Chicago is known as a hard-drinking town. Home to a vast and varied bar scene, the city boasts more than 150 breweries and has even carved out a niche as one of the foremost spots for creative pop-up bars. When it comes to local spirits, however, the choices are much more limited, with six distilleries within the city limits.
In November, Chicago’s small community of hard liquor makers welcomed a new member: Wolf Point Distilling, a small-batch spirits operation tucked inside a blue-grey warehouse in the Kinzie industrial area of West Loop. After four years of preparation, co-owners and fiancees Victoria Polvino and Pavlos Dafnis sold their first bottles in November and plan to debut a 21-seat tasting room in early 2022 at 215 N. Laflin Street.
For Dafnis and Polvino, Wolf Point — so named for the meeting point of the Chicago River’s north, south, and main branches — is a marriage of art and chemistry. As a young man, “I was obsessed with science,” says Dafnis, a who previously worked in sheet metal manufacturing. His fascination with the distilling process is apparent in the meticulously neat warehouse, from shelving stacked with bags of grain to a small “botanical library” where the pair can flex their creative muscles and experiment with infusions of rose hips, hibiscus flowers, lavender, and more.
Wolf Point’s products are each named for a Chicago landmark or tale from the city’s past. Its Florence Field Gin, for example, bears an intricately illustrated label that pays tribute to 19th century philanthropist Florence Field, who donated the enormous bronze lions that guard the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dafnis and Polvino point out that the label’s floral pattern is made up of the gin’s botanical ingredients such juniper berries, lemongrass, and coriander.
The couple hope that those who share their love of local stories will see the bottles as an entryway for conversation. They were also inspired by the distinct branding of popular breweries like Indiana-based Three Floyds Beer, the creator of brews like Gumballhead and Zombie Dust. “We want to create a rabbit hole of history that you can go down if you want,” says Dafnis.
As they wait for the necessary permits to open the tasting room, the couple aim this month to snag a packaged goods license so fans can pick up their bottles curbside. Still, they are eager to open the tasting room and expand their four-person team with bartenders who will feature spirit flights and a brief cocktail menu.
In addition to gin, the distillery’s offerings include a signature Wolf Point bourbon whiskey, Jackscrew vodka, O’Leary’s Cow cinnamon-infused vodka, and a seasonal submission of Captain Santa vapor-infused moonshine. The spirits are available for online purchase and can be found at some area restaurants and bars.
Explore Wolf Point’s warehouse production space and forthcoming bar in the photos below.
Wolf Point Distilling, 215 N. Laflin Street, Unit 1, Tap room scheduled to open in January.