Keep Drinking Local: Beyond Hamptons & North Fork Beer and Wine

Wolffer Pink Gin
Photo: Courtesy Wölffer Estate Vineyard

East End wine, East End beer—we love it. But what happens when you want to change up your alcohol while still keeping it local?

How about hard cider? In colonial days cider was America’s most ubiquitous drink, but it was long ago eclipsed by whisky, beer and wine. In the last few years, however, cider’s popularity has been surging—it makes a tasty, gluten-free alternative to beer. Several local wineries have gotten in on the cider game, including Wölffer Estate Vineyard, with their No. 139 Dry Ciders, and Lieb Cellars, with Rumor Mill Cider. They’ve now been joined by the new kid on the block, the Riverhead Ciderhouse. In their headquarters at 2711 Sound Avenue in Calverton, the Riverhead Ciderhouse’s cidermaker Greg Gove produces ciders in-house, using apples sourced from upstate New York. They currently have three varieties of cider: Benjamin’s Best, a dryer, more carbonated style; Founders Reserve, a sweeter, lighter style; and Captain Cook’s Razzmatazz, which incorporates raspberries for a tangier tipple. You can sample their cider at the Sound Avenue location, where it’s on tap along with local beers and local wines galore. They also have a café serving light fare to complement the beverages—or you can bring a growler full of cider home to serve with your own food.

Of course, you might be looking for something stronger than cider. The East End has got you covered there, too. Long Island Spirits, located in Baiting Hollow on the North Fork, is Long Island’s oldest craft distillery. Founder and owner Rich Stabile notes that they just celebrated their 10th anniversary in January, and they’re in growth mode. “We just added a 4,000-square-foot barrel house and an automated bottling line,” he says. “We’re available in 35 states plus Alberta, Canada.” Long Island Spirits’ signature product is their acclaimed gluten-free, potato-based LiV Vodka, which is made using locally farmed potatoes. But that’s just one in Long Island Spirits long line of craft-distilled offerings that use local ingredients. Their Deepwells Botanical Dry Gin, also gluten-free and based on local potatoes, is infused with 28 different botanicals—many sourced from the East End. “We use local lavender, local apple, local pear, and even local merlot leaf,” says Stabile. The distillery also produces the barrel-aged Pine Barrens Barrel Reserve gin, which is Deepwells gin that is finished in whisky barrels, imparting a caramel color and a distinct sweetness. “It’s an ‘Old Tom’ style gin, and perfect in a Tom Collins—but good in anything,” says Stabile. This gin won a 95-points rating in the 2017 Ultimate Spirits challenge.

Not everything Long Island Spirits produces is gluten-free. Their line of whiskies, bottled under the Rough Rider label, are, of course, grain-based spirits—but they still adhere to the company’s commitment to local ingredients. “The Big Stick (a cask-strength 121-proof rye) uses local rye and champagne yeast,” says Stabile. The rye they use is actually planted as a winter cover crop on local potato fields, and the distillery mills the grain in their own millhouse. You can visit Long Island Spirits’s tasting room at 2182 Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow to taste their products. Their complete line of spirits is always on sale there as well.

On the South Fork, you don’t have to go far out of your way to find a local alternative to beer and wine. Sagaponack’s Wölffer Estate Vineyard has its own gin, which is distilled from its own rosé wine. Flavored with juniper that grows right in front of the winery, this gin truly puts the “local” in your martini glass! You can buy it straight from the winery at 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack, but be aware that state law forbids the winery from pouring samples to taste. Trust us though—it’s good!

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