October 28th, 2020
Maine’s Cup Runneth Over
The State’s craft distillery movement is spilling over into its cocktails.
Did you know Maine was the birthplace of prohibition? Maine passed the first laws in the country to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages. If not being able to have your afternoon Old Fashioned doesn’t put a sour taste in your mouth, I don’t know what will.
As history states, the Maine prohibition law was repealed in 1934 and Maine residents were able to enjoy their afternoon beverage again and that’s pretty sweet.
Being part of Wiggly Bridge Distillery since its foundation, we see that the craft beer trajectory is being replicated by the craft spirits industry. According to the American Craft Spirits Association there are over 1,300 craft spirits producers nationally as of October 2016. That’s more than double the amount of craft distilleries that existed 10 years ago. This speaks volumes about the strong interest in craft spirits. This surge and uprising is no different for Vacationland. In 2009, there were only 3 distilleries in the state of Maine. Maine now has its own Distillers Guild and has 12 members mapped out on their website.
Maine is known for its pristine waters and aquifers. Not connecting that fact, in reference to this rum punch rhyme, would be doing the State a disservice.
The craft movement has become a huge part of our society not only in Maine, but nationally. The United States seems to be infatuated with artisanal everything, from handcrafted furniture to homegrown organic food to hand crafted chair socks. Yes, you read that right! Look it up. Now that the bulk of the alcoholic offerings behind the bar have been upgraded by the craft movement, it’s time to upgrade the ingredients that play nicely with these craft spirits. The term “fresh is best” rings true for the craft cocktail scene. Bartenders are juicing their own citrus instead of using something that’s pre-made. Ian Michaud, distiller from Liquid Riot, can attest to the fact that craft spirits have opened the doors to the craft cocktail scene. “Craft cocktail makers pride themselves in creating their own mixers, bitters, shrubs, syrups etc. The variety and quality of craft spirits now available to these mixologists allows them a level of freedom to create so many amazing libations!”
Ashleigh Hamilton, Lead Mixologist, from Wiggly Bridge Distillery, believes that the cocktails play off the complexities in craft spirits. “When creating a cocktail with a craft spirit the flavors are accentuated and create a more interesting cocktail while a commercial spirit may cause the cocktail to fall flat.”
Ned Wight, owner of New England Distilling, believes that craft spirits give the bartender more nuanced flavors to work with in a cocktail than a regular spirit. “It’s like they [bartenders] were working with a 4 pack of crayons 10 years ago and now they have the mega-pack (with sharpener!).”
The next time you sip a rum punch or an old-fashioned, think about what’s in your drink. Try out one of Maine’s incredible craft distillery options and enjoy the exponential flavor experience you get from drinking a craft cocktail. Your taste buds will start to appreciate the difference between a craft cocktail made with local craft spirits and one that has just come out of a soda gun.
— Text: Amanda Woods