Chicago is the first city of food and beverage. The role of this org is to keep workforce, food and safety training as well as innovation the focus so that it remains that way.
The Innovation Breakfast Series / Bar Fest now has 11 straight sell out events with partner Fifty Gazelles. Tonight’s roundtable is focused on Chicago’s craft distillery movement featuring the founders of Rhine Hall, Apologue and Letherbee,
Rhine Hall Distillery Jenny Solberg Katzman
The idea was generated by her father who was introduced to fruit brandy as a pro hockey player in Austria. The Bierschnaps uses hundreds of gallons of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. What started as a backyard hobby is now a movement of 11 products with distribution to 7 states. (West Fulton Market)
Retail events and farmers markets are barriers of entry for distillers. They can’t sample sprits to neighbors at non-liquor license locations the way breweries can.
What’s special about Chicago is that it’s the best city for craft spirits. There is no rivalry like the coasts have we each other. It’s a salt of the earth place. Midwesterners, without even really understanding a product might be inclined to be supportive. Bartenders here love to be part of building something that helps out friends.
Enjoy neat at room temperature, in a Fruit Brandy Daiquiri or an Old Fashioned.
Apologue Spirited Liqueurs – Jordan Tepper
Jordan looked to both Rhine Hall and Letherebee for inspiration.
The market was loaded with liqueurs that were overly sweet, used artificial flavors or were produced internationally. Jordan’s choice was to create liqueurs to elevate cocktails with all natural ingredients.
After spending time at The Violet Hour and Letherbee he made the jump to launch his own brand. People get excited about his use of unique ingredients. Persimmon, Celery Root and PawPaw (a native American tropical tree fruit) are his liqueur expressions that elevate traditional cocktails. Apologue’s Intermission Series is every two months at The Whistler. The collective of musicians and non-profit partners brings a good project together. (Thornton, IL)
The Persimmon is good if you like a Negroni with Letherbee Gin . Paw Paw plays well in that Rhine Hall Daquiri
Having a niche business is about embracing the concept of pivoting and doubling down on premise. It’s easier to get a bartender or a program director excited about a product. Spending time educating individual customers is probably not the best use of time. Mentoring the industry through innovative products for incredibly dynamic cocktails is the focus.
Letherbee Gin and Distillers– Brent Engel
He went from making moonshine sales in the trunk of his car, to falling in love with botanicals after a bartending gig. Starting your own speakeasy to throw raging parties with your friends is not profitable. The less you drink the more productive you can be. (Avondale, Chicago)
Investors are stalking this market now more than ever. So focus on what big corporations cannot do. They cant be the one guy who started it, bootstrapped it, distills it and sells it. At this level it becomes about conquering ground instead of worrying about surviving the bubble. When the industry is this noisy, refocus locally on the retail world outside of city limits. After that try entering new states across the country.. and maybe provinces in Canada.
No marketing and incentive programs or advertising dollars to be found with these panelists. Being more analytical of past successes and honing in on seasonals at on premise accounts. These are the tools of small artisanal distilleries.
Drink The Apologue Paw Paw 8 oz neat. Enjoy classic Letherbee Gin & Tonic. Fernet is good with coffee, Besk is nice with grapefruit, or just ripping shots of it. Absinthe, get a pint glass with ice and fill it up.
–The Mitz Studio Chicago hosted the Innovation Bar Fest. The event space is tucked away on a residential block in a converted greystone. in East Village between Augusta & Division.
Aronia Spritz (Apologue Aronia Liqueur, Champagne and Orange Oil)
Apple Daisy (Rhine Hall La Normande Pommeau, Apple Cider, Fee’s Old Fashioned Bitter, Lemon Juice + Honey)
Afternoon G&T (Letherbee Gin, Fever Tree Tonic, Lime Oil, Rosemary + Juniper)