Hometown Distilleries in a Beer City

I’d not heard much mention of either of these local businesses, but I’ll have to investigate the matter further.

Er Umm Have a Drink

The phrase “Chicago distilleries” tends to elicit visions of cinematic gunfights and bullet-pocked Cadillacs — not hyper-educated Gen Xers surrounded by 60 pounds of raw ginger. Welcome to the new era of boutique spirit making in Chicago.

Your local guides are Sonat and Robert Birnecker and Sonja and Derek Kassebaum, the young couples who own and operate the area’s only two artisan distilleries, and whose meticulously made spirits have been called “impeccable” and “second to none” by local tastemakers like Kyle McHugh and Charles Joly.

At first glance, the Koval Distillery (owned and run by the Birneckers) and North Shore Distillery (the Kassebaums’ outfit) could not be more different. Koval, in Ravenswood, is proudly urban, while North Shore’s operations sit well outside the city, in north suburban Lake Bluff. The Birneckers’ stars are luscious, intense liqueurs in flavors like rose hip and ginger; the Kassebaums specialize in subtle, sophisticated riffs on old favorites, including vodka, gin and aquavit.

But take a closer look and you’ll find the two companies run along parallel paths: the proprietors are dedicated, with a single-minded fervor that borders on the evangelical, to the promotion of choice local ingredients, to spirits produced in small, fastidiously monitored batches, and, most emphatically, to reintroduce Americans to that oft-forgotten inalienable right: the freedom to get sauced on booze made in your own backyard.

[Click to continue reading Chicago News Cooperative – Koval and North Shore – Hometown Distilleries in a Beer City – NYTimes.com]

Cocktail Lounge BW

North Shore, in Lake Bluff, is known for Distiller’s Gin #6

Distiller’s Gin No. 6 is extremely smooth, with a complex blance of citrus, spice and floral notes. We create No. 6 (90 proof) by infusing our grain-based spirit with hand-selected botanicals from all over the world, along with fresh lemon zest and lavender blossoms.

If you have never tasted this gin, or you think you don’t like gin, we strongly recommend trying No. 6 neat (straight) before mixing it into a cocktail or martini. This will allow you to smell and taste the complex nature of this gin. We know you will be amazed at how much you like this gin.

[Click to continue reading North Shore Distillery – Award-winning Distiller’s Gin No. 6 – Modern Dry Gin]

Koval makes several kinds of spirits, including an intriguing-sounding rye, something made from levant spelt, pear brandy, and other tasty items.

Koval Inc. is the first boutique distillery located in Chicago. Its founders, Robert and Sonat Birnecker, gave up academic careers to bring the distilling traditions and techniques of Robert’s Austrian grandfather to America. Certified both organic and kosher, Koval holds itself to the highest standards of purity and craftsmanship. Koval avoids the common industry practice of outsourcing the production of neural grain spirits for rectification, making all of its products from scratch. Each step of the distilling process, from the “mashing” to the bottling is carefully monitored to insure that only the best spirit reaches your lips.

[Click to continue reading Koval Distillery – Koval Distillery]

Sign me up for the tour!

Reading Around on November 18th through November 19th

A few interesting links collected November 18th through November 19th:

  • North Branch Railroad Bridge Chicago and North Western Railroad Northwestern Historic Bascule Bridge – Sitting south of the Kinzie Street Bridge, this railroad bridge is always in the up position and is no longer used by trains. …On aesthetic terms, this strange movable bridge is one of only a few bascule bridges in Chicago where the counterweight is above the ground. Like the Lakeshore Drive Bridge, this bascule set records when it was built. At the time of its completion, it was the heaviest as well as the longest bascule leaf in the world! The bridge was built in 1907, with its design being provided by Joseph Strauss, who was an important person who worked to develop the bascule bridge designs, and would often be angry at Chicago since he felt the designs the city was using were to close to his patented designs. The steel superstructure was fabricated by the Toledo-Massillon Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio. This rail-line was owned by the Chicago and North Western Railway until Union Pacific bought them out in 1995
  • Senators’ Statements — National Geographic Magazine – “To help kick off Geography Awareness Week, National Geographic invited all 100 U.S. Senators to draw a map of their home state from memory and to label at least three important places. Here’s the gallery of maps from the brave Senators who took the challenge. The maps reveal home-state pride, personal history, and even some geographic humor.” Some Senators link everything to their own history, some link to the history of the state itself.
  • Foodie Rant – Properly Sauced? Try Properly Ripped Off. – Chicagoist – Sometimes, one expects to be overcharged. If you’re having a drink at the Signature Room, you’re renting space at the top of the world. If you order a martini at Charlie Trotters, you probably don’t care about the price. On the other hand, when I walk into an average 2-star restaurant and get charged $14 for a martini, I want to go beat the bartender over the head with a bottle. If the martini is bad, as it often is, the situation deteriorates. A decent $14 cocktail is a mild insult; a bad $14 cocktail is a slap in the face.
  • This American Life-307: In the Shadow of the City – Act Three. Yes, In My Backyard.

    The story of the government cracking down on smokestack emissions at a city factory … even though the residents LIKE the emissions. We hear from Jorge Just, who explains the one, magical, special secret about Chicago no one outside Chicago ever believes is true, from Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs for the American Lung Association in Chicago; and from Julie Armitage, Manager of Compliance and Enforcement for the Bureau of Air at the Illinois State EPA. (9 minutes)

  • Ebook statistics | swanksalot | LibraryThing – ebooks available – much more than anticipated, many of them free, public domain books. If you are a Library Thing member, this link will link to your bookshttp://www.librarything.com/profile/MEMBERNAME/stats/ebooks

Drinking May Lower Dementia Risk

Of course this is a superficial analysis, but still, pour me one!

Cocktail Lounge BW

People over 60 who consume moderate amounts of alcohol have a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, according to a large review of studies.

The analysis, which appeared in the July issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, reviewed 15 studies that together followed more than 28,000 subjects for at least two years. All the studies controlled for age, sex, smoking and other factors. The studies variously defined light to moderate drinking as 1 to 28 drinks per week.

Compared with abstainers, male drinkers reduced their risk for dementia by 45 percent, and women by 27 percent.

[Click to continue reading Vital Signs – Moderate Drinking Over 60 May Lower Dementia Risk – NYTimes.com]

Always good to have one’s personal habits reinforced by scientists. Dementia is one of my most feared afflictions, anything I could possibly do to avoid it, I will. Well, anything that I’m already doing, that is.

Cachaca, national drink of Brazil, is fire in a glass

I’ve only had caipirinhas twice, but I loved them (though, my head didn’t love me the next day). Unfortunately, I have yet to make a trek to Brazil, though it is on my short list.

Went to Brazil

“A pair of them will make you leap like [a] Playtex Girdle-gal,” wrote Charles H. Baker Jr. in his eccentric 1951 work, “The South American Gentleman’s Companion.”

His racy description captures the effect of cachaca (ka-SHA-sa), the Brazilian national drink with a sweet, fiery flavor that can pack a macho punch. Though often compared to a young white rum (both spring from sugar cane, though rum is made from molasses, a byproduct of refining cane into sugar, and cachaca is distilled from fermented cane), this spirit has a more devilish reputation all its own.

Indeed, though exported brands are roughly 80 proof, more potent bottles are the norm in Brazil. The spirit is popping up more and more here, with a movement toward higher-quality, more refined versions.

“The cheap stuff was all that was available for a long time in the United States,” says Joshua Pearson, beverage director of Sepia restaurant. “We’re definitely seeing more artisan products. … It becomes a nice spirit you can drink without adding tons of fruit juice or sugar.”

The most famous cachaca cocktail is the caipirinha (kai-pee-REEN-ya), a refreshing combo of cachaca, sugar and lime juice served on the rocks. Aged gold cachaca is often served neat.

[Click to read more Cachaca, Brazil’s national drink, is fire in a glass — Bill Daley, chicagotribune.com]

Wonder where to get the best cachaca in Chicago? Sams, perhaps?

Reading Around on March 30th

Some additional reading March 30th from 14:16 to 19:48:

  • jimmy's cocktail hour: Whiskey for the People. – "Pikesville Rye is widely distributed, and is usually available for around $11.99. Some parts of the country get it for $9.99. Let's call it $12. This is good rye at a bargain price. If you have a bottle of bitters on hand, you're all set. "
  • Cocktail Hacker » Blog Archive » MxMo XXXVI: Recession Gin and Tonic – So how hard is this cocktail going to hit your wallet? It’s not going to hit it hard at all. It’s going to be like a kitten falling on a pile of pillows.

    Burnett’s Gin (1.75 L) $15.99 -> 2 oz $0.54
    Realime (15 oz) $3.09 -> 1 tsp $0.04
    C-Dry Tonic (6×12 oz) $2.99 -> 6 oz $0.25
    Total Cost Per Drink $0.83
    Eighty three cents. Try to wrap your head around that number. That’s cheaper than a soft drink nearly anywhere. It’s cheaper than a crappy cup of coffee from the vending machine in my office.

  • The Cocktail Chronicles » MxMo Hard Times: Drink Like a King(sley) – Need to read this book!
    "Vital requirement: prepare pre- and post-dinner drinks in some undiscoverable pantry or broom-cupboard well away from the main scene. This will not only screen your niggardliness; it will also make the fetching of each successive round look like a slight burden, and will cast an unfavorable limelight on any individual determined to wrest additional drinks out of you. Sit in a specially deep easy-chair, and practise getting out of it with a mild effort and, later in the evening, a just-audible groan, though beware of overdoing this."
  • Twitter Blog: Replies Are Now Mentions – Seems like this should pick up on re-tweets too (RT @swanksalot for instance). Good tweak to the API.
  • The Art of Sampling | TheFrontloader.com – "Sometime late last year, I was looking through the new releases when I came across a sincere tragedy. Hilary Duff was back, and THIS time, it was personal… “Personal Jesus”-personal. It seemed that, for her “Best Of” album, she needed a new song and thus decided to sample Depeche Mode’s 1989 hit “Personal Jesus” for her single, “Reach Out.”

    At first I couldn’t believe it because I consider Depeche Mode music sacred ground, but then I found a link to the music video and decided to see if it was true. For those of you that have been lucky enough to miss this, consider yourself very unlucky right now"

  • The Washington Monthly -IF IT'S SUNDAY, IT'S JOHN MCCAIN – John McCain has appeared on Meet the Press – just one of the multiple Sunday morning talk shows – 54 times, and I would guess that most of them have come in the years since announcing for President in 1999, since before that he was a more obscure figure in Washington. I can't imagine there's anyone else even close to that number. And yet McCain is an easy guy to find on the Rolodex and get to appear on your show. It points to a staleness in the official discourse.

Another Time perhaps

Another Time perhaps

Another Time perhaps, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

A Bushmills bottle filled solely with sunlight

As I’ve blathered before, despite having a large percentage of my DNA derived from Irish ancestry, and despite having a mighty thirst for alcoholic beverages, I think St. Patrick’s day is a stupid holiday. Amateur night indeed.

Original Gin and the Fall of Man

I would be very interested in sampling the fruits of original gin, genever.

Cocktail Hour can strike at any time

COMPARED with vodka, gin is a relative newcomer. But despite what the Russians might say, the history of gin — like its flavor — is far more complex.

Gin was born as genever in Holland in the 17th century. It was renamed gin when it got to England about 100 years later. Eventually, the English style, which is stronger and lacks the touch of sweetness that is typical of genever, came to dominate the market. But genever is making a comeback.

Next week Lucas Bols, a Dutch company that was founded in 1575, will start to sell its genever in the United States again. It was last imported in quantity about 50 years ago, but small amounts have seeped into the United States since then. Grain shortages in Holland during the world wars and Prohibition in the United States combined to do in the export of genever.

The Lucas Bols genever joins a few other brands of genever already on the market. Zuidam and Boomsma are imported from Holland. And earlier this year, Anchor Brewing and Distilling, the San Francisco company that makes Junipero, a dry gin, started selling Genevieve, a genever that it had developed about 10 years ago.

[From Malty and Complex, the Original Gin Is Making a Comeback – NYTimes.com]

Drinking the daylight green

A side benefit to being a citizen of the 21st century is that our recent history is available for close examination. The quest for the authentic, platonic ideal is simplified, in other words. Classic, formerly obscure films are a mouse click away, popular music from around the globe is being re-released at an amazing rate, absinthe is being served at your neighborhood saloon, and now one can drink gin as Hogarth imagined it.

Of course, nobody understands satire anymore (just ask Roger Ebert) but that’s a minor price to pay for our land of cultural splendors…

More Red Wine Propaganda

[Wine-go-Round, 560 W. Washington, Chicago, IL]

Good thing I like wine1.

Red wine stops effects of high-fat diet
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Red wine does indeed explain why the French get away with a relatively clean bill of heart health despite eating a diet loaded with saturated fats, concludes a new study.

Red wine contins resveratrol which can blunt the toxic effects of a high-fat diet
Many have speculated that answer to the paradox lies in their love of a glass or two of wine with a meal and have focused on a chemical found in red wine called resveratrol, also a natural constituent of grapes, pomegranates and other foods.

Earlier studies have shown it can blunt the toxic effects of a diet very high in fat, which causes liver damage, but this is the first study to directly look at ageing.

Today, in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers report that even low doses of resveratrol in the diet of middle-aged mice has a widespread influence on the genetic levers of ageing, and may confer special protection on the heart.

Specifically, the researchers found that low doses of resveratrol mimic the helpful effects of what is known as caloric restriction, diets with the full range of nutrients but up to 30 per cent fewer calories than a typical diet, which extend lifespan and slow the progression of age related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cancer.

“This brings down the dose of resveratrol toward the consumption reality mode,” says senior author Prof Richard Weindruch of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

[From Red wine stops effects of high-fat diet – Telegraph ]

My thought is: everything that’s part of human experience is good. Drinking wine is part of civilization, there must be benefits.

  1. another post that never got posted, but now is, sans much from me []

Museum of American Cocktail

Cocktail Hour can strike at any time

Sounds fun, I want to go there, soon.

the Museum of the American Cocktail opening this month will focus on the rich history of sophisticated drinks that have been served since Thomas Jefferson was president 200 years ago.

Cocktails – originally defined as any mixture of bitters, spirits and sugar – were an early fixture in this French port city. Besides easy access to sugar, a European sensibility allowed a drinking culture to flourish when it foundered elsewhere in the south’s Bible Belt.

“I definitely think New Orleans has always been the home of civilised1 drinking,” said Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, an annual festival that attracts thousands.

“The image the tourists have is not how most locals think of drinking. We believe in better, not more.”

The museum is located near the city’s French Quarter and features a collection of rare spirits, books, and Prohibition-era literature. There will be vintage cocktail shakers, glassware, tools, gadgets and other cocktail memorabilia.

[From From martinis to Manhattans, US museum pays homage to mixed drinks | World news | guardian.co.uk]

I have not been to New Orleans since Katrina, except in spirit, but a journey to celebrate spirits sounds like a festive spritzer. Errr, whatever.

  1. British spelling, from a British paper, we aren’t correcting it []

Corking the Wine Trade

“Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide, 7th Edition: The Complete, Easy-to-Use Reference on Recent Vintages, Prices, and Ratings for More than 8,000 Wines from All … Wine Regions (Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide)” (Robert M. Parker)

Idiots in the legislature, State of Illinois edition

When the Supreme Court struck down state laws barring individuals from buying wine directly from out-of-state wineries, one lawyer called it “the best day for wine lovers since the invention of the corkscrew.”

Though they enjoy a new liberty to buy from out-of-state vineyards, Illinois oenophiles will no longer be able to order directly from out-of-state wine shops and other retail merchants — something they have been doing for the last 16 years.

It looks as though about 500 California vineyards that are not officially registered as wineries won’t be able to sell to individual buyers here either.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ largest vineyards, unlike their smaller counterparts, won’t be able to sell directly to stores and restaurants: They will have to go through wholesale distributors. That rule is bound to increase the price of a drink.

What gives? The governor’s office proclaims that the bill “represents an agreement between Illinois wineries and liquor distributors.” State Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), a sponsor, boasted that it will “advance our growing wine industry.”

Notice anything missing from those pronouncements? Only the needs of ordinary wine drinkers. The clear intent is to protect the profits of favored businesses — and never mind if consumers, and the state’s most successful wine producers, lose out.

Even some of the retailers who are being protected from out-of-state competition have spoken out against the new barriers, fearing they will provoke retaliation from other states.

“Bills like these are bad for consumers,” Brian Rosen, the president and CEO of Chicago-based Sam’s Wines & Spirits, told Crain’s Chicago Business. “If every state’s borders were open to wine sales, we could sell $50 million in wine a year outside Illinois.”

[From Corking the wine trade]

The Manhattan Project

Ya know, on a day like today when I’m feeling cranky/unmotivated/surly/yadda yadda, a nice cocktail might be just the spark to get me going. Unfortunately, I don’t have any bitters in the house, and my bourbon is years old. Irish whiskey makes a nice substitute, in my experience, but I drained my last drops a couple weeks ago, and haven’t bothered replacing it. So, more coffee it is.

“10 Ounce Angostura Bitters Mixer (03-0576)” (Angostura International)

At first glance the Manhattan looks like such a simple affair – whiskey, sweet vermouth and a few dashes of bitters. I’m the first to admit that it’s not too hard to make a halfway decent version of this cocktail, but a truly great Manhattan can be made only by someone who truly understands the magnitude of what’s at hand. Indeed, the mark of a bartender who is truly worth his or her salt lies solidly in his or her interpretation of the Manhattan.

It is virtually a San Francisco tradition to knock back a Manhattan at the well-worn bar of the Tadich Grill, a restaurant with roots that stretch back to the Gold Rush. Mike Buich, Tadich’s owner, allows his bartenders to personalize their Manhattans to a certain extent, but they must be made with three parts bourbon, one part vermouth and just one dash of Angostura bitters. (Although I’m more likely to make my Manhattan with two parts whiskey to one part vermouth, and I’m known to be a hog on the bitters front, the ratios used at Tadich can work, providing the right whiskey is used, and providing it’s married to the correct vermouth.) Buich also mandates that his bartenders stir their Manhattans over ice long enough for them to be very cold when they reach a customer’s lips. That’s another piece of the equation – stirring the drink for a minimum of 20 seconds is mandatory if it’s perfection you seek.

Consider the Rob Roy, for instance. It’s just a Manhattan made with Scotch as opposed to American whiskey, but with the right Scotch this can be a glorious quaff. Peychaud’s bitters, by the way, work very well indeed with Scotch, and I often add just one dash of these to the mix when I make a Rob Roy. The Paddy cocktail is a Manhattan made with Irish whiskey; with the right bottling and with liberal dashes of Angostura, this, too, is a desirable dram. Add Benedictine to the Rob Roy and you have yourself a Bobby Burns, a drink created at the Waldorf Astoria in the days prior to Prohibition.

[From The Manhattan project: A bartender spills his secrets on the king of cocktails]