With new legislation encouraging farm-based distilleries and breweries, the craft beverage industry in New York has grown exponentially over the past few years. While everyone has happily adapted to sipping locally distilled spirits made with New York State grains, the mixers used by bartenders and home mixologists are often still national brands. The devil is in the details, folks!
To help you have a truly local aperitif, we’ve rounded up some of the Hudson Valley artisans making top-notch cocktail mixers, syrups, and shrubs. Happy sippin’!
Hudson Valley Artisanal Drink Fixins
Drink More Good Syrups
This Beacon-based outfit produces handmade, small-batch syrups and mixers for cocktails. All the Drink More Good products are made with a base of raw organic cane sugar and distilled water, to which they add whole herbs, spices, and fruits. Their product line includes Ginger Ale, Lemon Lime, Orange Pop, Hibiscus Rooibos, and Spiced Chai, plus a handful of rotating seasonal options like the Handcrafted Concord Grape Syrup—an autumnal highlight. You can use the products for cooking. “The orange syrup can be used to make a great General Tao’s chicken,” advises Sean Nutley from bluecashew Kitchen Homestead in Kingston.
Drink it With: Nutley raves, “The ‘Coke’ tastes exactly like the real thing!” We dig any opportunity to leave behind a big multinational corporation like Coca Cola, so we’re mixing Brooklyn-made Owney’s rum with Drink More’s Classic Cola for a 100% New York State-made Cuba Libre.
Toma Artisan Bloody Mary Mix
Get ready to host the most popular brunch on the block. At its production facility in Westchester, Toma is churning out its proprietary sriracha and chipotle tomatillo sauce, which is the basis for this all-natural, vegan mixer, which has rightly earned a cult following. Tomatillo, the little green cousin of the tomato, offers a tangy zing that plays nicely with the other flavors for a perfectly balanced Bloody Mary that goes down smoothly. Buy it online or find your closest retailer.
Drink it With: Indigenous Empire Wheat Vodka made by Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, made using New York State wheat. ‘Nuff said.
Dutch’s Spirits Bitters
On October 10, 1932, the FBI raided the Harvest Homestead Farm, mobster Dutch Schultz’s extensive underground bootlegging operation (there are miles of underground tunnels). The property recently reopened as a fully government-sanctioned distillery. They have yet to release liquors to market, but their aromatic bitters are a big hit with craft cocktail wizards.
Drink it With: Mix your bitters with the award-winning Beacon Bourbon from Denning’s Point Distillery, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a splash of club soda for a true blue Hudson Valley Old Fashioned.
Sawkill Creek Botanicals Bitters
The pet project of local chef Brooke Vosika, Sawkill Creek was founded in 2008. The Woodstock-based company makes small-batch, limited-edition ciders, bitters, wines, and elixirs using locally foraged and grown organic ingredients. The Black Walnut bitters, an intense aromatic, is made from Hudson Valley-foraged black walnuts, roots, bark, fruit peels, nuts, and spices, and then aged in a toasted oak barrel.
Drink It With: Pair the Wild Hibiscus Bitters, made with flowers foraged in Cape May, with Catskill Distilling Company’s Curious Gin, made with Sullivan County juniper berries, for a hyperlocal spin on Saveur’s Hibiscus Rose Vesper.
Hudson Standard Shrubs
Before globalization made tropical fruits available all yearlong, shrubs, or drinking vinegars, were bartenders’ preferred way of preserving the flavors of summer for winter. Made with a blend of fruit, spices, vinegar, and sweetener, shrubs are a tart and delicious syrup that mixes well with alcohol or just club soda. Hudson Standard is the, ahem, gold standard of Upstate shrubs. All of their products use a base of organic apple cider vinegar from the Finger Lakes region of New York, combined with a wide range of fruits to create incredibly tasty mixers. (Watermelon Chill with CBD, Peach Lavender, Strawberry Rhubarb, etc.)
Drink it With: Pair the Raspberry Verbena shrub with Prohibition Distillery’s Bootlegger 21 Vodka for a wistful taste of summer.
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Creme de cassis—that sweet, blood-red blackcurrant liqueur, which is a staple of Burgundy—is a classic aperitif and cocktail mixer, featuring in drinks like the elegant French favorite Kir Royale and the vermouth cassis. In December 2020, Catskill-based Rachel Petach debuted her twist on the classic cassis. Current Cassis is made a partial fermentation of local, Hudson Valley blackcurrants that are then blended with New York rosé and distillate, wild honey, and botanical infusions including whole green cardamom, bay leaf, citrus rind, and lemon verbena. Kingston Wine Company’s Michael Drapkin says, “The result is a more buoyant and herbal drink that is, in many ways, more akin to vermouth or red bitter aperitivos like Cappelletti or Aperol.” Normally retailing at about $28 a 375mL bottle, Current Cassis is currently (ha!) on sale at Kingston Wine Co. for $24.99. See the full list of Hudson Valley stockists, or order online.
Drink it With: Accordingly, Drapkin suggests trying it in your next Negroni or Manhattan. Like classic cassis, you can also add a splash to sparkling wine or seltzer for a low-ABV bevvie.