Clear alcohol's got a bad rap these days. Serious drinkers and mixers pooh-pooh vodka, and grain alcohol is downright shunned.
But it doesn't have to be that way, says Koval. Chicago's first boutique distillery, which installed its shiny copper still in Andersonville this past January, is all about the grain. And their five single-grain spirits, all made from organic Midwestern crops, will change your mind about the clear stuff.
Each has a distinct aroma and flavor: Rye Chicago has an herbaceous, peppery, spicy character that adds oomph to a dry martini; Midwest Wheat has bananas on the nose and flowers in the mouth. Owner Sonat Birnecker likes the rye and the smooth, caramel-flavored Levant Spelt served straight up--and ice-cold. Benjamin Wise of In Fine Spirits mixes the American Oat with mezcal, lime juice, agave and strawberries.
The most unusual of Koval's already atypical bunch is their Bierbrand, a spirit traditionally made by German and Austrian breweries. The company's neighbors, Metropolitan Brewing, had a batch of Dynamo lager they couldn't use. Koval passed it through their still, and a Chicago-made iteration of the traditional beer-based spirit--hoppy, heady and flavorful--was born.
Koval's newest addition, a 100 percent millet spirit, will hit local shelves next week. Each spirit clocks in at 40 percent ABV--the same proof as most vodkas--but that's where the similarities end.
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