While there’s no shortage of breweries in Milwaukee, Brew City is also home to Wisconsin’s first distillery since prohibition: Great Lakes Distillery. What began as a passion project of manufacturing entrepreneur Guy Rehorst, the Great Lakes Distillery opened their doors in 2006 and currently produces nearly a dozen award-winning spirits including whiskey, gin, vodka, brandy and absinthe. By focusing on old-world methods and small batches, they’ve successfully grown their craft-spirit following in just a few years.
The tour takes about an hour and includes a visit to see the still in all her steampunk glory, as well as a tasting flight of 7 spirits. While you’re more than welcome to purchase a cocktail at the bar and bring it along with you, you may want to hold off until the end of the tour. After all, it’s nearing the equivalent of 4 oz. of high proof alcohol in the span of 20 minutes.
The still: where the magic happens
Fruit sugars fermenting into what will eventually become brandy
Our tour guide introduced herself as a former teacher, so I’m sure her child-wrangling skills have come in quite handy when corralling distillery guests over the years. She gave us the inside scoop as to why mass-produced liquor often leaves you with a hangover. It’s all about the tails! When collecting the refined alcohol for bottling, craft distillers at Great Lakes Distillery constantly monitor for quality. Perceptive taste-buds can note minor changes in flavor and alert the team to turn off the spigot when the tails become present. The tails (the flow nearing the end of a batch) have a higher concentration of bitterness and can both change the flavor profile as well as cause nasty headaches. The big producers tend to drain the still pot until it’s nearly empty since they’re focused on quantity and not necessarily quality. By paying attention to these details, it’s easy to see how Great Lakes Distillery has become so popular.
Their Kinnickinnic Whiskey has earned multiple gold medals and was also named “Best American Blended Whisky” at the 2013 World Whisky Awards. Blended from their own malt and rye along with bourbon from a larger unnamed American distillery, Kinnickinnic derives its name from an Ojibwe word meaning “what is mixed”. It was great on its own during the tasting but also sweet and spicy in the KK Buck, mixed with ginger beer.
Their neutral grain spirits are also gaining in popularity: their Rehorst Gin took double gold at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. While I’m not really a vodka drinker, I could also appreciate the Rehorst Citrus & Honey Vodka made with Wisconsin honey, which also earned a gold medal at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Please visit Great Lakes Distillery at greatlakesdistillery.com where you can book tickets in advance and find their up to date tasting hours.
Top shelf spirits and live music in the newly-renovated Garden Theater, need we say more? The $40 admission fee includes 15 beverage samples from some of the hottest bars and restaurants in Detroit, including Two James Spirits, Craftwork, Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company and Rock City Eatery.
Peruse the “Libation Station” and enjoy music from Will Sessions and DJ Bertram Cooper. Get your tickets from detroitcocktail.com
What: Detroit Cocktail Classic
Where: Garden Theater, 3929 Woodward Avenue, Detroit
When: Friday, October 24, 2014 7:00pm
Tickets: $40 in advance; $50 at the door
The Papillon, presumably named after “butterfly” in French and not the toy dog, is a fall favourite that comes to us from Sava’s in Ann Arbor. As it combines bourbon, black rum and a dash of scotch there are infinite variations one can explore.
- 1.5 oz. bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
- 0.5 oz. black rum (Barbancourt 8 Year)
- 0.5 oz. autumn syrup
- 0.25 oz. scotch (Glenmorangie)
- 3 bourbon-soaked raisins
Combine the bourbon, rum, syrup and scotch in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe and carefully drop in 3 raisins.
1 part water and .75 parts maple syrup; simmer and stir until mixed; cool to room temperature then store in a sealed glass container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Congratulations to Ann Arbor’s The Last Word who can now claim the title of The People’s Best New Bar in the Midwest. Avid fans voted early, voted often and helped TLW sail past other strong contenders from Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Was it the fresh herbs and house-made syrups? The craftsmanship behind each cocktail? Their own blend of Buffalo Trace bourbon? We think it’s all of the above.
From hosting gourmet pop-up dinners and Green Hour (absinthe, anyone?) we knew it was just a matter of time before Ann Arbor’s best kept secret received national attention. Stop by and see what the buzz is all about.
The Last Word
301 W. Huron, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Hours: 5:00pm to 2:00am (Tuesday – Saturday)
Celebrating the first official day of Fall with fresh apple cider from a local Michigan orchard. I suppose a more patient person would have made an autumn simple syrup but I took a chance that the acid in the lemon and natural sugars in the cider would help tame the splash of raw maple syrup…it worked!
- 1.5 oz. bourbon (Maker’s 46)
- 2 oz. fresh apple cider (Wasem’s Fruit Farm)
- 1/4 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/8 oz. dark amber maple syrup
- dash of cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into a coupe. Sprinkle a dash of cayenne pepper.
Inspired by the Elvis Costello song New Amsterdam, Much Too Much adds a bitter herbal twist to a Gimlet. The raspberries provide a brilliant red hue to this tart cocktail.
- 2 oz. New Amsterdam gin
- 0.5 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
- 0.5 oz. simple syrup
- .25 oz. Cynar
- 2 fresh raspberries
Muddle the 2 raspberries in a boston shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe.
For the truly brave, cut the simple syrup in half (using only 1/4 oz. instead of 1/2) and let the Cynar dominate.
The spicy playfulness of the ginger syrup tames the wild beast known as Rye Dog. Named after another three lettered canine best remembered in the closing credits of the 1980’s sitcom “Family Ties”. “Sit, Ubu, Sit- good dog- woof”
1.5 oz. Two James Rye Dog
.75 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
.75 oz. ginger syrup
.75 oz. Creme de Cassis
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.
A twist on the whiskey sour with fresh lemon juice and a rosemary-infused simple syrup. Named “His Father’s Eyes” as a nod to the 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, referencing the climax where the true identity of the father is revealed.
- 1.5 oz. Grass Widow bourbon, Two James Distillery
- 0.75 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 oz. rosemary syrup
Shake an strain over a rocks glass; garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.
from the Criterion Collection.
His Father’s Eyes
I submitted this to the first Two James Distillery contest- although it was not selected I still had fun putting it together.
I wanted to start experimenting with botanical infusions and was thrilled to find a recipe that uses both elderflower liqueur as well as lavender-infused vodka. St. Germain, a French apertif derived from elderflower blossoms, comes a bottle that looks like it was just plucked straight from Jay Gatsby’s liquor cabinet. If you can make iced tea, you can easily infuse vodka with dried lavender. While the recipe’s namesake calls for Grey Goose, I suspect any vodka will do. We sprinkled a generous handful of dried lavender into a bottle and let steep for a few days.
Goose in Spring comes from Elijah Venanzi, who won the May 2012 Vodka Cocktail Contest:
- 2 muddled raspberries
- 2 oz. lavender-infused vodka
- 0.75 oz. St. Germain elderflower liquer
- 0.25 oz. fresh lemon juice
Shake with ice and double strain into a lavender-rubbed coupe. Garnish with lemon peel.
Goose in Spring: easily infused