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 February 17, 2013

http://www.lispirits.com/home.html

Although in general we only visit one tasting room per excursion, we made an exception this time so we could try some local bourbon.  We have been to the Long Island Spirits tasting room before, but only to taste the vodkas.  Our freezer now contains their entire line of vodka and flavored vodkas, but that’s another story.  The tasting room is up some shiny wood stairs, which, our son-in-law notes, could be a bit of a hazard after a tasting, into a large barn-like room with views over the fields.

Today we want to try the “brown” spirits.  For $13 you can try any two of the three on offer, and you get to keep the glass, plus they give you a little bag of crackers to clear your palate and a small bottle of water.  A tasting of three vodkas is $9. The distillery also has a nice collection of t-shirts and gift baskets for sale.   Since we’ve just come from Comtesse Thérèse, we all share one tasting!

  1.  Pine Barrens American                                $45

This is a single malt whiskey (not Scotch), with some sweetness and aromas of grain and warm spices. They make it from a barley-wine-style ale, we are told.

  1. Rough Rider Bourbon                    $40

I’m not sure, but I wonder whether the name commemorates Teddy Roosevelt’s use of the Montauk dunes to train his Rough Riders before they headed to Cuba.  In any event, this bourbon is actually mostly crafted in the Midwest, but then aged here in Long Island chardonnay casks.  The aroma is of caramel, and while it is okay, it is “not fascinating,” says the son-in-law, an excellent creator of cocktails, and we agree.  It would make a good Old Fashioned or Manhattan, which indeed proves true that evening during our home cocktail hour.

Reasons to visit:  you’re tired of wine (just kidding); you want to try spirits made locally; you want to buy some vodka or whiskey for cocktail time; interesting flavored vodkas; nice gift baskets.