Minnesota is a significant producer of rye and our rye whiskies continue to put Minnesota distilleries on the map. Spicier and more robust than other whiskies, rye whiskey is differentiated by its mash bill which must contain at least 51% rye. Our J. Carver Rye Whiskey has a mash bill of 70% local rye from Clear Lake, Minnesota, and 30% corn selected from local farms close to the distillery.
Autumn is definitely in the air. The gorgeous sunny days dance their way into cool, inviting nights. I look back and ask, “How did summer come and go so quickly?” The last three months have flown by and again, so much has happened at the distillery. We started the summer months with tours and tastings on Saturdays and over the past few months added Fridays and special events during the week to the mix. It has been incredible meeting so many of you from across the state, even across the border, as your interest in the art and science of the distillation process at J. Carver Distillery brought you to our door. Who knew a re-purposed Pontiac Car dealership, where so many locals bought their first car, would now be the spot to enjoy a specialty cocktail with grains grown from just down the road.
We started slowly with our cocktail offerings and quickly became inspired to add to our specialty cocktail list. You asked and we created. From the Basil Cucumbertini to the Blackberry Bramble, local fruit, herbs, and infused simple syrup inspired the many specialty cocktails created in the tasting room for you to enjoy.
We wanted to highlight the J. Carver spirit in each specialty cocktail created. The Minnesota Mule using J. Carver Premium Vodka instantly became a crowd favorite as did the Lake House Lemonade and the Venetian. Okay, to all my gin lover’s, you have to know how happy I was to hear you say that Grimm Farm Gin made the best gin and tonic you ever had. Hats off to the history books and Wendin Grimm for bring everlasting clover to the Grimm Farm in Victoria, the botanical that inspired that gin. I’ll personally raise a glass to that. But honestly, the best ever has been the sheer enjoyment of those of you who sat back and relished every sip of your J. Carver Barrel Gin Old Fashioned. As promised, I believe to about 15 of you last Saturday alone, (wink, wink) here is the recipe to make the Old Fashioned simple syrup so you can enjoy a J. Carver Barrel Gin Old Fashioned at home. Just promise me you won’t be a stranger and come in for one at the tasting room every now and again. We love love when you stop in. Here it goes. I told you it was not that complicated, it just takes some time. I would be remiss if I did not give props to Robb Jones from Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis for the inspiration behind the simple syrup in this classic cocktail. Making this simple syrup upfront makes the actual task of making the cocktail a breeze.
You will need two separate pots, sugar, water, rosemary, vanilla bean, bitters, cherries, wild flower honey, and oranges or orange marmalade.
In one pot add:
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup frozen organic cherries. (In season I used fresh cherries but hard to come by now)
¼ of a vanilla bean
Stir the sugar until dissolved over medium heat. Wait for a slight boil and macerate the cherries until you get the color and flavor extracted from the cherry and skin. Add vanilla bean. Turn off the heat and let cool. Check the intensity of how much flavor the syrup is getting from the vanilla bean. Remove the vanilla bean when the vanilla is balanced with the cherries, about 30 minutes. Leave the cherries in the pot.
In a second pot add:
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 Rosemary sprigs
1 teaspoon Wild Flower Honey
1 teaspoon Orange Marmalade (Homemade is best. I got my from a dear mentor this summer - Thanks Winnie!)
Bitters to taste – here is where you can be creative. You’ll see what I mean later in the blog.
Stir the sugar until dissolved over medium heat. Wait for a slight boil. Add Rosemary sprigs, Wild Flower Honey, and the Orange Marmalade. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Check the intensity of how much flavor the syrup is getting from the Rosemary sprigs. Take out the sprigs when the rosemary is balanced with the other flavors in the pot, about 60 minutes. If you want a little more intensity, feel free to leave the rosemary in the pot for a longer period.
Once the simple syrup has cooled, usually about 1 ½ hours, strain the simple syrup into separate mason jars to remove any particles from the cherries, marmalade, and rosemary. Here is where you can be creative with the amount and kind of bitters you want to add to create your final blend. If you want a little more cherry and vanilla, add cherry vanilla bark bitters. If you want a little more orange, add orange bitters to the rosemary simple syrup jar. When you are satisfied, Blend the two mason jars together into a larger container. Pour the final combined syrup into two separate mason jars, label and date. The simple syrup will keep in your refrigerator for up to a month - if it lasts that long - and the J. Carver Barrel Gin is available at local liquor stores in your area.
To make the J. Carver Barrel Gin Old Fashioned:
2 ounces J. Carver Barrel Gin
½ ounce Rosemary Scented Wild Flower Honey Simple Syrup
1 slice orange squeezed into glass
1 brandied cherry
Serve over ice, stir and ENJOY!
It has been a busy couple of months with lots of changes at the distillery. Historical photos adorn the walls in the tasting room and racks in the barrel room are filling up fast. Barrels, barrels, and more barrels.
We opened our doors last week and were thrilled with all the distillery friends and fans, old and new alike, who stopped in for a tour and a taste.
Our tours provide a unique glimpse into the inner workings of our artisan distillery. You'll get a step by step overview of our grain to glass approach, from the mash tun to the custom copper stills to the barrel room. Our knowledgeable distillery staff will explain the differences between distilling brown spirits including our whiskey, rye, apple brandy, and grape brandy and white spirits like vodka, gin, and grappa. We are so proud of the collaborative work being done with our local wineries and breweries (more to come on that).
To top it off, you will enjoy a sampling of spirits or a tasting cocktail which is included in the tour. Stop in Saturdays in June from 12-5 pm for a Tour and Tasting or try a tasty J. Carver Specialty Cocktail. Tours start on the hour at 12, 1, 2, 3 pm. Book on-line at jcarverdistillery.com
Many have asked if the tasting room is open to stop in for a specialty cocktail made with our J. Carver Spirits. The answer is yes! Looking forward to seeing you!
All the action is not just here at the distillery. J. Carver Barrel gin is taking the cocktail scene by storm and we couldn't be more proud!
Spoon and Stable
Robert Jones of Spoon and Stable is a spirits genius with the cocktails he is creating with private barrel #157 J. Carver Barrel Gin featured in Eater.com "Flower Power: 26 Rose Cocktails to Try This Summer - Eater".
Just down the road in Excelsior Coalition Restaurant has mastered amazing cocktails with J. Carver Barrel Gin. Andrew knocks it out of the park with his J. Carver creations and the last visit was as amazing as the first. Coalition is hitting high notes with J. Carver Barrel Gin Barrel #206. Yes! Andrew creates amazing libations that keeps customers coming back for more. One of his signature cocktails with the J. Carver Barrel Gin is called the Water Street Smash - it's a must try!
Even though there is still a thick layer of ice on Minnesota lakes, it is melting fast on the eve of the vernal equinox. Happy Spring indeed! There's an air of anticipation and excitement at local restaurants around Lake Minnetonka as they gear up for the spring and summer season.
6Smith Restaurant in Wayzata recently hosted Club Gourmand, a group of businessmen who visit local restaurants once a month to enjoy the chef's latest creations. I was invited by this month’s hosts (Thanks Isaac and Chad) as a special guest to talk about J. Carver Distillery and our spirits portfolio. I had the joy of working with 6Smith events coordinator Carly Clark and Chef John Mullen pairing two of the four courses with cocktails made with J. Carver Barrel Gin and our J. Carver Premium Vodka. It was an amazing afternoon of tasty food, delicious libation pairings and a wonderful group supporting local businesses.
The starter course delighted the senses. Chef John made a perfectly seared Diver Sea Scallop with Apricot Mostarda Red Mustard Greens, and Dijonnaise. Mostarda is an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup. The J. Carver Barrel Gin Old-Fashioned complimented this plate perfectly. The sweetness of sea scallops and apricot was balanced by the earthiness and depth of flavor of the red mustard greens dressed with dijonnaise and paired beautifully with the citrus notes, smokiness and layered flavors from the botanicals interacting with the char and tannins from the barrel. The result, harmonious layers of flavors between this starter dish and the tantalizing flavors of the J. Carver Barrel Gin along with the other delightful flavors from the cherries, bitters, and orange in the old fashioned. (recipe is on our website)
Rock Shrimp, Honey Aioli, Crispy Prosciutto, Melon, and Red Watercrest adorned the second plate and wine was paired with this dish, Bonny Doon Albarino. I was asked what cocktail I would pair with this amazing dish for an option other than wine. I would enjoy a Vesper with this dish. A spin on the Vesper would be to take an ounce of the Albarino with an ounce of J. Carver Lake House Vodka, an ounce of J. Carver Grimm Farm Gin. Shake and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The entrée, Grilled Hanger Steak, Porcini Mushroom Glaze, Snap Peas, Baby Carrots, and Spring Onions was paired with a glass of Rail 2 Rail Zinfandel with bright spicy acidity framing the red berry and pepper flavors in the wine.
Lastly, the Sweet Course was a Chocolate Torte paired with J. Carver Premium Vodka, served neat. When I first met with Chef John Mullen and had him taste our products, he said "This vodka is great neat! Let’s serve it up with the chocolate torte." Simply delicious.
Looking forward to the next pairing. Stay tuned friends and fans to #jcarverdrinks when we visit another fabulous Minnesota restaurant serving up J. Carver spirits! Cheers!
We have been out and about visiting restaurants who are creating tasty libations with J. Carver spirits. Tasty indeed and a very welcoming environment is what you will find when visiting The Happy Gnome!