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.
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.
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 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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).