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Liquor (finally) hits Chicago farmers markets

Koval Distillery could pave the way for other alcohol vendors

  • Along with vendors selling produce, flowers and home goods, Logan Square Farmers Market also welcomes Koval Distillery.
Along with vendors selling produce, flowers and home goods, Logan Square… (Shauna Bittle / Chicago…)
July 11, 2013|By Kate Bernot, @redeyeeatdrink | RedEye

Veggies are great, don't get me wrong. Asparagus? Love it. Kale? So healthy. But along with my produce, flowers and $5 carton of eggs, sometimes I would also like to bring some locally made booze home from the farmers market.

That's where Koval Distillery comes in.

The Chicago-based producer of Lion's Pride whiskey, rye vodka and specialty liqueurs is the first liquor brand to set up shop at two city farmers markets. They began with a stall at the Logan Square Farmers Market last summer and this year expanded to Green City Market, selling bottles of their spirits for take-home consumption.

"We're totally thrilled to be there," said Koval founder Sonat Birnecker. "It wasn't something illegal, it just hadn't been done before."

As with any event involving alcohol in a public park, welcoming a liquor vendor to the markets involved some bureaucratic back-and-forth.

"We have had to hire private security [for Green City Market]," Birnecker said. "It doesn't make it as cost-beneficial as it could be, but just getting out there and expressing to people that we are a true craft, grain-to-bottle distillery has been so valuable."

The locally sourced aspect of the business was key to Green City Market's approval of Koval's vendor application, according to the market's associate director Mark Psilos.

"We’re looking for a really high-quality product that meets the standards we’ve set forth with regards to local sourcing and production," Psilos said. "Koval gets all their grain locally and everything that’s going into their product that they sell at the market is organically produced."

There's also potential for other distilleries, breweries and cideries to get in on the market action, provided they can meet city, state and market regulations; however, Green City Market currently is solidly booked for vendors for their popular Saturday market.

"There’s potential for people like local wineries," Psilos said. "There’s a lot of hard cider people starting in the area, and there’s potential for them provided they meet our criteria."

As for my dream of an on-site bloody mary bar?

"Maybe in another state, but not in Illinois," Koval's Birnecker said.

Psilos provides a small ray of hope: "It’s not impossible, we’d just have to take one step at a time. The city has a lot of regulations."  @redeyeeatdrink

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