When he wasn’t piloting a plane, Toby Beall spent time with his bare feet in the Caribbean sand and a cocktail mellowing in his hand. Looking to share that laid-back lifestyle, Beall, his wife Jillian and brother Jamey founded Tailwinds Distilling Company. Today, the Plainfield-based specialists blend premium ingredients such as organic molasses and 100% blue agave, and carefully age them in french-oak barrels to create their tropically-inspired amber rum. After the signature, small-batch distilling process—which avoids the use of carbon filters so as to leave the flavors intact—each bottle is individually signed. That attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed: their Taildragger white rum earned a silver medal at the 2012 Ministry of Rum Tasting Competition, and their 100% blue agave spirit was featured in Chicago Magazine's Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: For Imbibers.
Visitors can take a jetlag-free trip to the tropics during tours of the facility, learning about distillation and sampling sips in a tiki-bar-themed tasting room. Merchandise such as T-shirts, snifters, and flasks provide more lasting souvenirs than the imaginary tan the island vibe might inspire.
Naturally, the chefs at Cooper’s Hawk have a sharp eye when it comes to wine pairings. Each of the restaurant’s contemporary dishes is crafted with a particular wine in mind, which makes plenty of sense given the fact that there’s a winery located just next door. Surrounded by oaken barrels and racks lined with glistening bottles, diners may be forgiven for thinking that they made a wrong turn and ended up in the winery itself. After your meal, see the real thing in the Napa–style tasting room, where you can sample up to eight different wines. The selection includes something for everyone, including graceful blush wines and cabernets whose flavors unfold like a novel scribbled on the wings of an origami crane.
Michael Dorf stood with his brother Josh, smiling over the barrel filled with wine from grapes they'd just crushed, fermented, and pressed. He claims that despite tastings and classes, he'd never begun to understand wine until this moment. As his understanding grew, he laid the foundations for City Winery: a full winery facility, restaurant, and concert venue inside urban Chicago. He now watches over more than 400 international wines and 20 house wines. Inside the winery, these wines—made from nine US and international varietals—age inside stainless steel tanks and American and French oak barrels. Here, staffers lead winemaking classes, letting visitors join the crushing and fermenting process, and showing them how make private barrels and fill custom juice boxes or bottles pasted with labels of their own design.
These monolithic tanks and barrels can be seen through floor-to-ceiling windows from most of the restaurant's rooms, where servers ferry Executive Chef Andres Barrera's dishes, each a blend of Italian, French, Spanish, and Middle-Eastern flavors. The culinary team crafts small and large plates of artisanal cheeses, seafood, and flatbreads—which they make using the winery's own wine lees as yeast. In the restaurant and Barrel Room tasting bar, staffers pour housemade wines piped fresh from the cellar through 14 taps, while visitors bask in the glow from hard wood and floor to ceiling windows. Patrons dine on a ground floor lit by soft blue lights and hanging lamps fashioned from old wine bottles, as well as a mezzanine level looking out on the city skyline. Private dining rooms gather guests around long communal tables, stretched between exposed brick walls. In the show venue, comedians, live musicians, and slapstick-prone stage crew members entertain audiences under the glow of tabletop candles.
Celebrating their 25th anniversary in the end of October, the hop gurus at Brew and Grow educate burgeoning beer makers on the art of crafting cold ones via hands-on introductory courses. During 2.5-hour classes, duos learn the ins and outs of the brewing process, including basic terminology, equipment, and the differences between ales, lagers, and root beer. Pupils will sip various suds while learning about ideal ingredient combinations, then concoct customized barley pops. Though they can't immediately take class creations home, participants will be able to return to the brewery in approximately one month or after malted barley has passed its fermentation exam to tap and taste their personalized potables. At the end of the session, students will be able take home a choice of two comprehensive home brewing guides, either How To Brew by John Palmer or Radical Brewing by Chicago author Randy Mosher.
At Orange 13, swaths of burnt-orange organza and crystal chandeliers transform tables into secluded enclaves. At two granite-topped bars, bartenders pour 50 handpicked wines and mix martinis with top-shelf liquors. The chefs strive to match the sleek, sultry environs with a menu of creative fusion fare: they adorn a trio of buffalo, elk, and Kobe burgers with brie and bleu cheese and add zest to tender lamb chops with lemon-thyme glaze. To encourage an experience as fun as the cuisine is exquisite, live entertainment and DJs spin beats until 3 a.m., and high ceilings make it plausible that dancing giraffes appear, too. Live bands hit the stage at 8 p.m. on Fridays and DJs begin to spin sets at 11 p.m. on Saturdays.
For the past 14 years, the knowledgeable beverage aficionados at Fine Wines & Liquors have carefully selected palate-spanning spirits and wines from around the world to bring their customers a versatile selection. The passionate staff samples 90% of their wines available for purchase, giving them an intimate familiarity with nearly every wine's bouquet, mouthfeel, and credit rating. Tasty vinos from Spanish, American, French, and Argentine vineyards tempt customers with the fruity notes of pinot noir, crisp sweetness of chardonnay, and pleasant pepperiness of garnache. Smoky scotches, oak-aged rum, and bottles of juniper-kissed gin also furnish social gatherings with delicious pours of spirits from distilleries such as The Speyside, McDowell's, and North Shore. Beverage enthusiasts can also opt to join the wine and beer of the month clubs, which furnish members with a new bottle every 30 days.