There’s something about a cold snowy day that gets me thinking about whiskey rather than wine—and certainly not beer. So we headed to Long Island Spirits—formerly known as Long Island Vodka, or LiV, but now much more than just vodka. We hadn’t been there for two years, and, though the tasting room is the same, the menu has certainly changed, with many more options. In addition to their classic vodka, they have a new vodka that is corn based and tastes very different. Then there are a couple of gins and several whiskeys. Plus their line of sorbettos—after- dinner drinks comparable to Limoncello—has greatly expanded. And we didn’t even begin to explore their menu of cocktails.
Since we had the tasting room to ourselves on this Sunday after a big snowstorm, we took our time and enjoyed chatting with the server, who had plenty to tell us about our choices. They have two basic menus, with the vodkas and sorbettos and a gin on one, with any three for $11, and the whiskeys and bourbons and a different gin on the other, with any three for $16. We decided to share one of each group of tastings, which meant we got to go home with two cute little glasses to add to our collection.
- LIV Standard Edition Vodka $32/1 liter
Served practically frozen straight from the freezer, this is a good vodka for someone who finds most vodka rather tasteless. It has an intriguing smoky flavor and a smooth—almost too smooth—finish. I think it would add an interesting depth to cocktails such as a Bloody Mary, and you could also sip it straight or on the rocks. Our server informed us that it is made from corn, unlike their classic vodka, which uses Long Island potatoes, and is a new product. Good addition to their line-up, we think.
- LIV Ristretto Espresso Vodka $35/750 ml
They make this with actual brewed coffee and sugar, plus vodka. If you like Starbucks espresso, you’ll like this drink. Our server says she likes it mixed with chocolate syrup and cream for an after dinner drink. Yum.
- Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $35/750 ml
Our glass got a quick rinse after the espresso so that we could really taste and appreciate the varied flavors of this gin. Thoughtfully, our server also gave us some water so we could rinse out our palates. According to the label, it is made from 28 “local and exotic botanicals,” amongst which we were not surprised to find anise and orris root, since we detect a strong note of licorice. It smells like cloves and other spices and has a complex flavor. My husband, a devotee of martinis and Gibsons, likes the taste, but would not want it in a martini. Our server suggests it would be good in a Tom Collins, and I could see it going very well in a gin and tonic—or again, just on the rocks.
- Pine Barrens Reserve Botanical Dry Gin $45/750 ml
For the switch to the other menu, we get a different glass, with a little etching of pine cones on it. Our server suggests we start with this, so we can do a gin to gin comparison. It is quite different. This is a gin that is aged in whiskey barrels, which, we decide, makes it a good gin for someone who likes whiskey. It smells somewhat piney, and tastes like a cross between gin and whiskey. It also uses 28 botanicals. I have to say, it goes down very easy. My husband again says he wouldn’t want it in a martini, but I think it would be perfectly fine straight.
- Pine Barrens Single Malt Whisky $80/750 ml
I like single malt scotch, so I was interested to see what this was like. The aroma is sweet and again a bit piney. It’s my favorite of the day. The LIV web site has an interesting description of how they make this: “Pine Barrens is the first American Single Malt Whisky to be distilled on Long Island. Instead of creating whisky from a regular mash, Pine Barrens uses an actual finished 10%ABV barley wine English styled Ale Beer that has a high hop count of 70 IBU’s.” As they say, it is incredibly smooth, with some tastes of spices such as nutmeg.
- Rough Rider “The Big Stick” $60/750 ml
You may not know this, but Theodore Roosevelt took his Rough Riders out to Montauk for training before they rode up San Juan Hill. In any event, this rye whisky is made from winter rye, a cover crop that is used to enrich the soil after potatoes are harvested. The name may be a reference to the fact that it is 121 proof, in addition to Roosevelt’s famous quote! Though it is not as smooth as the Single Malt, it is still a good drink, with some nice spice tastes, though a bit sweet for me.
- Bull Moose Three Barrel Rye Whisky $45/750 ml
Just for comparison sake, and because we have been having such interesting conversations about the drinks, as well as about various other North Fork venues, we are given a little sample of this other rye whisky. I find it less interesting than the Rough Rider, though I think it would make a superlative hot toddy. It is called “three barrel” because it is actually aged in three different kinds of barrels: new American oak, bourbon casks, and Pine Barren casks.
We get a small bottle of the Pine Barrens Single Malt to take home.
Reasons to visit: it’s winter and you need something to warm your innards; you’d like to try locally made, small batch, and really good spirits; you like vodka; you like gin; you like whisky.