, Barrel House and Seven Fathoms – or Fountainhead – which is featuring a program on aperitifs and digestifs with Koval. And for those looking for fun over erudition, The Whistler is hosting a “Left Coast v. Third Coast” gin cocktail smackdown. As much as a love the stuff from St. George and Anchor, I’ve got to root for hometowners Letherbee.

Finally, for the late-night set, the evening ends with a cocktail competition at Watershed titled “Bring the Weird.” Your guess is as good as mine, but the downstairs space has never left me disappointed.

Wednesday, October 3 – Independent Spirits Expo

Wednesday marks the second time the Indie Spirits Expo has come to Chicago and the event has greatly expanded since last year. Running from 5:00-9:30 pm at the Carmichael’s Steakhouse Warehouse in the West Loop, this bazaar offers meet-and-greets and samples from nearly 100 craft distilleries. VIP and regular admission tickets are still available at $75 and $55.

If four and a half hours of booze isn’t enough — or if you don’t want to drop the dime for the main event — a free afterparty runs all night at Delilah’s.

Independent Spirits Expo

 Thursday and Friday, October 4-5 – Spirit Dinners

On the third day, the bible tells us, God created food to soak up the alcohol. Or so I think I heard in Sunday school.

Regardless, eats are getting paired with spirits on Thursday at a Fountainhead/FEW dinner and a Big Jones/North Shore dinner, with oysters and absinthe being paired later at the newly opened Savoy.

North Shore returns for another dinner at 2 Sparrows on Friday.

Saturday, October 6 – Distillery Tours

Finally, Craft Spirit Week Chicago ends quite fittingly with a peek behind the scenes at the DIY drive being so many of these outfits. Most of Chicagoland’s distilleries will be open for tours as well as both Journeyman and Great Lakes nearby in Michigan. Swing by to see how your favorite hooch is born.

For more information, check out the Craft Spirit Week Chicago website or check their Facebook page for the latest updates.

–David McCowan