CHICAGO | As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it at Binny’s, it’s not worth drinking.” Chicago family-owned since 1948, Binny’s Beverage Depot is the Midwest’s largest retailer of wine, spirits, beer and cigars and offers more than 30,000 items in their 30+ Illinois locations. The Lincoln Park flagship is a site to behold with its beer and wine tasting room and full calendar of events. In a testament to its great success, Binny’s continues to expand around Chicagoland with its newest store opening in Logan Square.
We’re regular Binny’s customers ourselves, and we recently sat down with Joe Pomeroy, Assistant Director of Operations, to discuss all things wines, beer, spirits and more.
What sets Binny’s apart from other companies in the wine/beer/spirits industry?
Binny’s prides itself on its industry-leading selection and service, as well as ultra-competitive pricing. But service is what sets us apart from other retailers; there is not a more talented or knowledgeable staff in the industry.
We have experts in virtually every category of wine, beer, and spirits, and there is nothing they love more than talking about delicious drinks.
Can you highlight a few of the unique wine (or other) offerings in your collection?
Where to start! We have an extensive selection of items that are be difficult to find elsewhere, amd we are really proud of some of the hand-picked spirits we work with. Our whiskey hotline does a great job finding some of the best and most exclusive whiskeys and brandies on the planet, and we get to choose the best barrels to offer to our customers.
Our wine selection is also adjusted seasonally, for example the Beaujolais Nouveau we released for New Year.
What part of Binny’s philosophy are you most proud of?
Binny’s believes in creating an environment where shopping for wine, beer, and spirits is almost as much fun as drinking them. We like to think people enjoy coming in and talking to our experts, and that is a wonderful thing.
What is your favorite wine? Cocktail?
My favorite wine? That is a really tough question. If I had to choose just one category, it would be either Champagne, due to its versatility, or Alsatian Riesling, because of the beauty and purity of some of those wines. Plus, the first date I took my wife on, we had a great Riesling from Trimbach, and she loved it. That earns it some points in my book. A specific wine I would have a tough time doing without, and that is reasonably available would be Vietti Perbacco; this is basically a baby Barolo but at a good price. The Vietti wines are amazing, all of them.
As for a cocktail, it would be a Manhattan, or simply a good Armagnac, neat. There are values in Armagnac that no other dark spirit can match, in my opinion. Not necessarily cheap, but unbelievable value.
What is the best way to enjoy the wines offered at Binny’s?
However you like them. The whole point of this is to enjoy what you are doing, so if you like an ice cube in your White Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon, do it. If you like water or ice in your whiskey, do it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else tells you, enjoy a nice drink the way YOU like it, not the way I like it.
What do you consider to be the best place you’ve traveled for business?
I have been very lucky, and have been to a lot of amazing places. Going to Vin Italy, or En Primeur in Bordeaux for tastings, would be near the top of the list. Those sorts of things are amazing fun, but they are work, too. Nobody will shed tears for you if you complain, but tasting can be surprisingly hard work.
Are there any trends in the wine/beer/spirits industry that are new to the scene or you’ve noticed to be taking hold this year?
The beer industry remains remarkably fluid and there is no slowing in the high-end Bourbon market. People are also now aware of the surprisingly high quality of Japanese single-malt whiskey, so those are hard to find now. Finally, I would watch the Rosé market in the spring; Rosé is taking off, which is great.
What are the top sellers for the Chicago market (that may not be as popular in other areas of the country)?
The item that stands out is Malort. If you want a laugh, look on Youtube for a Jepson’s Malort “commercial”. The stuff could peel paint, but it is a Chicago staple. Go to a bar, and ask for a shot of Malort. If you are in Chicago, they will pour it right up for you. In other cities, they may ask what you are talking about.
What does the future hold for Binny’s?
That is a tough question. We want to be better tomorrow than we are today, and so we will do whatever will make us better. That probably means more locations in more places, and certainly means continuing to invest in our staff and experts to improve their knowledge and service.
We want to be the best, and we want to showcase that we are a Chicago family-owned company. We are proud of our history, and all the amazing people and purveyors that we have worked with over the years.