Give-Away! Indie Spirits Expo

September 26 2014 - 9:33 AM

Chicago is not lacking for big tasting events, but perhaps no festival has exploded over the last few years as much as The Chicago Independent Spirits Expo, returning for its fourth year. The 2014 incarnation will feature over 120 exhibitors offering more than 500 different spirits and will be held next Tuesday, September 30 at the downtown Chicago Hilton Hotel.

Tickets for the event are still available. Regular admission buys you 2 1/2 hours (6:30-9:00 pm) to walk around and sample, while the VIP pass allows you early entrance, extending your stay for a full 4 hours (5:00 – 9:00 pm). Offerings range from Chicago’s favorite local upstarts–including Letherbee, North Shore, Koval, FEW and Chicago Distilling Company–to imports from around the world–such as Compass Box Scotch, Kavalan Whiskey, Chartreuse liqueur, Del Maguey Mezcal and Kappa Pisco.

And, for the geekiest among you, the event also includes two roundtable discussions earlier in the day–the first on the state of the industry and the second on women of the spirits world. Both will bring together distillers, distributors, bar owners and media to give an inside look to the joys and challenges of the business.

The event is partnering this year with UN86’d, a charity which helps restaurant and bar professionals in the area of heath benefits and medical costs. A portion of each ticket sale will be donated to the group.

Dave and Tomr

The author posing with Tom of Tomr’s Tonic at last year’s Spirits Expo.

Chicago Foodies will be there and we want to help get you there, too! When you order your tickets, use the discount code INDIECITY to get $20 off either the regular or VIP admission. Woot!

And that’s not all! We have a pair of VIP tickets to give away to one of our loyal readers. To enter, tell us what spirit or company you most want to taste and why. We’ll pick among all the entries from now until Saturday at 6:00 pm. Comment on this post, tell us on Facebook, or tweet us @ChicagoFoodies.

For the most up-to-date details on the event and for more information on who will be sampling, check out the Independent Spirits Facebook page.


Spiced Beet Cocktail

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: tequila

tequila, mezcal, beet, ginger, lime, lemon, brown sugar

Love ’em or hate ’em, beets are a staple of spring farmers markets. And though they don’t appear in cocktails very often, the earthy little buggers actually pair remarkably well with grassy, vegetal tequila.

In this recipe from Market-Fresh-Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season, the two come together with some ginger spice to make a bold, dark stunner of a cocktail. Using a little bit of mezcal as suggested below will provide a complex layer of smoky goodness, but if you don’t have a bottle handy you can round the tequila up to a full 2 ounces.

Read more about market-inspired cocktails here and make sure to check out our chat with this drink’s creator, Bridget Albert.

Spiced Beet Cocktail
Bridget Albert with Mary Barranco, Market-Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season

  • 2 oz spiced beet juice (see below)
  • 1 1/2 oz silver (blanco) tequila
  • 1/2 oz mezcal
  • 2/3 oz lemon juice
  • 1/3 oz simple syrup
  • 1 beet leaf, garnish

To mixing glass, add silver tequila, mezcal, cooled beet juice, lemon and simple syrup. Add ice to tin. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a beet leaf.

Spiced Beet CocktailSpiced Beet Juice
(makes about 2 ounces)

  • 1 beet (peeled and sliced)
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 2 barspoons brown sugar
  • Pinch of ground ginger

To saute pan, add sliced beet, lime juice, sugar and ground ginger. Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until beets are tender. Stir occasionally. Remove beets. Let liquid cool.

Photo and recipe courtesy of Agate Publishing.


Warding Circle

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: rye whiskey

rye whiskey, amaro, sherry, salt

Mike Ryan’s chocolatey broVo Amaro No. 14 is great for mixing, adding a rich depth and a layer of savory thyme. This Manhattan-ish drink will drive the last of the winter chills away.

For the rye, Ryan suggests using something 90 proof or above “with some backbone” like Wild Turkey 101 or Bulleit and for the sherry, he suggest Lustau. “Garnish,” he says, “with a roaring fire and a blanket and a view of a chilly mountainside.”

Learn more about the broVo Spirits Amaro project here.

broVo Amaro CocktailsWarding Circle
Mike Ryan, Sable, Chicago

1 1/2 oz rye
1/2 oz broVo Amaro No 14
3/4 oz pedro ximenez sherry
1 very small pinch of salt (kosher, not iodized)

Stir all ingredients together with ice and strain over a large chunk of ice, or serve up in a chilled cocktail coupe.


Bitter Giuseppe No. 16

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: Amaro

Amaro, sweet vermouth, lemon, orange bitters

Stephen Cole – one of the forces behind The Barrelhouse Flat and Lone Wolf – originally constructed this curious drink using Cynar, an artichoke-based amaro with rich flavors of chocolate and light citrus. As one of his favorite amari, Cole authored his broVo Amaro No. 16 as an homage to it, but with unique additions such as sandlewood and oris root as well as a spicy peppercorn finish.

Using Amaro No. 16 in place of the Cynar changes the drink a bit, but both liqueurs are built to expand when mixed; those tight complex flavors gain a bit of space to spread out and shine.

Learn more about the broVo Spirits Amaro project here.

broVo Amaro CocktailsBitter Giuseppe No. 16

Adapted from a recipe by Stephen Cole, The Barrelhouse Flat and Lone Wolf, Chicago

-2 oz broVo Amaro No. 16
-1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
-1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
-6 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
-lemon peel, garnish

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon peel.


The Embittered

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey, lemon, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, wine

Irish whiskey can sometimes be so light and easy-drinking that it gets covered up and lost in a cocktail. But the more robust varieties – like those we recommend as our top picks – can stand-up well when mixed.

This highball from Hubbard Inn in Chicago is a play on the New York Sour, a classic traditionally made with full-bodied Scotch and a float of wine. Here, barman Jason Felsenthal swaps in Jameson Black Barrel for a sweeter, lighter base, but adds a few heavy dashes of Angostura bitters to make things snap.

When mixed, the drink should have a lovely two-tone effect… the dark wine and bitters creeping their tendrils into the lighter cocktail below. Stir to combine. Or not.

The EmbitteredThe Embittered
Jason Felsenthal, Hubbard Inn, Chicago

2 ounces Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce Malbec wine
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Combine the whiskey, lemon and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold. Strain into a highball glass with fresh ice, then dash in the bitters. Carefully pour the wine over the back of a bar spoon held just above the drink so the wine floats on the surface, creating a nice two-tone effect.


North Shore Gimlet

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: gin

gin, lime, lavender, Bittercube Door County Hops bitters

Nick Kosevich & Ira Koplowitz of Bittercube Bitters recently helped launched the cocktail program at Blue Jacket in Milwaukee, WI. On the debut menu is a lovely, light riff on the classic gin gimlet using Chicago’s own North Shore gin and Bittercube’s floral, bright limited edition Door County Hops bitters.

Blue Jacket makes this drink with Mighty Gin, a 110 proof powerhouse that’s available to restaurants and bars only, but you can substitute your favorite London dry to nearly equal effect. But if you want to really stay true to the name, swap in one of North Shore’s other two more available gins. Go with Distiller’s Gin No. 6 if you want to ramp up the citrus and floral notes or pick Distiller’s Gin No. 11 is you want to play up the juniper.


North Shore GimletNorth Shore Gimlet
Nick Kosevich & Ira Koplowitz, Bittercube

2 oz North Shore Distillery Mighty Gin
3/4 oz homemade lavender syrup*
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
14 drops Bittercube Door County Hops Bitters
thin slice of lime, garnish

Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Float a thin slice of lime on top as garnish.


*Homemade Lavender Syrup

1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until just dissolved. Reduce heat to low and add the lavender, simmering for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Lavender syrup will keep for one week in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or you may add 1 oz vodka after you strain as a preservative to extend the shelf life.

Read more about Bittercube Bitters here. Image courtesy of Bittercube.


Rosehip Daisy

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: tequila

tequila, lime, Koval Rosehip, Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters

The daisy category of drinks is one of the most fool-proof and easily riffed-upon styles. Combine a healthy slug of spirit with sugar, liqueur and citrus and it almost always works.

This cocktail is a play on the most familiar daisy of them all: the margarita. Instead of accenting the tequila with an orange liqueur, here Koval’s rosehip liqueur takes things in a more savory direction with hints of baking spice. This is further ramped up by topping with Bittercube’s Jamaican Bitters #2 which complement with grapefruit and hibiscus notes.


Rosehip Daisy
Nick Kosevich & Ira Koplowitz, Bittercube

1 1/2 oz tequila
3/4 oz lime
1/2 oz Koval Rosehip Liqueur
3/4 oz simple syrup
14 drops Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Read more about Bittercube Bitters here.