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

Tipsy Tastes: Wolffer Cider & Gin

(This article first appeared in the November 22, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper as part of my Tipsy Taste series)



Wölffer Estate has long been known for its wine and has received national recognition for its Summer in a Bottle. But the iconic brand has expanded its flavoring to libations of a different sort — cider and gin.

Rosé all day takes on a different note with Wölffer Estate’s Dry Rosé Cider that’s 6.9% ABV (alcohol by volume). With 100 percent New York State apples – five percent grown at Bridgehampton’s Halsey Farm and 95 percent from DeFisher Fruit Farms close to Rochester — it’s an aromatic blend. Jonagold, Mutsu, Golden Delicious, Idared, Gold Rush, and Northern Spy are all chosen for their dessert flavorings in the mix. The sweetness of a rosé yet subtle tartness of a traditional cider give it a blend leaving you wondering whether it’s summer or fall.

Double the flavor, double the fun! Wolffer’s Dry White Cider, paler in color, retains more of the traditional cider you’d expect but with the magic touch on the palate that the estate is famous for. This blend is 100 percent made with Halsey Farm apples, found a mere 4.6 miles away from the vineyard. The mix adds in a little less sweet and more of a crisp flavor with Red Delicious, Jonagold, Idared, Fuji, Empire, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Mutsu, Gala, Asian Pear, and others.

Both are crafted in a 355 ML bottle, which can be purchased on-the-go individually or in a four-pack at any of the brand’s locations.

Prefer gin over cider and wine? Wölffer’s got it — with that rosé touch. Its Pink Gin, distilled on property, uses the rosé as the base, followed by juniper berries picked from bushes on the estate itself. Anise, fennel, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and fresh mint from the garden are all added together in a copper pot from Germany. As a final touch, a small amount of red grape skin extract is added to give it that iconic pink coloring. The estate’s winemaker and partner, Roman Roth, said, “Using our rosé wine as the base gives us a clear advantage over grain-based gins. The aroma is much more playful and fruit-driven, and because of our strict and more generous cuts, we have a fine gin!”

Sold in two bottle sizes, 750 ML or 375 ML, bring it home with you.

While the ciders and gin can be taken anywhere, for those who’d rather stick to the classic wine list, all alcoholic beverages can be savored at the numerous Wölffer locations throughout the Hamptons.

Tipsy Tastes: Life is Better Liv’d

(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