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A Taste of Chicago: Local Distilleries

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A Taste of Chicago: Local Distilleries

The introduction of Prohibition in 1922 – and the active engagement of the local mafia – put Chicago at the center of the popular imagination around the highly-profitable illegal liquor trade. It also wiped out the local distilling industry. Finally, 75 years after the repeal of Prohibition, that began to change.

With growing consumer interest in localization, a number of craft distilleries have sprung up in the past 10 years to begin rebuilding the market for local, small-batch alcohol. Products from these select producers are available in the finest restaurants, bar and liquor outlets around Chicago as well as directly from their distilleries. Please check their websites for hours, directions, tours, tastings and other special events.


Established in 2008, KOVAL produces organic whiskey, liqueurs and specialty spirits in Chicago’s first distillery since the mid-1800s. Founders Robert and Sonat Birnecker, chose to leave their academic careers to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian family to America. In making this decision, they vowed to make organic spirits from scratch and to change the way people understand whiskey by creating a new, signature style – using only the “heart” cut of the distillate – affording a brighter, cleaner take on whiskey.

Product offerings:

Whiskey: Bourbon, Four Grain, Millet, Oat, White Rye, Rye and Limited Editions

Liquers: Orange Blossom, Coffee, Ginger, Chrysanthemum & Honey, Jasmine, Rose Hip and Caraway

Spirits: Dry Gin, Vodka, Apple Brandy, Pear Brandy, Sunchoke Brandy and Bierbrand



North Shore is a partnership between husband and wife team Derek and Sonja Kassebaum. They launched the distillery in 2004 and began selling in 2005. They describe their tight-knit team as artisans who like working their hands and enjoy sharing their passion for great spirits with others. They are committed to working with the best ingredients, including midwestern grain, fresh citrus fruits and wild-harvested herbs.

Product offerings:

Vodka: North Shore, Sol Chamomile Citrus, Tahitian Vanilla Vodka

Gin:  Distiller’s Gin No. 6, Distiller’s Gin No. 11, Mighty Gin

Aquavit-Private Reserve:  Spicy and savory, our interpretation of the classic Scandinavian spirit with rich caraway, cumin and coriander.  Delicious both neat and straight from the freezer.

Sirene Absinthe Verte:  Rich, nuanced and complex – made in the classic French style with anise seed, fennel and grand wormwood.  Delicious simply with water, but also in a range of classic and new cocktails.


Explore the first distillery in the home of the Temperance movement, Evanston, Illinois.

Product offerings:

Whiskey:  Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey

Gin:  American Gin, Barrel Gin


Inspired by the French Caribbean and modeled after the great Amaros of Italy, celebrated mixologists Adam Seger of Chicago and Joe McCanta of London infuse pot still rum with fair-trade hibiscus, ginger root, green cardamom and kaffir lime to create the American Botanical Spirit called Hum.

Hum is a crimson red 70-proof spirit that “tastes like the boldest red wine you could ever imagine.” It is technically a liqueur, but with its high proof, it was created as a base spirit, like rum, tequila and scotch. It can be consumed alone or mixed with other spirits, wine, champagne and beer.

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