While you’ve been able to get a goodcocktail in the West Loop for awhile now, there hasn’t been a dedicated cocktail bar. That changes today, with the opening of CH Distillery, which uses Illinois grains and makes its spirits on site. CH focuses on vodka, plus they make two gins, all of which you can try at the cocktail bar. Rum and whiskey will soon follow.
The drink menu features cold vodka shots, served with rye bread and pickles, plus cocktails made with infused gins by Blackbird bartender Kyle Davidson. The food menu, by executive chef JP Doiron (of Avec and Perennial) and consulting chef Jesse Katzman (of West Loop Salumi and Avec), includes plates like gravlax, shiitake pate, corned duck breast and shrimp cocktail. We took a tour of the space and caught up Tremaine Atkinson, who founded CH with Mark Lucas, to find out more.
Vodka has long been my favorite spirit. I like the pureness of it, the crispness, the cleanliness, the simplicity. I love it served really cold. We emphasize making very clean and neutral vodka. Ours is very clean, neutral, and made from scratch with Illinois grain. It’s milled, mashed and fermented right on site.
What are you making besides vodka?
We have two styles of gin. One is our London Dry, it’s a classic gin made with juniper, coriander, all the classic stuff. It’s a little higher proof, and it’s great for a gin and tonic. We also have the Key Gin, which we call a gateway gin for people who don’t love gin. It’s very citrus forward and very light and has key lime. We have small batches of rum and a whiskey in the works. But until we get something that we really fall in love with, we’re just going to serve them in cocktails at the bar. The bar is kind of our laboratory, which is really fun.
Will CH spirits be available at retail stores?
We will start focusing on our retail in about a month. We’re not going to focus as much on retail, and more on Chicago bars and restaurants carrying the vodka and gin, and we’ll also have them for sale at our place.