Seated within the Northwest Chicago suburb of Lake Zurich is Copper Fiddle, the town’s only artisanal distillery. There, in 2012, the unlikely duo of Jose Hernandez and Fred Robinson—an architect and PGA golf pro, respectively—left their past careers behind and decided to try their hands at a new talent: spirit distilling. Using a 13-gallon stainless steel still, Hernandez and Robinson experimented with different recipes until they arrived at a bourbon—and two different kinds of gin—they could be proud to call their own.
Today, Copper Fiddle stocks its 2,500-square-foot storefront with a fine-tuned selection of bourbon whiskey, gin, and other spirits, all of which use Midwestern grain to infuse each bottle with local flavor. Key to the distilling process is the assortment of handmade copper pot and column reflux stills, whose unassuming size and made-in-the-USA pedigree reflect the distillery’s attention to the small details necessary to crafting fine spirits. Soon after the distillation process, the spirits make their way into 15-gallon charred Midwestern oak barrels, which add finishing notes to each bottle’s distinct Copper Fiddle flavor.
At the distillery itself, Copper Fiddle hosts tours, tastings and even live music every Friday and Saturday night, just feet from the aging barrels. Both Hernandez and Robinson have made a point of letting their artisanal inspiration spill over into the bar. Maybe that's why the master bartenders take traditional cocktails to new heights—as when they set the ingredients of a Moscow Mule ablaze before pouring the drink over ice. This fun twist on a traditional cocktail is just one of the unique approaches to drinks you'll find at Copper Fiddle's bar.
That's not to say you can't find Copper Fiddle's spirits elsewhere. In fact, you can find the distinct black-and-white label in many Chicago bars, including Five Star Bar and Untitled Supper Club. But it's worth making trip to Lake Zurich for a taste of a grain-to-bottle spirit in the same building in which it was distilled—a process that can truly be called Illinois Made.