Spirits of Pure Michigan

While Michigan is known for its beer and wine, Michigan spirits have remained one of our states best kept secrets. Today, Trisha Verma, co-founder of Drink Michigan, fills us in on her favorite Michigan spirits, where to find them and more.

Michigan is home to some of the highest-rated, most award winning beer and wine in the country, and we get a good amount of recognition for it. But what many people don’t know is that we also produce some pretty amazing spirits. From vodka and gin to whiskey and brandy, Michigan’s growing distilled spirits scene is one of our best kept secrets.

You can find Michigan spirits on the shelves of many grocery and liquor stores. If you don’t see them, don’t be afraid to ask for them. Most stores are happy to order what you’re looking for. Remember – every dollar you spend on locally-produced spirits vs. those made outside the state is another dollar that helps boost the Michigan economy.

Not sure what to ask for? Here are a few of my favorite, more unique, Michigan spirits:

Hopquila – New Holland Artisan Spirts

The name doesn’t lie – this spirit really does taste like tequila with hops. It’s smooth and delicious. Mix it up at your next summer party by substituting Hopquila for tequila in your favorite margarita recipe!

Pear and Its Spirit – Black Star Farms

During the colder months, many of Michigan’s wineries turn to spirits production. One of my absolute favorites is this pear-flavored brandy. This dry, rich brandy is not only great to sip on, but it’s fun to cook with. Try soaking fruit in it for dessert, or mixing it into a fresh fruit salsa. Aren’t you dying to know how they got that pear in the bottle?

Zeppelin Bend Whiskey – New Holland Artisan Spirits

Straightforward, and rich, this whiskey will impress even the most discerning of palates. It warms you from the inside out when sipped straight, or mixed to create a great cocktail.

Civilized Vodka – Civilized Spirits

This smooth, cool vodka is brought you by the same brilliant team that makes Jolly Pumpkin and North Peak beer, and Bonafide wine. Sip it cold and straight, or mix it up in your favorite cocktail. Flavored vodka more your thing? Check out their Sakura – a delicious cherry version of the same vodka!

Knickerbocker Gin – New Holland Artisan Spirits

Not only is this one fun to say, it’s great to drink. Mix it up in a martini, or combine it with Michigan cherry juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, and a little seltzer for a refreshing summer cocktail

Barrel-Aged Michigan Whiskey – Grand Traverse Distillery

This one makes a great gift for the whiskey-lover in your life. Custom-age your Michigan whiskey in your very own barrel! These reusable white-oak barrels are already charred on the inside, and come in 2, 3, and 5-liter sizes. You can choose the type of whiskey you like best (corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or peated malted barley), and age it to your liking!

These are just a few of the great spirits that Michigan has to offer. Hard Luck Candy Vodka, Two Birds Artisan Spirits, Artesian Distillers – they are all great, very unique, and produced locally.

Looking for some cocktail recipes using these Michigan spirits? Check out the entries from our 2011 Cocktail Contest – there are some great ideas here!

You can sample many of these spirits, along with the best Michigan beer and wine, at our big summer bash on July 13. Sip of Michigan will be at The Rattlesnake Club in Detroit. We’ll have great food, live entertainment, and you’ll be able to taste from over 25 Michigan wineries, distilleries, and breweries. It’s a great evening on the Detroit Riverfront, and all proceeds go to a great cause. We hope you can join us!

Trisha Verma is a proud and passionate Michigander, and the co-founder of Drink Michigan, an online community dedicated to promoting Michigan-made beer, wine, and spirits. Drink Michigan’s goal is to help support the local economy by educating and encouraging people to buy these locally-made products. They travel around the state to taste new and interesting offerings, hold events, and are always on the lookout for new, fun ways to incorporate Michigan wine, beer, and spirits into food and cocktail recipes.

Warm Up With Winter Wine Tasting

As winter comes to an end in Michigan, it’s the perfect time to enjoy wine tasting on one of the last cold days of the year. Today, Trisha Verma, co-founder of Drink Michigan, shares some tips on winter wine tasting.

Whether you’re exploring Old Mission peninsula or hanging out in southwest Michigan, wine tasting is a great way to spend a cold winter afternoon. The tasting rooms are less crowded, there are many labels to choose from, and you often get extra attention from the tasting room manager, allowing you to ask questions and learn more about the wine, winery, and the region.

There are a couple things to keep in mind when you’re winter wine tasting:

  • Make sure your designated driver can handle the snow – the hills and winding roads of Michigan’s wine trails are part of what makes the experience so beautiful. But in the winter, they can cause quite a headache as you’re trying to make your way from winery to winery. You know you need a designated driver when you wine taste, but be sure that driver is an experienced winter driver. Even if it isn’t snowing, the dirt roads can be slick, and getting up those hills (and controlling yourself going down them) can be tricky.
  • Dress appropriately – be sure to dress for the weather and the environment. Many wineries don’t have paved parking and sidewalks, so boots are a good idea. You also want to make sure to bring hats and gloves – you never know when that lake-effect snow machine is going to kick in!

One of the best parts of tasting in the winter is all the variety that’s often in stock. This is the time to be adventurous and expand your palate. Talk to the tasting room manager, and let them guide you in experimenting with new varietals.  A lot of the wines we’ve discovered as our favorites over the last few years have been things we never would have tried if we had stuck to what we thought we liked.

Here are a few of our favorite winter wines:

    • Forty Five North Unwooded Chardonnay – clean, crisp white with great acidity
    • Black Star Farms Arcturos Cabernet Franc – a bold, full-bodied red wine that heats you up from the inside out.
    • L. Mawby Blanc de Noir – there’s never a wrong time for sparkling wine.
    • Fenn Valley Capriccio – a softer red, but full of great flavor.
    • Peninsula Cellars Merlot Reserve – full-bodied, and will age well (if you can wait that long!)

    With just a few weeks left before the masses storm the tasting rooms for spring releases, now is the perfect time to strap on your boots and go exploring on the Michigan wine trails. Be adventurous, and make sure you have a little extra money on you to buy a few bottles of your favorites. Many of the wineries don’t have state-wide distribution, so the tasting rooms are often the only place to get your hands on a bottle – don’t miss out on your chance to take some home!

Have any questions about wine tasting in the winter (or any other season), or want to share your favorite Michigan wines? Leave a comment, and let me know!

Trisha Verma is a passionate Michigander and the co-founder of Drink Michigan – a site dedicated to promoting and celebrating Michigan-made beer, wine, and spirits. Drink Michigan holds events to introduce others to Michigan products, travels across the state to try new and interesting offerings, and is always looking for new ways to incorporate Michigan beer, wine, and liquor into interesting recipes.