We’ve never tasted anything like the latest limited-edition elixir from Ravenswood’s Koval Distillery: sunchoke.
The clear spirit is a brandy made from roots of the sunchoke plant, a sunflower relative whose other common name, Jerusalem artichoke, has fallen out of vogue. (The plant is neither from Jerusalem nor related to the artichoke.)
Its flavor is a little sweet, a little nutty, gently earthy and entirely herbaceous, akin to a sharp digestif. The spirit’s roots lie in southwestern Germany. There, sunchoke brandy, or topinambur, is popular among micro-distillers, and Koval cofounder Sonat Birnecker is an avid fan.
“We were there a few years ago, and a German distilling friend of ours took out his topinambur for us to try,” Birnecker says. “It is my favorite spirit ever.”
Sunchoke grows like a weed in the Midwest, but the knobby roots are not especially common in markets, let alone liquor stores. Koval partnered with Wisconsin’s organic-certified King’s Hill Farm for its batch.
Birnecker says the brandy ($35) is best enjoyed neat, though our sips had us thinking about adding a splash of Fever Tree’s new sparkling lemon and a few cubes of ice.
Find Koval’s Sunchoke Spirit at the Logan Square farmers' market and Koval Distillery, 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave.; 312-878-7988 or koval-distillery.com (Note: It will be available at Binny's in the near future)
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