Long Island Spirits: Not the Halloween Kind October 9, 2019

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On this rain-soaked, chilly day, a drink of whisky sounded perfect.

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There are pumpkins piled high at every farm stand or spread out in the fields, and it seems as though “pumpkin spice” is in everything except wine. There’s even a Pumpkin Pie Sorbetta liqueur at Long Island Spirits, but we are rebelling against all things pumpkin, so we did not try it on our recent visit to their tasting room. It was a chilly rainy day, and we and our guests agreed that it was perfect weather for whisky (or whiskey). So we dodged the raindrops and climbed the stairs to the airy space that includes a bar along one side and an assortment of tables and stools or chairs, plus doors leading to an outdoor deck where, one visitor noted, it would be nice to sit on a sunny day.

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That deck would be nice to sit on–on a warm, sunny day.

We were surprised to discover that we were not the only people there on this mid-week day. One couple ordered cocktails and sat at a table near the window, while a few other groups stood at the bar for tastings. We brought our tastes, plus a couple of bags of potato chips ($1.50 each), to a table and commenced some serious assessments.

There is a lengthy menu of cocktails and a separate menu of “Craft Tastings.” The latter is divided into two categories, of either three samples of “Vodka, Gin, or Sorbettas,” for $11. or three samples from the “Barrel Aged Tastings” list for $15. In either case, you get to keep your tasting glass, which the bartender will wrap up for you, as a souvenir. We have quite a collection of them!

Since there are eleven options on the first list, and seven options on the second, we needed some time and discussion to choose who would try which. Finally, my husband and I decided to share a Barrel Aged tasting; one visitor, who is a single malt scotch aficionado, decided to do one of those as well; and our other guest, whose favorite drinks include martinis and gibsons, opted to go for a vodka, a gin, and a sorbetta.

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1. Pine Barrens American Cherrywood Smoked Malt Whisky $39 for 375 mL
The bartender informed me that this and the other whisky are aged for one year, but in small barrels so they get plenty of exposure to the wood. That might account for the aroma of pencil shavings I detected, as well as a fruity note. Our friend noted that he prefers his whisky with a drop of water, and I suggested he could just step outside if he wanted water, at which he mimed wringing out his hat into his glass! We all agreed that this is a smooth whisky, somewhat fruity, though our friend did not like the finish.

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The first taste of vodka comes in a chilled glass.

2. LiV Potato Vodka $32 for a liter
This is the vodka that they started out with, and it is still a winner, which our friend called classic. She added that it would be good to sip on its own or as a mixer, as it is smooth and clean tasting.

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3. Pine Barrens American Single Malt Whisky $39 for 375 mL
Again we are in agreement, this time that we liked the first whisky better than this one, which is sharper or harsher, though it is not bad. It has a slightly funky aroma, and one friend says she detects a scent of chocolate.

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4. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $32 for 750 mL
True to its name, this is a complex gin with a piney aroma. Our martini-loving friend says she would like it in a gin and tonic, but that it is too floral for a nice dry martini. “There’s a garden in here somewhere,” she concludes.

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I’d like to try this brandy in a snifter.

5. Sherwood House Vineyards XO Brandy $39 for 375 mL

Made from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and aged six years, this is a really nice brandy. I imagine sipping it after dinner in front of a fire, perhaps while cracking walnuts. It makes me warm all the way down, one of us comments. I get some tastes of vanilla and spice—almost but not quite pumpkin pie!

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The Tahitian Lime Sorbetta has a faint green hue and a very assertive lime taste.

6. Tahitian Lime Sorbetta   $19 for 375mL
The sorbettas come is slim elegant bottles. Knowing she has limoncello and orange liqueur at home, our friend chose to try the lime flavor. None of us really like this, which we say tastes like lime rinds mixed with sugar. Blimey, it’s limey!

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Before you ascend the stairs, you can peek into the distillery.

7. Rough Rider Double Cask Straight Bourbon Whisky   $39 for 750 mL
Our whisky drinking friend is pleased with this choice as well, which he says would go well in a mint julep, but is also nice to sip. It is smooth and pleasant, with a good finish.

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The stools are somewhat precarious, so we were joking that they were there so you knew when you needed to stop drinking.

Reasons to visit: You are in the Riverhead area and want to try something other than wine, cider, or beer; the Cherrywood Smoked Single Malt, the Potato Vodka, the Deepwells Botanical Gin, the XO Brandy, and the Rough Rider Bourbon; you would like a creative craft cocktail but don’t feel like going to a bar; you want to add to your collection of vodka or shot glasses. We also have liked in the past, and bought, the Bull Moose Rye Whisky. I don’t always like rye whisky, but I like this one.

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Long Island Spirits: Cocktail Time August 29, 2018

Long Island Spirits: Cocktail Time August 29, 2018

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No, the name Long Island Spirits does not refer to ghosts. The distillery used to be called LiV, for Long Island Vodka, but now they have so much more. In addition to their vodka and a bunch of sorbettos made from vodka, they also carry gin and several whiskies. We had been there recently for a tasting, but we had visitors whom we knew would appreciate what LIS had to offer, so after a trip to the aquarium in Riverhead we headed to Sound Avenue.


While our friends sampled whisky and sorbetto, we ordered cocktails and settled down at a table to enjoy them. And enjoy them we did. I had the Cucumber Mint Cooler made with gin and my husband had the Bloody Mary. My drink was, as its name suggests, crisp and cool, just right for the hot weather. It was garnished with a slice of cucumber. The Bloody Mary was also tasty, though it could have been a touch spicier, garnished with olives and a pickle.

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Our cocktails, with a couple of sips already taken.

I have wanted to try their cocktails, and was happy I finally got to.
After the drinking, our friends bought the lemon and orange sorbettos and an espresso vodka, while we bought a bottle of Rough Rider Rye to replace the one we had finished.
Reasons to visit: in addition to excellent vodka, gin, whisky, rye, and sorbetto, some really nice cocktails. Too bad they don’t have a menu of bar snacks to go with them!

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While we were there we saw a couple of people order cocktails and take them out to the deck, but it was awfully hot out there!

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Downstairs you can peek through a window at the distillery.

Long Island Spirits: Spirit of Spring March 23, 2018

http://lispirits.com/

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Despite the Four’Easter, spring IS coming to the North Fork.  You can tell because Briermere is open and selling pies!  Meanwhile, it was still cold enough that whisky sounded like a good idea, so we headed to Long Island Spirits, the home of vodka, gin, and various whiskies on the North Fork.  The first tasting room that you come to on Sound Avenue heading from west to east, it is a large structure with a gravel parking lot.

You climb steep stairs to the tasting room. The stairs might be seen as a warning not to drink too much, though in the summer they open an additional bar downstairs, and have music and food trucks.    Upstairs you will find a large airy barn-like room with a bar along one side and a small outside balcony.  The have a small selection of snacks on sale, like jerky and Backyard Brine pickles, some fancy tonic and mixers, and some t-shirts.

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One view of the room.

On offer are several menus.  There’s a vodka and gin and sorbetta menu, three tastes for $11, and you keep the commemorative glass.  Then on the back of that there’s a whisky, rye, and bourbon menu, three tastes for $16, and again you get to keep the glass.  Finally, there’s a two-sided menu of cocktails, whisky or vodka based.   Sorbettas are vodka-based liqueurs, like a Limoncello, but here in many flavors, from lemon to strawberry.    We’ve had—and bought—them in the past, so this time we skipped them, but I will say in general they are quite good, with real fruit flavor, only slightly sweet, and make nice after-dinner drinks.

 

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The menu of vodkas and gin and sorbettas: I recommend you try both the potato and corn vodkas, to see the difference. The gin is also excellent.

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  1. LiV Potato Vodka           $36/liter

This is their original product, a great use of the famous Long Island potato.  It’s a good, smooth vodka, with a bit of a citrusy and baked pear taste, not quite as neutral as some vodkas.  It’s also gluten free, for those who need to know this.

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We’re amassing quite a collection of these nice little vodka glasses.

  1. LiV Standard Edition Vodka $36/Liter

I tend to think of vodka as a rather tasteless drink, but I am willing to be educated, and today I was.  So I learned that corn-based vodka really tastes different from potato-based vodka.  It may be the power of suggestion, but I felt I could taste corn, and a slight touch of sweetness in comparison to the other one.

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If you look closely, you can see the list of all the botanicals.

  1. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $35/750 ml.

You can make gin at home.  Just take vodka and add whatever herbs and spices you like.  We’ve done it!  This gin starts with a potato base and adds twenty-eight “local and exotic botanicals,” from almonds to elderflower to merlot leaf to watermelon.  We liked it.  It is spicy, with some nutmeg-like taste along with other complex flavors, and would make an interesting martini.  It might be fun to combine it with a Channing Daughters vermouth.

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The whisky tasting glass. We’ve begun a collection of these, too!

  1. Pine Barrens American Single Malt Whisky $80/750 ml.

Another easy-to-drink beverage, this is a smooth and unchallenging non-peaty whisky.  I smell oranges and vanilla, and the taste is slightly sweet.  I like the peaty single-malt Scotch whiskies, so this was good but not one I would buy.

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The names are nods to Long Island: Teddy Roosevelt and the Pine Barrens region.

  1. Rough Rider “Bull Moose” Three Barrel Rye Whisky $60.50/750 ml.

Three barrels?  According to the menu, they age this in a combination of new American oak, X-bourbon, and X-pine barrels.  It smells like a sawmill, like fresh-cut pine.  Smooth and easy to sip, this has some tastes of ginger and spice, but my tasting buddy found it “bland and monochromatic.

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We haven’t tried any of these, but if we came with friends we might.

  1. Rough Rider Straight Bourbon Whisky $45/750 ml.

Made from 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley and aged two years in new American oak and wine casks, it tastes like a traditional bourbon.  It is a touch sweet, with some orange flavor.  We liked it.

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Reasons to visit:  the chance to taste some locally made hard liquors and liqueurs; cocktails if you prefer that; something different instead of wines.  We bought the Deepwells gin.

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Careful on those stairs!

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Arrays of bottles and of various other products for sale.

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Long Island Spirits: Time to Warm Up January 8, 2017

http://lispirits.com/

It takes more than a little snow to keep us from doing a tasting.

It takes more than a little snow to keep us from doing a tasting.

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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.

Lots of options!

Lots of options!

Plus cocktails...

Plus 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.

 

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The glasses are free with your tasting.

 

 

  1. 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.

You can see they have quite an array of products.

You can see they have quite an array of products.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

We had the room to ourselves.

We had the room to ourselves.

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

They have a small selection of gift items.

They have a small selection of gift items.

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.

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Twin Stills Moonshine: All in the Family May 7, 2016

http://www.twinstillsmoonshinedistillery.com/

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We asked our server about the honey used in the delicious honey-flavored whiskey, and he turned to a woman next to him and asked, “Ma, where do we get our honey?”  After proudly telling us about their local sources, including their own beehives which they just started, she added, “My husband is from Portugal. That’s a drawing of his grandfather on the label. ”  This tiny distillery is the definition of a mom and pop store, with the stills in a back room of what used to be a little deli on Sound Avenue.

The honey flavor

The honey flavor

We had been eagerly awaiting its opening, intrigued by the idea of moonshine and rumrunners, given Long Island’s interesting history with both during Prohibition, and this chilly rainy May day seemed like the perfect opportunity to sample some warming whiskey.  It took them a while to open due to delays in getting their license.

A view along the bar.  That's mom in the background.

A view along the bar. That’s “mom” in the background.

The tasting room is small, with a bar along most of its length plus an alcove, but in the warm weather they plan to also use the porch and a patio area along one side of the building.  If you want snacks with your drinks, you’ll need to sit outside.  And you may want those drinks.  The moonshine whiskey—also referred to as “shine”—is made from locally sourced corn and barley, plus other ingredients which are, to the greatest extent possible, also local.  In the future they’d love to add a Portuguese-style grappa to their menu, which is what the owner’s grandfather made back in the original “twin stills” back in Portugal.  The drinks go down quite smoothly, despite the high proof, and some seem like guaranteed crowd pleasers.

The alcove off to one side of the tasting room.

The alcove off to one side of the tasting room.

The menu offers three tastes for $9 from their menu of five choices, plus beers from Greenport Harbor Brewery and ciders from the soon-to-open Riverhead Cider House on tap.  They also offer shots and cocktails, with a menu of interesting combinations, for $7-$9.  A 375ml bottle of flavored shine is $20, and a bottle of the 100 proof original is $25.  We decided to each get a flight, so we could sample all the flavors.

  1. Honey  80 proof

When I have a bad cold, I like to make myself a hot toddy, a mixture of whiskey, honey, and hot water or tea.  Lemon optional.  It may not cure anything, but it does make you feel better!  The honey shine reminded me of a hot toddy—just add hot water.  You can really taste honey, and it has an unctuous mouth feel that is quite pleasant.  I could see sipping this by the fire after dinner on a cold winter night.  Their cocktail idea is to add it to iced tea with a twist of lemon, which they call “Fricken Likken Good Tea.”

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  1. Apple Pie            50 proof

This is a good choice if you don’t actually like whiskey at all.  It tastes of apples and cinnamon and is too sweet for us.  It might be good in a mixed drink if you balanced the sweetness with something tart.  One mixed drink they make is called “The Red Neck,” and includes the apple pie flavor plus cranberry juice and a twist of lemon.

  1. Coffee 80 proof

I used to drink Black Russians as my preferred after dinner drink, and this reminds me of that.  It is our favorite flavor, and we buy a bottle to take home.  We are told that it is made with “real coffee beans,” but any further details are secret.  At any rate, it tastes like good coffee mixed with whiskey, with some sweetness.

The strawberry is a pretty color.

The strawberry is a pretty color.

  1. Strawberry 60 proof

We were afraid this would be cloyingly sweet, but the intensity of the strawberry flavor means it is not.  It reminds me a bit of LiV vodka’s strawberry after dinner drink, though again the mouth feel is different.  They recommend mixing it with lemonade and garnishing it with a strawberry, a drink they call “Southern Sunshine.”  They plan to use local strawberries when they are in season, which, despite the cold wet weather, should be soon.  After all, mid-June is when the Mattituck Strawberry Festival takes place.

Tiny but pretty cups

Tiny but pretty cups

  1. Moonshine Whiskey 100 proof

At this point, I think I should point out that the tastes are served in adorable but tiny pottery cups, “hand made in Portugal,” we are told, so though the alcohol level is high you will not be.  We are both single malt scotch drinkers, but this is a very different tipple.  You don’t get any of the peaty or smoky notes of a scotch, as this is a simpler drink.  It’s fine well-iced, which is how they serve it.  The cocktail menu suggests mixing it with lemonade and pineapple juice, garnished with a chunk of pineapple, for an “o’Old School Lemonade.”

The menu is on the obligatory blackboard, and you can also see the cider taps.  Note the saying.

The menu is on the obligatory blackboard, and you can also see the cider taps. Note the saying.

Reasons to visit:  you want to try something new; you like whiskey; you want a cocktail; the coffee and honey flavors; you want to buy various flavors to make cocktails at home; the cozy tasting room and the chance to chat about the making of whiskey (though they are somewhat sparing on the details).

The "old tymer" on the label is grandpa, the inspiration for the twin stills.

The “old tymer” on the label is grandpa, the inspiration for the twin stills.

Cute little building

Cute little building

Long Island Spirits: And We Don’t Mean Ghosts January 3, 2015

http://www.lispirits.com/index.php

LIV sign

Local wine and craft beer are fine, but what if you want something stronger?  Long Island is famous for its potatoes, so what could be more natural than to use those potatoes to make a pure potato vodka?  And so LIV was born.  The distillery’s tasting room is up a flight of wooden stairs in a chic industrial-style loft space, where you will find not only vodka, but a series of liqueurs made from that vodka, plus gin, and also a line of “brown” spirits—various styles of whisky.

Here you buy the glass, which can then be filled with your choice of tastes: three from the vodka menu for $10 or two from the whisky menu for $14.  Then they wrap up the glass for you to take home.  Our server was also one of the distillers, and his enthusiasm for his products was quite catching.  We learned all sorts of bits of information, such as that it takes 25 pounds of potatoes to make one bottle of vodka.  They also can now offer cocktails, and will soon have local beer as well.  They have a small selection of drink-related gift items.

Some of their gift items

Some of their gift items

By the way, if you go on their web site they ask for your birth date, and if you decline to provide it and try to enter you are diverted to a Disney site.

From the Vodka Menu

  1. LIV Original

This is “just a great vodka” we decided.  Not too many vodka makers do a straight potato vodka, notes our server.  The taste is very clean and clear.

The vodka glass

The vodka glass

  1. Raspberry Sorbetto $22

Local raspberries are used to infuse the vodka with intense berry taste.  Though sugar is also added, our friend noted it was not too sweet, and would make a lovely cocktail with bitters.

  1. LIV Ristretto Espresso $30

Yes, this is vodka infused with espresso plus sugar.  “Dangerously delicious,” muses our friend, and “shouldn’t coffee come in this form?”  Not sure how much this would wake you up in the morning.

LIV also menu

  1. Lime Sorbetto $22

Obviously the limes are not locally grown, but this is also quite good.  Our friend compared it to key lime pie.

  1. Strawberry Sorbetto $22

Mattituck is famous for its strawberry festival, so it’s no surprise to find a strawberry flavor on the menu.  However, we find this one a bit too sweet.

  1. Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin $35

28 botanicals, to be precise, all of which are listed on the tasting menu, and quite botanical it is indeed.  Though it would not really work in a martini, one could be quite happy drinking this straight or on the rocks, or maybe in a gin and tonic with the interesting tonic they have for sale.

From the Whisky Menu

The whisky glass

The whisky glass

  1. Rough Rider Bull Moose Three Barrel Rye Whisky $45

Yes, three barrels—North American oak, bourbon casks, and finally whisky casks—are part of the process of distilling this whisky.  The aroma is sweet and spicy, maybe allspice, also caramel candy and apple pie.  I like whisky, single malt scotch in particular.  This is very smooth and quite tasty and we buy a bottle to take home.

  1. Pine Barrens Single Malt Whisky                 $45

This drink starts its life as English ale barley wine which is then double pot distilled and aged in new American oak casks—plus more detail I missed in my notes because I was enjoying the drink.  I didn’t like this as much as the Rough Rider, but it is also a very good whisky, with some earthiness to the taste, a bit lighter than the Rough Rider.

LIV bar

Reasons to visit:  you like vodka, gin, whisky, and/or after dinner drinks like Limoncello, which the sorbettos resemble; you’ve been to a bunch of wineries and are ready for something different.

The recipe for one of their cocktails

The recipe for one of their cocktails

The entrance

The entrance