KOVAL Distillery does not only produce delicious craft spirits, they also are a city landmark. It’s the first fully operational distillery in Chicago since the mid-1800s, founded by husband-wife duo Dr. Robert Birnecker and Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart. Before I heard about KOVAL, I met Sonat at a bar where the band The Dandy Warhols was hosting an aftershow. She was extremely personable and told me about her distillery. A few weeks later, I booked a tour and was amazed by the history and quality of the Birnecker’s company.
KOVAL honors Sonat and Robert’s ancestors. The word “koval” in Yiddish means “blacksmith” or someone who “forges ahead” (you can read more about this on their site) and was also the nickname of Sonat’s great-grandfather. Meanwhile, Robert’s family has a history with Austrian distilling practices. Their grain-to-bottle approach alongside organic ingredients makes their liquor exceptionally fresh.
I’m not a fan of gin, but I wouldn’t turn away from a KOVAL gin cocktail. Nor would I tell anyone in the Ravenswood neighborhood to turn away from a KOVAL distillery tour. A guide explains the KOVAL way while guests can sample several different kinds of spirits. If you like what you try, they have an on-site store to purchase bottles. You may also see various KOVAL products in Chicago liquor stores or featured in cocktails at local taverns.
It’s the family-forward history, the natural ingredients, and the one-of-a-kind space in Chicago that makes KOVAL a favorite spot of mine.