From mischievously romantic pirate hideaways and rum running, to speakeasies and Hemingway, spirits and libations have been woven into the fabric of Florida’s history. Mix that with a lush tropical landscape—paradise for some, the envy of others (I’m looking at you Nebraska!)—and you have a recipe for one heck of a good time.
Capitalizing on the bounty Florida has to offer, a few cats have reined that entrepreneurial spirit and tapped into the growing wave of small batch, micro-distilled liquors. Micro-distilled spirits have steadily grown in popularity, bucking trends from the larger distillers, whose business plan calls for quantity over quality. Micro-distilleries have the opportunity to focus on artisanal products that are as much a joy to make, as they are to drink. Here NaplesIllustrated.com offers a few Florida small batch liquors that are making big waves in the $18 billion industry.
4 Orange Premium Vodka, Palm Beach Gardens
In the land of citrus it is only appropriate that oranges play a part in the micro-distillery world. But I am not talking orange infused, flavored vodkas; I am talking 4 Orange Premium Vodka, the first vodka made from Florida oranges. As the name suggests, 4 Orange is made from four different types of oranges: Hamlin, Parson Brown, Temple and Valencia. In fact, each 750ml bottle of 4 Orange Vodka contains roughly 20 Florida oranges, making your daily dose of Vitamin C much more exciting. The 80-proof vodka is distilled in Lake Alfred at Florida Distillers Company, and the brainchild of Palm Beach Gardens entrepreneurs Chester Brandes and Timo Sutinen. 4 Orange is naturally sweet with strong citrus flavors, but not in a diluted, infused way. It is great neat or on the rocks, but best when mixed in cocktails. The Orange Crush, one of 4 Orange’s signature cocktails, is delicious, while the Sunshine Sidecar is perfect for the poolside cocktail soiree.
Available at: ABC Fine Wine & Spirits stores
EG Inspiration, Winter Park
Vodka is the leading spirit in sales in the United States, making it no surprise that some of the most popular micro-distilled spirits on the market are, in fact, vodka. But what separates the small batch, craft spirits from the mass distributed, plastic bottled players, is the time, ingredients and craftsmanship dedicated to making a superior, niche product. EG Spirits [Enlightened Grain Spirits] is a prime example of this labor of love put into micro-distilled spirits. EG Inspiration is an ultra premium vodka infused with Tuscan rosemary and Spanish lavender, infused with actual ingredients versus chemical flavoring, the preferred method of some of the larger distillers. Created by company founder Matt Anderson of Winter Park, EG is now distilled in Portland, Oregon by House Spirits, a craft distiller that uses the pot-distillation method, a time honored (and consuming) process that enhances the flavors of the ingredients by slowly extrapolating the nuances of each. EG Inspiration, 80-proof, is crisp, retaining the subtle flavors of the ingredients. EG Inspiration is a sipping vodka folks, so order it neat or on the rocks. But if the mood strikes, get a Gimlet, the lime gives the vodka a kick.
Currently EG Spirits is only available in Central Florida, but will be expanding into the South Florida market early first quarter of 2011. Check back with us to see where EG Spirits will be available.
Mako Vodka, Jupiter
Saving the world, one cocktail at a time: the mantra of Mako Vodka, an 80-proof, five-time distilled premium vodka, whose price won’t break the bank. Ten-percent of the profits from Mako go to protecting and preserving our coral reefs and wetlands, so a little libation goes a long way. Designated a premium vodka, Mako has a smooth, clean taste that works well in a martini or other mixed drinks. Mako’s recipe and push to save our seas comes from Michael Politano by way of Jupiter. Now Mako is served across the nation, bringing with it the message of preservation, teaming up with regional non-profits organizations that specialize in protecting and preserving waterways wherever the vodka is sold.
5048 Airport Pulling Rd.
Palm Ridge Reserve, Umatilla
This is not your grandfather’s moonshine. Palm Ridge Reserve is some of the finest whiskey I have ever tasted, small batch or not. The brainchild of Marti and Dick Waters by way of Umatilla, Palm Ridge Reserve is the epitome of small batch, micro-distilled spirits with only 500 cases created a year. More art than libation, Dick uses a copper still to create his hooch and makes the whiskey by taste. Making five gallon batches, three days a week with a recipe made from corn, barley malt, regular malt and toasted flake rye, the whiskey is then stored for up to seven months in small American oak barrels that have been charred on the inside to give the finished whiskey its color and flavor.
Tasting much like a rich bourbon, Palm Ridge Reserve has sweet tones matched with rougher flavors brought on by the hard charred barrels. Don’t muddy this whiskey with any mix; the 90-proof whiskey is perfect neat or on the rocks.
5048 Airport Pulling Rd.
Siesta Key Rum, Sarasota
In the sunshine state, micro-distilling would be for naught without some rum thrown into the mix. Never fear, Siesta Key rums to the rescue! Distilled by Drum Circle Distilling out of Sarasota, Siesta Key rums are the creation of two white sand locals, Troy Roberts, distiller, and Tom Clarke, operations. Taking a love for rum and turning it into a business, Drum Circle Distilling’s focus is on creating the very best small batch, handcrafted rum with copper pot stills. Currently, Drum Circle is producing Siesta Key white rum, a smooth, naturally sweet rum with a slightly bold, upfront flavor, and Siesta Key gold rum, which is aged in oak barrels and has a smoother, more complex taste. The rums are made from organic molasses produced from Florida sugar, keeping true to the micro-distillery mantra of using local ingredients. Siesta Key white rum makes for a great mojito and the gold rum is the perfect base for a Cuba Libre.
5048 Airport Pulling Rd.