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When the craft brew won’t do, Chicago tipplers can turn to local spirits

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Vodka and sake

2 oz. vodka

5 oz. Social Enjoyments sake

Garnish with a slice of cucumber

Directions:

Pour chilled vodka into a martini glass and top with chilled SOCIAL

SOCIAL Mimosa

1 oz. chilled Social Enjoyments sake

4 oz. chilled dry champagne or sparkling wine

Top with a raspberry

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Updated: May 7, 2014 6:21AM



Craft beers may be all the rage, but only hops does not a bar make. That said, if you are looking to stock your bar with locally sourced liquors, you are in luck. A handful of Chicagoans are trying their hand at brewing a variety of spirits, from a suburban premium rum punch to a series of South Side vodkas to a low-calorie, North Side sake. This several-steps-above-moonshine movement dovetails nicely with the locavore trend and makes it easy for city folk to spend money on local drinks.

Below, three liquor architects discuss their sweet home Chicago brews.

Didrielle “Dee” Tutt, 52, owner and creator of Savile rum punch

This retired hairdresser says she received a sign from God indicating she should move forward with mass producing her rum punch — the requisite libation she brought to showers and card parties. Now about a month away from final government approvals, Savile rum punch already has a dedicated following. It debuted last week at the Black Woman’s Expo and will go on sale sometime in May, says Tutt, of Bolingbrook. “I’ve been making it for almost 30 years,” says Tutt, a member of the Rev. W.R. “Smokie” Norful’s Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook. “I always vacation in the Caribbean and I tend to order punches. Basically I’ve been revamping this recipe over the years and friends and family had told me, ‘This is some good stuff.’ ”

“It’s not that my pastor said, ‘Go make rum punch,’ but it’s just the teachings of my pastor and the release I felt once I felt like God said, ‘OK, go ahead,’” she says. “I formed a team the next day and ever since then things have been lining up.”

The high-end punch mixes premium spiced and white rums with natural juice flavors.

Matt Altman, owner, Mid-Oak Distillery

An electrician by day and vodka distiller by night. That’s Altman. He and his best friend experimented for years making craft beers. But in 2012 with electrical jobs dwindling due to a construction slowdown, they decided to put their hats in the ring. Now the president of Mid-Oak Distillery, Altman hosts Friday night martinis and karaoke at a compact store inside Midlothian’s Tiffany Plaza. He sells Groupons and has Living Social deals that bring people out to his far south suburb for tastings and retail sales of his hand-bottled CD vodka. This month he’s also hoping to release his first cream-based liqueur, which he describes as an “Italian white cake with chocolate truffle” confection.

“Our vodka is 100 percent American made,” he says. “We buy American corks, American bottles. We use Illinois corn for the commodity base. We don’t outsource a single thing.”

Available at select Binny’s and the Kenwood Liquors in Oak Lawn, he hopes to distill vodka full time. “We’re in New Jersey, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan,” he says. “Not super high volume but we are expanding. I’d love for this to be my day job, but I can’t quit just yet.”

Leah Caplanis, 30, of Social Enjoyments sake

Caplanis decided to make her own sake when, at 27, she was diagnosed with cancer and began researching holistic treatments. She finally kicked the disease after three years (specifically, capillary carcinoma) but found herself unwilling to drink alcohol unless it was organic, free of added chemicals or extra calories. She needed something gluten free and with a low glycemic index. The brown rice base of sake was perfect. Working with friends and classmates at the University of Chicago (where she is currently finishing her master’s degree), the Old Town resident wrote a business plan. Seven months ago she quit her job at Nestle and, with help from brewmaster Ray Klimovitz, co-founder of Izze Beverage Co., got to work on her 88-calorie-per-serving sake. “We’re only 4 percent alcohol, and we think a lot of women are drinking vodka and getting too drunk and having a disempowering relationship with alcohol, so we are empowering women to have a balanced indulgence.” Find Caplanis’ spirits at Whole Foods and Mariano’s come May. “I made it because I wanted something that I could actually drink and drink happily without the guilt.”

Email: agibbs@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adriennewrites

RECIPES

Vodka and sake

2 oz. vodka

5 oz. Social Enjoyments sake

Garnish with a slice of cucumber

Directions:

Pour chilled vodka into a martini glass and top with chilled SOCIAL

SOCIAL Mimosa

1 oz. chilled Social Enjoyments sake

4 oz. chilled dry champagne or sparkling wine

Top with a raspberry



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