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No apple left behind Golden Harvest Farms on Route 9 in Valatie looks like a thousand other roadside farm stands in New York. But behind the store, there’s a sign that reads “Distillery.” Inside, Derek Grout is producing 500 bottles a month of excellent vodka made entirely from apples grown right there on his family’s farm. Using a beautiful German still, he’s also making apple and pear brandies and an Apple Jack—brandy aged for a year in American oak—is out this month. All are bottled under the Harvest Spirits label. Grout’s Core brand of vodka is crystal clear, unctuously textured, and has an elegant trace of apple on the finish. It’s real sipping vodka, offering more pleasure by itself than many wellknown luxury brands, and seems suited to experimental mixing with other high-quality local tipples rather than juices or anything that would mask its qualities. The brandies are good, though Grout admits that he’s still learning the ropes; the first batch was made with fermented juice, while the next will be made by fermenting crushed whole fruit for a much richer and subtler flavor. (Warwick’s are made with crushed whole fruit.) Such a learning curve is understandable, though, given the short time that Harvest Spirits has existed. The enterprise, only a year old, is a collaboration between Grout and his business partner Tom Crowell, who approached him with the idea after hearing how many apples the farm discards every year. Grout speaks earnestly about developing a market for all of the fruit produced in the Hudson Valley, saying “We can make truly great products from the fruit we have, and it gives us complete control from tree to bottle. Some people think imported means higher quality, so our job is to change that.” He’s determined

to find ways to use all the wasted fruit in the region, whether in juice, cider (still or hard), or spirits. The Green Fairy is loose in Delaware County Another exciting local spirit well worth trying is the Absinthe made by Cheryl Lins in the Delaware County town of Walton, under the Delaware Phoenix label. She’s been selling it for less than a year, but it’s garnering raves from aficionados all over the country. Lins buys pharmaceutical grade neutral spirit that she uses as a blank canvas on which to mix flavors, then dilutes it to about 130 proof. “All you taste is the herbs,” she says. She makes two versions: Walton Waters and Meadow of Love. The latter has violet in place of lemon thyme, and offers a rounder, more feminine flavor profile. Both are characteristically anise-y, and the powdery, gently bitter flavor of wormwood asserts itself on the finish. Other herbs, many locally sourced, embellish the flavor with subtle details. Absinthe is traditionally drunk diluted with three to five parts cold water to one part absinthe (sugar is optional, but not recommended) which should be slowly dripped or poured in so that the louche—the elegant clouding as insoluble compounds react to the added water—can be enjoyed. Lins’ work is exceptional, and is best savored as intended, but this reviewer made an interesting martini using Core vodka and a few drops of Meadow of Love which suggests some other possibilities. There’s also Ernest Hemingway’s famous “Death in the Afternoon” cocktail, which he described in a celebrity cookbook in 1935: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.” 12/09 ChronograM food & drink 51

Chronogram December 2009  

A regional magazine dedicated to stimulating and supporting the creative and cultural life of New York's beautiful Hudson Valley.

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