Field Museum to Release Gin and Vodka Rooted In World’s Fair History
In a one-of-a-kind collaboration to help mark the Field Museum’s 125th anniversary, Journeyman Distillery and the museum are set to release a gin and vodka, the former made with 27 historical botanicals introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Field Gin is made with 27 botanicals, ranging from anise to yucca root — nearly double the amount typically used in gin. Field Vodka is distilled from Illinois-grown Bloody Butcher corn, an heirloom variety of organic red corn. In October, Journeyman and the Field plan to release a historically inspired whiskey, using some of the same ingredients.
“This is an incredible opportunity. We’ve done collaborations with other distillers, bars and restaurants, but never with what I consider an American icon,” says Bill Welter, who founded Journeyman in Three Oaks, Michigan in 2010. Journeyman spirits are distributed in 18 states and seven countries.
Most gins contain between 10 and 15 botanicals. “To grab as much history as we could, we had to use more than the average. There were just so many cool ingredients to choose from. We wanted to try and capture a piece of Chicago’s history in the spirit itself,” Welter says.
This is the Field’s first spirits collaboration, though not its first foray into alcoholic beverages inspired by history and education. Since 2013, the museum has partnered with craft breweries, including Off Color Brewing and Two Brothers Brewing Co., on four beers. Megan Williams, Director of Business Enterprises at the Field who developed the beer partnership program, was introduced to Welter through the museum’s then-executive chef, a friend of Welter’s wife Johanna.
“The next step for us has always been spirits and finding the right match. After meeting Bill and Johanna, it was clear we were aligned. They love history and science. I love their thoughtfulness and genuineness,” says Williams.
To find inspiration for the spirits, Williams took the Journeyman team on a four-hour behind-the-scenes tour of the Field, which led to Niezgoda’s department — she oversees a collection of more than 2.5 million historical specimens — and opened a discussion of the 1,500 botanicals brought to the 1893 World’s Fair from around the world. Niezgoda sent Welter a list of the 1,500 items, from which he narrowed it down to 50 and eventually 27, sourcing and individually macerating each in a base spirit in order to taste them.
“The specimens we’ve preserved as well as those unfortunately lost or damaged over time are a testament to how vital the act of collecting is to the Field Museum’s primary role as a scientific research collection institution,” Niezgoda says. “I am pleased that the botanical collections served as an inspiration for the formulation of these exciting new distilled spirits from Journeyman.”
Field Gin and Field Vodka will be available at select bars, restaurants and retailers such as Binny’s Beverage Depot throughout Illinois, as well as the Field Museum and in Journeyman’s tasting room. The 750ml Field Vodka will retail for $29.99, the Field Gin for $39.99.