Booze News: Chicago Craft Spirits Week

Launched in 2012 by North Shore and KOVAL distilleries, Chicago Craft Spirits Week showcases local products at a number of venues around town. North Shore owner and event organizer Sonja Kassebaum says that they started the event to “establish Chicago as a presence in the industry and our market as a hub for craft spirits awareness and appreciation.”

With the number of distilleries in the area expanding, she adds, they want to work together and raising awareness will help them achieve that objective.

“We have learned a few things from last year, and tailored our offerings a bit based on what was most successful last year,” Kassebaum continues. “We have also repeated some of the most popular events, such as Bring Your Weird (Sept. 24), which is one of the most unique events we've hosted.”


Logan Square's Maza Azul hosts a mezcal-focused event during Chicago Craft Spirits Week.

(Photo: Masa Azul)


Chicago Craft Spirits Week runs Sept. 23-28 with cocktail-focused dinners, in-store tastings and more. Here are the highlights:


  • Local Industry Icebreaker at Jerry’s (8-10pm Sept. 23): Spirits industry folks are invited to sample cocktail specials at the bar. Some of the featured independent distillers include KOVAL, North Shore, Quincy Street and FEW.


  • Agave Answers It All at Masa Azul (6-9pm Sept. 24): Guests get an opportunity to indulge in Mezcal produced by the likes of Del Maguey, El Buho and Scorpion Mezcal. There will be $5 cocktail specials all night.


  • A Spirited Treasure Hunt at Found (Sept. 24): North Shore Distillery teams up with the chef-driven Evanston eatery for a cocktail-driven dinner. Executive Chef Nicole Pederson pairs her seasonal fare with cocktails using North Shore’s gin. Reservations recommended; the event takes place all evening.


  • Midwest Gin Smackdown at Farmhouse (6-9pm Sept. 24 ): North Shore and several Midwestern distilleries showcase their craft gin at the River North location. The gin makers will be on premises for questions, and a number of special cocktails will be available for purchase.


  • Bring Your Weird at Watershed (10pm-midnight Sept. 24): Five craft distilleries from around the country compete to determine which produces the “weirdest” spirit. Watershed’s bartenders will create cocktails based on the spirits and the audience votes on the winner. There’s a $10 entry fee.


  • Chicago Independent Spirits Expo at the Chicago Hilton (Sept. 25): A variety of craft distilleries, independent distillers and brand owners participate in the third-annual event. Get the tickets and more information right here


  • Pèpa Speakeasy at Autre Monde (Sept. 26): The Berwyn-based restaurant transforms into a 1920s, Prohibition-era speakeasy for one night only. Expect live jazz, classic cocktails, staff dressed in period clothing and an a la carte menu of inspired Parisian classics. Reservations recommended.


  • Indie Open House (Noon-6pm Sept. 28): Here’s an opportunity to tour the Midwest’s top local distilleries, including FEW, Great Lakes, KOVAL, Journeyman and North Shore.