Sonat Birnecker Hart and Robert Birnecker
Koval Distillery
Chicago, Ill.

Koval encapsulates two distinct parts of Illinois’ identity: cornfields and Prohibition-era bootlegging. In the first Chicago distillery built since the 19th century, husband-and-wife team Robert Birnecker and Sonat Birnecker Hart use locally grown, organic grain — primarily Illinois corn — to distill their own (legal!) liquor.

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il_post“What we decided to do … was work with farmers who cared about their land — going against the grain, so to speak,” says Birnecker Hart. “So we started working with an organic farmer co-op in the Midwest. In working with these farmers, we have a direct connection to those who grow our grain for us.” The still that the couple uses — a German Kothe still, modified by Birnecker and deemed “the world’s most tech-savvy still” by the Chicago Sun-Times — conserves both energy and water by design.

Take a shot, and take a stand:

“Going organic isn’t just necessarily about having better raw materials,” says Birnecker Hart. “It’s also taking a stand on how you want people to treat the land.”

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