WEST LOOP — Locally made vodka is coming to Chicago in the form of a part bar, part vodka production house named CH Distillery.
While Koval distillery rules the city’s North Side, CH — the abbreviated molecular composition of alcohol — is the first in Chicago to distill vodka.
The idea for CH came from Tremaine Atkinson, a home brewer with a passion for the distillery process and a disdain for distilleries without bars attached.
“I’ve always been a big vodka fan,” Atkinson said. “It’s just clean and pure and simple. I love it.”
CH partner Mark Lucas was operating a messenger courier business in Austin, Texas, when he got a phone call from his old friend, Atkinson, asking him to be part of his distillery plan.
“I couldn’t quit soon enough. I packed up my bags and moved here to Chicago,” Lucas said.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Maker's Manhattan at CH. All the bar’s cocktails will use made-in-house liquor, including vodka, two types of gin, rum and whiskey.
While small, the bar’s menu — shaped by Avec’s Jesse Katzman — packs a punch, with dishes like shitake pate (pickled white asparagus, black rye bread, peaches) and aged cheddar crisps, the fancy version of Cheeze-Its, served with a side of cured pork fatback.
The bar’s more adventurous meats will come straight from the newly opened West Loop Salumi, Katzan’s charcuterie experiment down the street at 1111 W. Randolph St.
Blackbird head mixologist Kyle Davidson directed much of the distillery’s cocktail list. And while Atkinson said he won’t go down the path of flavored spirits, the drink list contains plenty of out-there infusions like Earl Grey gin, serrano chili vodka and cinnamon vodka.
Aug. 5 is the tentative soft opening for the bar, located at 564 W. Randolph St.
Distillery tours will be available for about $15 a pop and will be capped off with a sampling of the bar’s liquors, including an ice-cold shot of vodka with a pickle.
The two friends said they’re excited for the West Loop to pick up what they’re putting down.
“We feel it’s really a classy joint that goes hand-in-hand with the other classy joints in the neighborhood,” Lucas said. “We’re very excited. It’s like Christmas.”