(This article first appeared in the November 1, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Amid the miles of famed North Fork Wine Country resides a different kind of alcohol batching — Long Island Spirits, an original craft distillery. Visit the restored barn in Baiting Hollow, which celebrated a decade of operation last January, and step onto the balcony that overlooks 5000 acres of potato farms deeply rooted in its culture. The operation has a long, spirited history.
In 1908, Henry and John Columbus emigrated from Poland and constructed the barn that still stands today. During the Prohibition Era, it’s rumored the barn’s cupolas held lanterns signifying clearance for rumrunners to smuggle their libations.
The Columbus family farmed potatoes up until 1943, when the Wanat family purchased the property. The Wanats lived next door, in what is today known as Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards, and continued the potato farming tradition through 1968, when it was sold to Joseph Piccone Sr.
During the Piccone era through 2001 the property was leased to the local farming community. Unused, the barn deteriorated.
When deciding between tearing down the barn in its entirety or beginning a full resoration, Joseph Piccone Jr. chose to revitalize the historic bones. Opened in 2007, the barn retains much of the original character and serves as the headquarters to the spirits craft distillery.
Downstairs listen to live music on the outdoor terrace prior to heading up the stairs to the main level of the distillery. To the right, look down at where the magic starts and to the left meet the friendly bartender serving up the latest, or classic, creation.
Long Island Spirits has several well-known bottles of gin, whisky, and vodka, the ultimate triple threat. The liquors are distilled three times through twin, 650-litre, costum-made copper pot stills and uses water sourced from an aquifer below the Pine Barrens Forest Preserve.
Long Island Spirits’s Pine Barrens label serves up a barrel reserve botanical dry gin, cherrywood smoked malt, and American single malt whisky. The Deepwells label boasts a botanical dry gin and the Rough Rider pours a Happy Warrior cask strength bourbon, Bull Moose three-barrel rye whisky, the Big Stick winter rye, and straight bourbon whisky. Of course, the LiV vodka comes in the original, standard, ristretto espresso vodka, and fresh fruit-infused sorbettas in lemon, lime, orange, raspberry, and strawberry flavors.
Can’t get enough pumpkin-flavored everything? Make yourself a pumpkin spice latte with ristretto espresso vodka, pumpkin pie sorbetta, simple syrup, half and half, and garnish with some whipped cream and cinnamon. For those with craving the best of both fall flavors, try the Pumpkin Pie Martini with vodka, pumpkin pie sorbetta, apple cider, and shake it well — serve with a sugar rim. Another take is the Holiday Spice Cocktail which calls for vodka, pumpkin sorbetta, apple cider, ginger beer, and is garnished with crush ginger snap rim or a cinnamon stick.
LI Spirits has a list of cocktails to concoct at home right on their website at http://www.lispirits.com.