You don’t have to travel far to experience 28 Mile, a swanky new vodka distillery and cocktail lounge that honors Highwood’s boozy past.
The gleaming steel stills at 28 Mile Vodka in Highwood can be viewed from the lounge through a wall of windows.
Walk into Highwood’s Distillery and Cocktail Lounge at 28 Mile, and you’ll be transported to a 1920s speakeasy. In the intimate, 1,000-square-foot lounge, there’s art deco-style black-and-gold wallpaper, mirrors and crystal chandeliers. “We want it to feel like you’re somewhere else, like you’re on vacation,” says Eric Falberg, a longtime Highwood alderman who co-owns the lounge with his brother, Gregg, and Matthew Greif.
The vodka at 28 Mile is perfect for a martini or even sipping neat
The vodka he and his partners distill on-site—towering steel stills are visible through a wall of windows in the lounge—is unusually complex. It’s smooth on the tongue, and then notes of vanilla and almond emerge. It’s not unusual for patrons to sip the spirit neat (almost unheard of for vodka) or on the rocks, although a martini with a twist of lemon is a popular choice. “In blind taste tests around Chicago, our vodka rated above major brands like Grey Goose and Belvedere,” Falberg says. “That’s when we knew we were really onto something.” Drinks are accompanied by small bites, including knishes flown in from New York City—a nod to the Falberg brothers’ East Coast upbringing.
The lounge is a lively spot
There’s a rich history of distilling (legal and otherwise) in Highwood, which is 28 miles from Chicago—hence the company name. “During Prohibition, the town never really went dry,” Falberg observes. The logo on 28 Mile bottles (available for purchase, $29) features a woman in a feathered flapper headband: the owners’ distilling idol, Rose Miller, who in the 1920s was known simply as The Debonair.
Charcuterie and other light bites are available.
Born at the turn of the century, Miller learned distilling from her chemistry professor father and honed her skills on Chicago’s South Side in the 1910s. She was a bartender to jazz legends King Oliver and Jimmie Noone, who became fans of her vodka and gin. Her spirits became renowned and were served in Al Capone’s bars. When she moved to Highland Park, she labeled her bottles by batch number, all beginning with 28. With Prohibition came police raids, during which Miller hid in plain sight; the authorities never thought to look for a woman. Falberg and his partners learned of Miller through some of her relatives, and her ledger is framed on the wall of the lounge.
Guests can perfect a drink with an exact measure of fresh lemon juice
Falberg plans to expand into whiskey and gin distilling, and he hopes that the lounge’s expansive patio, with entertainment including dueling pianos, will become a popular hangout. With the Kings & Convicts craft brewery around the corner and a nearby winery in the works, Highwood is looking more and more like the ideal destination for a night out. 454 Sheridan Road, Highwood, 847.748.8090, 28milevodka.com
Photography by: Eric Kleinberg