Craft Spirits Week 2012

Our guide to the big week of small drinks.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Absinthe service at Savoy

  • Photograph: Charisse Kennedy

    The French-made copper still at Koval Distillery

It started with a conversation among a few local distillers. Why is there a Craft Beer Week, but no Craft Spirits Week? Coming up with no good reasons, Sonja Kassebaum (North Shore Distillery), Paul Hletko (Few Spirits) and Kristine Sherred (Koval Distillery) took on the task. On Tuesday 2, their efforts will pay off as Chicago’s first Craft Spirit Week begins. The weeklong event has happenings every day; below, we pick the ones that most pique our interest.

TUESDAY Spirit-specific events
One event involves sipping whiskey at a yacht club (twist our arm, CSW), but because whiskey gets a lot of attention, on this day of events dedicated to single spirits, we’re recommending delving into an underdog.

Left Coast v Third Coast: American Gin Smackdown (the Whistler, 2421 N Milwaukee Ave, 6–9pm; free)
Via six special cocktails—some made with local gins, others made with California ones—attendees will decide once and for all which state does gin better.

American Agave (Masa Azul, 2901 W Diversey Ave, 6–9pm; free)
Bartender Jenny Kessler demystifies tequila and other agave-based spirits the best way she knows how: with cocktails.

Bring Your Weird (WaterShed, 601 N State St, 10pm–midnight; $10)
Six distilleries (Koval and Great Lakes among them) show off their oddest creations and invite you to vote for your favorite.

Independent Spirits Expo (Carmichael’s Warehouse, 1052 W Monroe St, 5–9:30pm; $55–$75)
Independent spirits makers from all over the world converge for a huge walk-around sampling party.

Party Like It’s an Afterparty (Delilah’s, 2771 N Lincoln Ave, 10pm–2am)
It wouldn’t be a real Chicago drinking event if Mike Miller didn’t host the after-party at his whiskey/punk bar.

THURSDAY Restaurant events
This week, restaurants aren’t for eating but for cocktailing. Two restaurant events of note:

A New Orleans Riverboat Soirée (Big Jones, 5347 N Clark St, 7pm; $50)
North Shore Distillery teams with Andersonville’s home for Southern foods for four boozy courses.

Red, White & Green: Two Hours of American Absinthe (the Savoy, 1408 N Milwaukee Ave, 10pm–midnight; free)
Absinthe-obsessed restaurant the Savoy gives a quick lesson on absinthe history, complete with (lots of) samples.

SATURDAY Open houses
Distilleries as close as Ravenswood (Koval) and as far as Milwaukee (Great Lakes Distillery) open their doors (and bottles) to visitors from 2–4pm.

There’s much more—get details about all the week’s events at

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