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Local Spirits: Rise of the Conscious Cocktail

I’m feeling a little guilty about my posting last week, When Life Gives You Raspberries, Add Vodka. No guilt on the idea of blending raspberries and vodka, it’s just I recommended “cheap vodka” as an ingredient for the Raspberry Cordial recipe. Shame on me. There’s no point in praising the glories of local, organic raspberries and then regress to mixing them with no name, no good sustainable karma vodka just to save a buck.

Turns out I have better options, thanks to the burgeoning rise of “micro-distilleries.” Over 100 of these small, independent, locally owned distilleries can be found across the county and continue to pop up at the rate of ten to twenty a year. Turns out one of these sits just north of my farm in Madison, Wisconsin: Yahara Bay Distillers, making small batches of vodka, white rum and other spirits using local ingredients from family-run farms ideally within 100 miles.

“A year ago I couldn’t spell distillery, now I’m making the stuff,” confesses owner Nick Quint with a smile. Unlike wineries and breweries, small micro-distilleries can get up and running with a much lower investment and learning curve. “Folks are drinking less but drinking better and they want to be aware of what they’re drinking, and that’s where local spirits fit in. People want to slow down and consciously enjoy a quality cocktail.”

I’m convinced. But just to set me permanently straight on why I shouldn’t fall for cheap vodka again, Quint offers these three reasons to seek out micro-distilleries:

1. Small Batches
“Because we just make small batches of our spirits, the process can be much more hands on and assure higher quality,” explains Quint. “I personally watch each batch and take out the ‘head’ or the ‘tail’ of each batch, which may contain acetone or methanol.

2. Local Ingredients
Micro-distillers can prioritize local ingredients, often creating spirits based specifically on what’s available from area farms. Quint is collaborating with an area farmer to use local rutabagas in their vodka.

3. Less Transport
By eliminating shipping and transportation costs, fewer fossils are used.
Photo Credit: Lisa Kivirist

3 comments
  1. Carla

    I dont drink much spirits anymore (I’m more of a wine girl) but I will definately keep this in my next time I want to restock my cabinet. :)

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