Tipsy Tastes: Riverhead Ciderhouse

(This article first appeared in the November 29, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper as part of my Tipsy Tastes Series)

with Jon DeKenipp

Since its opening in March, Riverhead Ciderhouse has been the new go-to spot on the North Fork. Taking the place of a former industry warehouse, every inch of this 8000-square-foot space invites you in; from the hot mulled cider brewing in the front to the roasted garlic cooking in the back. Natural light fills the room but that’s no match to the heat coming from the two fireplaces on either side of the room, surrounded by homey couches and quirky reads. In front of the fire are refurbished doors converted to tables and farmhouse tractor seats, a touch indicative of the area.

More than just a cider house, as the name initially implies, this tasting room offers local libations of a different kind as well. Blue Point and Greenport beers, Lieb Cellars and Martha Clara wine, the list goes on and aims to please responsible drinkers of all kinds.

“We offer a really good variety for the different groups walking through the door,” Jon DeKenipp, chef and general manager, explained. “I’d say eight out of the 10 stick to the cider. It’s the newest and fastest growing beverage segment in the industry.”

According to, the number of hard cider consumers in the United States has doubled in the last four years alone, from 11.65 million hard cider drinkers in 2013 to 24.88 million in 2017, making such a large cidery the trendiest place to be right now.

Riverhead Ciderhouse doesn’t grow its own apples just yet, that’s expected in 2020. Rather, they source their product in juice form from a New York State orchard. Then the creation process begins.

“As you make your different flavors you have to take some flavors out to add the flavoring in,” said cider master Will Loughlin. “What we have left in our tanks now is 340 gallons — the last of our batch that we can play with.”

So what was it used for? “We put the Apple Annie in. We’re now in the talks of what our next batch will be.” With fresh juice coming by January 2018, and a six-to-eight-week cider-making process, a new batch can be expected by March of 2018 — just in time for the company’s one year milestone.

The Apple Annie is a regular, eight percent ABV (alcohol by volume) apple cider that’s been the latest buzz. Other popular flavors include the Prickly Pear Rose, a rose cider, and, just in time for the holiday season, the Crannie, a cranberry cider. Riverhead Ciderhouse’s website lists all that’s on tap and, thanks to technology powered by DigitalPour, a visual of what’s left.

Going into its first off-season, business is still holding strong. “We’re still trying to roadmap it. It’s a heavy seasonal spot and locality,” DeKenipp emphasized. “In any business the first year, you have to learn as you go. You learn from your mistakes and capitalize on your strengths.”

As you prepare your next round of holiday festivities, stop in to try some cider. Once you’ve found your favorite, take a growler back with you to share with family and friends. Whatever you do, make sure you #DrinkLocal. Cheers!

Riverhead Ciderhouse is located at 2711 Sound Avenue in Calverton. Join them on Thursdays for Dueling Pianos starting at 5:30 PM or live music indoors on other nights, as seen on the calendar. Reach the Ciderhouse at 631-591-0217 or visit

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!