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Why is Peoria, Illinois Known as The Whiskey City?


Why is Peoria, Illinois Known as The Whiskey City?

America has had a long, storied history with alcohol and no place is that more evident than Peoria, Illinois. Once affectionately known as the “Whiskey Capital of the World” or “The Whiskey City” (a clear homage to the state capitol, about 170 miles away), this town certainly has a story to tell. 

The Story of Peoria, Illinois

Our tale begins in 1844 when Almiran Cole took his Peoria flour mill and turned it into a whiskey distillery. Its success started a trend. Immigrants flocked to the city over the next ten years to take advantage of the booming economy and jobs. 

Peoria was an ideal spot for whiskey distilling — it was centrally located, full of natural resources, and fertile farms with plenty of grain. With the Illinois River so close by, steamboats could quickly move whiskey to other parts of the country. 

By 1919, there were a whopping 73 distilleries and 24 breweries in Peoria, most of them located on “Distillery Row.” Unfortunately for this thriving town, the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) disrupted the production of alcohol, signaling the end of an era.

The esteemed gentlemen who ran the distilleries became known as “The Whiskey Barons.” Their influence extended through the town, contributing to theaters, hotels, libraries, churches, synagogues, statues, artwork, and the expansion of the Peoria Park District Land. The effects of this time of great prosperity can still be felt today. 

What to Do in Peoria, IL 

Need help planning your trip? Today, there are plenty of things to do when visiting PeoriaHere are a few of our top recommendations:

The 33 Room - this space honors the presence of Pabst Blue Ribbon in Peoria that existed until the early 1980s. Grab a glass of PBR or a craft cocktail and learn a bit about the history of this American beer staple.

Martini’s on Water Street - a great place right in downtown Peoria to start your night and enjoy a whiskey cocktail (or a martini!)

Bearded Owl Brewing and Rhodell Brewery - the days of alcohol production in Peoria certainly aren’t over. These two local breweries are favorites in the community and are perfect for you craft beer fans.

Black Band Distillery - grab a cocktail with organic spirits from ingredients supplied by organic Illinois farmers.

Bourbon’s Lounge - a warm, inviting bar with live piano music. According to the locals, it’s the perfect spot for a nightcap.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum is brimming with art, science, and history, complete with a 40-ft dome planetarium.

Peoria Irish Fest - with this history of whiskey, it won’t surprise you there’s a large Irish population in Peoria. The Irish fest is held during the last weekend of August with music, dance, games, food, and of course, Ireland’s favorite drink. 

Visit GrandStay Peoria 

Are you looking for hotels in Peoria, Illinois? After a long day of adventuring (and maybe a glass or two), lay your head at our Peoria, Illinois, GrandStay location. From our complimentary GRAND START® Breakfast to exceptional customer service, the GrandStay team is ready to host you during your next trip. 

Book your Peoria stay today! 


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