Grown on Long Island but inspired by a Portuguese tradition, Twin Stills Moonshine holds pride as the only tasting room of its kind in the area. Naming their distillery after the twin stills imported from Portugal used to make their product, Joe and Patty Cunha have created a unique libation experience on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.
Jose Cunha, Joe Cuhna’s grandfather, began distilling single, small batches of grappa in northern Portugal in 1926. Joe, who bears his grandfather’s name, made frequent trips to the old country, especially over the winter months during the busy season. A passion was born. With the passing of his grandfather in 2006, Cunha decided the best way to continue the family legacy was to recreate it. His dream became a reality in March of 2016 when the logo was sketched after a picture of Jose Cunha and the doors opened up.
“I’m very traditional and family oriented,” Patricia Cunha, wife and partner, noted about supporting her husband’s ambition.
“If you want to do anything, I feel like nothing should stop you. If this is your passion and you want to do it, then let’s do it!”
Made from Long Island corn, the original flavors of this 100-proof moonshine are strawberry and apple pie, with additional products of regular, honey, coffee, chocolate, mixed berry, or the o’OldTymer whiskey aged in American white oak.
“We enjoy what we do over here, so much. We try and make everyone feel at home,” said Cunha.
“When people are sitting down, I’ll go and sit and start talking. I’ll grab my moonshine drink and I’ll sit and hang out for 10, 15 minutes without a care in the world. They ask questions and they all come back.”
The moonshine of yore often connoted male bootleggers sitting around barrels, celebrating illicit behavior. However, most of Twin Stills’s clientele is women — about 60 percent.
The whole process takes between two and three weeks from start to finish, with aged whiskey taking a bit longer. It starts by boiling the sugars out of the corn, throwing them in the fermenters, and adding yeast, which creates a beer-like liquid. After seven days, it is placed in a still where the vapors are condensed into a spirit.
Unlike other companies that produce in mass qualities and substitute with artificial ingredients, Twin Stills creates small batches with 100 percent natural ingredients from in-season flavors.
“I’m not going to use anything artificial in order to sell something. It’s just not who we are,” Patricia Cunha emphasized. You’ll taste real strawberries from strawberry season, pumpkin during fall, and more. The original bottle was the grappa bottle, which is still sold, but the moonshine is also offered now in traditional whiskey bottles. The various flavors can be enjoyed in a unique, hand-made clay cup imported from Portugal.
It’s through dedication to authenticity and tradition that Twin Stills sees a steady 30 percent volume growth each month, particularly during harvest season. Patty Cuhna places a sign out front that reads “Y wait in line? Come try some moonshine.”
Joe explained with a laugh the customers who would come in. “They say ‘Moonshine? What is this? We saw your sign and we did a U-turn.'”
The atmosphere in the tasting room is cozy and designed to feel homelike. Additional signs read “To hell with red wine, pour me some moonshine!” with copper trinkets, metal signs on the wall, and bottles galore. Take comical note of the Polaroid wall behind the bar, where visitors have created moments captured in time. Human pyramids, handstands, glasses breaking, all for the bragging rights of being another familiar face. View the Corn Hole Queens next to the Tasting Kings. Better yet, visit and make a memory of your own!
Emily Oruc, a Stony Brook University student, has been working at Twin Stills for a year and a half and will continue throughout the winter months. “People want to try them, so I’ll give them Apple Pie (my favorite) to start. Everyone who comes in leaves happy.”
Perfect for the season, try the o’Oldtymer from the drink menu — Apple Pie moonshine with caramel sauce drizzle inside the glass over ice. For those eager for more, join the Shine Club which meets on the first Friday of every month. Partake in a private tasting of the latest o’OldTymer moonshine that includes a personal shot glass, three tastings of any spirit, one flight of local, craft beer, and 10 percent off apparel and bottles.
Being extremely hard to come by, the small clay cups are only available for purchase during the big Black Friday event where every bottle purchased received a complimentary cup. In addition to Black Friday, enjoy live entertainment every Saturday and Sunday.
You don’t have to smuggle this alcohol to have a good time. Be welcomed like family and leave as a friend. Skip the wine and come toast with moonshine!