The Tradition ($11)
The Tradition is, simply, a shot of ice cold vodka served with rye bread and pickles. Why showcase vodka this way? "To me, compared to vodka, whiskey is pretty simple to make," explained Schutte. "Whiskey comes off of the still and you have so many different flavors you can add—the barrel flavors, the aging. When vodka comes off the still, there's nothing that you can do to it. It is what it is. So it's like making a lager—lagers are very difficult to make in the same way." CH Distillery's vodka service is modeled on traditional Russian drinking. "You sniff the bread, you do the shot of vodka and then you eat the pickles," said Schutte.
Rhymes With Orange ($11)
Rhymes WIth Orange is a vodka cocktail made with lime, homemade orange curaçao and fresh watermelon. "We get the vodka, we bring it to the bar side from the factory and we infuse it with the Serrano chilies," explained Schutte.
Oxycontin Cocktail ($11)
This is the current best-seller at CH Distillery. "This cocktail is based off of the Penicillin cocktail," said Schutte, "Which uses Scotch instead of gin. Our twist on it is to use the London Dry gin that we make here. We infuse it with lapsang souchong tea, which is a very smoky Chinese tea. This cocktail reminds me of a whiskey cocktail, and it's great for whiskey drinkers who want one." In addition to the tea-infused gin, the cocktail has ginger syrup, honey, and lemon.
Pegu Club ($11)
"I love the Pegu Club because it's a nice dry cocktail that really shows off the gin," said Schutte. The drink features CH Distillery's Key Gin, which is flavored with lime, white peppercorn, lavender, and juniper. "I call the Key Gin the 'gateway gin,' because it's meant for non-gin drinkers." The cocktail also includes lime, orange curaçao, and bitters.
The Vodka Still
The vodka still is a two-column design, mostly because the ceiling wasn't tall enough to put in as many plates as the distillers wanted. "It'd be much easier if we had a single column in a warehouse some place!" said Lucas. "My idea of knocking out the floor and making the column two stories tall didn't quite work."
The Bottle Washer
All of the bottling is done on-site in custom-made bottles manufactured in Chicago. The bottling and washing equipment is made in Indiana, and while it's all done by hand, it's still very fast. "We can do a case in 90 seconds with three people, bottles cleaned, filled, capped and sealed," explained Lucas.
The interior of CH Distillery
The bar's interior focuses the diners' attention on the distillery behind the glass. In addition to the cocktail menu, food comes out of a small open kitchen alongside the bar. Selections include caviar, gravlax, rare roast beef, corned duck, and a selection of cheese, charcuterie and nuts.
Photo by Arnold Klein.