Light a Candle For Puerto Rico

(This article first appeared in the October 11, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


Social media is a powerful way to spread a message. It’s also a way to connect with like-minded individuals. Follow a page, like a post, message a company. This concept is exactly how I came across the latest altruistic endeavor from local company Hamptons Hand Poured.

Scented candles takes on a whole new fragrance when these 100 percent handcrafted soy jars are familiarly labeled. Hamptons Coffee, Sag Harbor Cinema, The End, Tumbleweed Tuesday, the names dedicated to the East End go on. Then an Instagram post showed the latest scent, Coastal Evacuation Route – a $28 sea salt blend with notes of citrus and violet with all of the proceeds going directly to the relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“That it was going to take four to six months to fully restore power [in Puerto Rico] was shocking to me,” Hamptons Hand Poured owner Brittany Torres expressed.

“On the first day I posted the candle, we raised just under $300. For a small business with little marketing and a product under $30, I think that’s not bad. My ultimate goal would be to send at least $1000 a month for as long as I can.”

Ties to the island run in Torres’s blood. Her grandparents lived in Dorado and she recalls memories from her visits as a child – even recreating a photo taken in Old San Juan. She also makes annual visits to the popular beach town, Rincon, where family and friends reside. Sadly, amid all the disaster, there has been no word from anyone.

Currently, Hamptons Hand Poured is undergoing this philanthropic effort singlehandedly, but remains open to collaboration. “I have tagged people on Instagram who are heavily involved in the efforts in hopes of getting a bigger audience. I would love to have more of my retail partners carry the candle. They would have to be willing to not make a profit on the product or at the least only take a small percentage of the sale so we can donate the most we can for Puerto Rico,” Torres detailed.

As time goes on smoothly for the fortunate, it’s important to keep in mind the millions of residents who have been affected by this record-breaking hurricane season. It’s through the efforts of the few that the many can benefit – and, in this case, simply survive.

Hamptons Hand Poured and the Coastal Evacuation Route candle can be purchased on the Etsy shop through or through Jason Lucas, owner of Sag Harbor Cycle at 34 Bay Street.

Follow Torres on Instagram @HamptonsHandPoured.

Simple Vodka: A Cocktail to End Hunger

(This article first appeared in the August 23, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


You’re at the bar debating what to drink. Absolut, Kettle, Grey Goose, Tito’s. Now there’s an even easier vodka choice. Simple. A vodka name you can feel proud to order. The company aims beyond satisfying its customers with a mission to end hunger in America.

As one in six Americans are food insecure, every bottle purchased gives 20 meals to those in need. Drink with pride — suddenly being hungover has a positive effect!

Here are the facts you need to know: Simple Vodka is handcrafted and sustainably distilled once in a four-column fractional distillation process. The water is drawn from Idaho’s Snake River Aquifer from a well that is 180 feet deep. The Russet potatoes used to create the vodka are sourced 40 miles from the distillery. Less than one percent of vodka sold in the United States is made from potatoes, but Simple uses nine pounds per bottle.

In keeping eco-friendly, 25 percent of the energy consumed during the distillation process is wind generated, the byproducts are then converted into animal feed, and the wastewater is recycled right on the premises. To ensure the product is fresh, the whole process goes from ground to bottle in six days or less.

Danny Lafuente, CEO, and Dan Maslow, president – known as “the Dans” — met in 2006 while pledging Beta Theti Pi fraternity at UPenn. Upon graduating they mutually desired to create a product that would generate positive social impact and, after a few Moscow Mules while out together in Miami, they stumbled into their future — vodka.

After countless hours of research on hunger relief programs across the country they realized that they could make the greatest impact by donating to programs to help cut down storage and food delivery costs. Bottoms up!

Master distiller Gray Ottley, of Distilled Resources Inc., teamed up with the pledge brothers and Dave Bourne at Ignite Spirit Branding designed the bottle. Simple Spirits Company was founded in March 2015.

Since launching in Florida, New York, and California in May of this year, Simple has donated more than 35,000 meals and strives for 30 million meals annually by 2020.

The taste is as clear as the product itself. In a social experiment while at a local fundraiser, where Simple was being served, I told the bartender to give me two Moscow Mules — one made with Tito’s and the other with Simple. Without knowledge, or pressure, of which glass contained which vodka, I sipped. Simple was the smoother flavor, having a clean finish without the sting (a complete shock as a long-time Tito’s drinker). Dangerously delicious.

Since launching in The Hamptons this summer, Simple has been a cocktail sponsor at events like the Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s An Evening of Enchantment, the UNCF’s A Mind Is… benefit, and they will be providing beverages at the Give Amor Fiesta benefit at Blue Parrot tomorrow night. Simple is also the official vodka of The Hampton Classic.

Simple is available throughout The Hamptons at restaurants and bars including Ruschmeyers, WÖlffer Kitchen, Almond, Muse in the Harbor, Old Stove Pub, Southampton Publick House, The Gig Shack, and The Squeezery along with many local liquor stores.

The next time you find yourself at a bar, or any of their purchasing locations, try the Simple choice. Your liver and your conscience will thank you for it. Cheers!