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Ann Arbor Distilling

Ann Arbor, MI–One of the great things about modern society is that it gives people a chance to remake themselves, to be what they want to be. The same could be said for buildings. Take 220 Felch Street, located in the Water Hill neighborhood in Ann Arbor. It was built as a fuel oil storage for Amoco in 1924. At other times in its life, it has been a bicycle shop called Cycle Cellar, Kaufman Studios, Ann Arbor Art Center studios, the Pot & Box, and the Daily Grind Flour Mill, which provided the grain for the Wildflour Bakery. Grains are back at the location today, but in the form of distilled beverages.

Last year, Ari Sussman and his partner/co-owner Rob Cleveland opened the Ann Arbor Distilling Company at 220 Felch Street. The tasting room provides thirsty patrons with vodka and gin straight up or in the form of craft cocktails. More alcohol is on the way.

Ann Arbor Distilling

“We make whiskey constantly,” Sussman said. “The earliest batches will be available in early summer, with releases continuing after that.” Sussman said that it can take anywhere from 18 months to more than three years to make a good whiskey. “Most folks are used to the Kentucky style of whiskey, because it’s what they are used to. That takes three years, usually longer. But if you want a different profile in your whiskey, you can do it in less time. It all depends on the character you are trying to achieve.” Sussman has found craft distilleries across the country releasing products that compare favorably to legacy brands of whiskey.

Sussman is no stranger to good liquor made from good products. In his early 20s, he spent time in France working with wine and brandy makers. When he returned to Michigan, he found that no one was making spirits. “Some winemakers made some brandy on the side, but that was it,” he said.

To familiarize himself with the products he had made in France, Sussman bartended at some of the finest places in Ann Arbor: Zanzibar, eve the restaurant, and the Raven’s Club. “The entire time I bartended,” Sussman said. “I had it in the back of my mind to get into manufacturing.”

Then Sussman received a life changing opportunity—to work at the Michigan State University Distillery. He worked with students in the program, and with Kris Berglund, the professor who founded the program. (The program is part of MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and still provides product and process development consulting for people who want to start distilling operations.) “I was able to learn from the best,” Sussman said of Professor Berglund. After three years, Sussman worked his way up to head distiller.

Now, he is head distiller at his own place. “The more you learn about the distilling regions in the world,” Sussman said. “The more you realize that Michigan is one of the best places for it.” About 90% of his ingredients are local because “we can’t find better product anywhere else– it happens that they are all available locally.” The products used include the cereal grains, apples, and grapes.

All of this alcohol is created on two stills, custom made in Germany. They are designed to be able to make any product from the base ingredients.

“The raw ingredients go in and whiskey, brandy, vodka, gin, rum, and so on is what will come out.”

And the alcohol is flowing out! The cocktail menu includes a Moscow Mule, Pomegranate Fizz, Ginger Gimlet, and Seasonal Shrub. Recently, the distillers use Mighty Good coffee to make a coffee liqueur for their White Russians. Sussman said that they are actively looking for snacks that will help highlight the spirits and pair well with the cocktails.

The future of the Ann Arbor Distilling Company is as bright as the gleam on the stills. “People are going to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of spirits that can be made from local ingredients,” Sussman smiles. The old Daily Grind grain mill is long gone—but the grains shine on at 220 Felch Street.

Folks can try the cocktails and spirits Tuesday-Saturday from 4:00-10:00.

Photography: Steph Harding

beer cocktails

There are plenty of ways to drink ourselves into the new year. A great number of us have the obvious answer of, “drink craft beer!” when embarking on this endeavor, but this time around we’d like to introduce some beer cocktail options instead. Using Michigan beer and cider of course!

beer cocktailsBlood-Orange Pomegranate Beer-mosa with Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat.

Ingredients (serves 10)
3 cups of Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
3 cups chilled pomegranate juice
1 750-ml bottle chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
Process
Pour the pomegranate juice into each champagne flute. Fill ⅓ of the glass.
Fill another ⅓ of the glass w/ Cheboygan Brewing Co’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
Top the last ⅓ off with chilled sparkling wine
If desired, garnish with pomegranate seeds

 

Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja Mulled Beer

Ingredients
1 750ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp. ginger root, coarsely grated
½ tsp. nutmeg, coarsely grated
5 pods cardamom, cracked
zest of half an orange or lemon
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup brandy

Process
Place all spices and citrus zest in a cheesecloth. Tie a knot to seal the cloth and place it in your mulling beer pot. Pour in all of the beer and add yourself some brandy. Simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes and stir occasionally, but don’t let it boil! You’ll risk cooking out the flavors. Once it’s been warmed, stir in sugar (or syrup or honey if you’re using that instead). Once the beverage is steaming lightly, it’s ready to serve. We prefer ours to be ladled out into mugs! It’s good to have lemon slices or sugar around so guests can adjust the sweetness and acidity of their mulled beer as needed.

 

beer cocktailsAtwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Stout Hot Coffee Cocktail

Ingredients
Cinnamon
Cayenne
Nutmeg
2 oz Espresso or plain hot coffee
2 oz Atwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate OR Cranker’s Fifth Voyage Coconut Porter
1 ½ oz aged rum
¾ oz vanilla syrup
¾ oz heavy cream

Process
Combine all the ingredients, except for the heavy cream, coffee, and cinnamon, into a mixing glass. Stir with a bar spoon. Separately, place the hot espresso into your mug. After stirring, place all the combined ingredients into the mug on top of the hot coffee. Pour in the desired amount of heavy cream and garnish with a dusting of cinnamon on top.

 

beer cocktailsHoliday Grog with Blake’s El Chavo Cider.

Ingredients
2 oz dark rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar
4 oz Blake’s El Chavo Cider: can be hot or cold
Optional: orange and/or cinnamon stick

Process
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice (if serving cold). Stir with a bar spoon and pour into a mug (if hot) or any desired glassware (if cold). Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.

 

beer cocktailsHot Buttered Beere (Adapted from a 1588 recipe) with New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale.

Ingredients
17 oz of New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale
.5 tsp ground Cloves
.5 tsp ground Cinnamon
.25 tsp ground Ginger
5 Egg Yolks
1 cup Brown Sugar (Demerara if possible)
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Process
Add the Cabin Fever Brown Ale and the spices to a saucepan. Bring it all to a boil and then immediately turn it down to the lowest setting. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Remove the beer from heat and whisk in the egg mixture. Return it all to a low heat. Whisk continuously over low heat until the whole mixture thickens slightly. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove it all from the heat and whisk in the butter quickly until a nice foam forms. Serve warm.
Thank you all for a wonderful year of beer! Enjoy yourselves along with these lovely concoctions.
Cheers and have a happy New Year!

Photo shoot location courtesy of the Downtown Market and Beverage Manager Jenney Grant.

Photography: Steph Harding

beer cocktails

There are plenty of ways to drink ourselves into the new year. A great number of us have the obvious answer of, “drink craft beer!” when embarking on this endeavor, but this time around we’d like to introduce some beer cocktail options instead. Using Michigan beer and cider of course!
beer cocktailsBlood-Orange Pomegranate Beer-mosa with Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat.
Ingredients (serves 10)
3 cups of Cheboygan Brewing Company’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
3 cups chilled pomegranate juice
1 750-ml bottle chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
Process
Pour the pomegranate juice into each champagne flute. Fill ⅓ of the glass.
Fill another ⅓ of the glass w/ Cheboygan Brewing Co’s Blood Orange Honey Wheat
Top the last ⅓ off with chilled sparkling wine
If desired, garnish with pomegranate seeds
 


Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja Mulled Beer
Ingredients
1 750ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 whole cloves
½ tsp. ginger root, coarsely grated
½ tsp. nutmeg, coarsely grated
5 pods cardamom, cracked
zest of half an orange or lemon
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup brandy
Process
Place all spices and citrus zest in a cheesecloth. Tie a knot to seal the cloth and place it in your mulling beer pot. Pour in all of the beer and add yourself some brandy. Simmer this on low heat for 30 minutes and stir occasionally, but don’t let it boil! You’ll risk cooking out the flavors. Once it’s been warmed, stir in sugar (or syrup or honey if you’re using that instead). Once the beverage is steaming lightly, it’s ready to serve. We prefer ours to be ladled out into mugs! It’s good to have lemon slices or sugar around so guests can adjust the sweetness and acidity of their mulled beer as needed.
 
beer cocktailsAtwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate Stout Hot Coffee Cocktail
Ingredients
Cinnamon
Cayenne
Nutmeg
2 oz Espresso or plain hot coffee
2 oz Atwater’s Decadent Dark Chocolate OR Cranker’s Fifth Voyage Coconut Porter
1 ½ oz aged rum
¾ oz vanilla syrup
¾ oz heavy cream
Process
Combine all the ingredients, except for the heavy cream, coffee, and cinnamon, into a mixing glass. Stir with a bar spoon. Separately, place the hot espresso into your mug. After stirring, place all the combined ingredients into the mug on top of the hot coffee. Pour in the desired amount of heavy cream and garnish with a dusting of cinnamon on top.
 
beer cocktailsHoliday Grog with Blake’s El Chavo Cider.
Ingredients
2 oz dark rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar
4 oz Blake’s El Chavo Cider: can be hot or cold
Optional: orange and/or cinnamon stick
Process
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice (if serving cold). Stir with a bar spoon and pour into a mug (if hot) or any desired glassware (if cold). Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.
 
beer cocktailsHot Buttered Beere (Adapted from a 1588 recipe) with New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale.
Ingredients
17 oz of New Holland’s Cabin Fever Brown Ale
.5 tsp ground Cloves
.5 tsp ground Cinnamon
.25 tsp ground Ginger
5 Egg Yolks
1 cup Brown Sugar (Demerara if possible)
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
Process
Add the Cabin Fever Brown Ale and the spices to a saucepan. Bring it all to a boil and then immediately turn it down to the lowest setting. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and creamy. Remove the beer from heat and whisk in the egg mixture. Return it all to a low heat. Whisk continuously over low heat until the whole mixture thickens slightly. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove it all from the heat and whisk in the butter quickly until a nice foam forms. Serve warm.
Thank you all for a wonderful year of beer! Enjoy yourselves along with these lovely concoctions.
Cheers and have a happy New Year!
Photo shoot location courtesy of the Downtown Market and Beverage Manager Jenney Grant.
Photography: Steph Harding

GRAND RAPIDS – The Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild exists for promoting weeks like this. An opportunity to promote Michigan’s burgeoning distilled spirits culture, a chance to offer the typical cocktail drinker something out of the norm, and a way to share the passion that drives the bartenders we all know and love, Cocktail Week Grand Rapids welcomes everyone. The Guild, and its Interim President, Torrence O’Haire, are much of the driving force behind this new event.

GRCocktailGuild (9)

“This year is a bit of a trial run. We’re starting off small to build a foundation, and go from there,” O’Haire said. “Really, it happened organically. One of the [members] of Experience GR is also a founding member of the Cocktail Guild. She is really involved and a great resource and was really excited to make this happen.”

The Guild, whose mission is to build a “local collegiate of experienced professionals working to develop, enrich, and share the history, art, culture, and enjoyment of the distilled spirit,” continuously offers monthly events for the public, many with a non-profit focus like the Iron Bartender challenge.

Iron Bartender is a big part of Cocktail Week GR as well. If you’re seeking a big, awesome, crazy showdown of some of the finest barkeeps in West Michigan, this was the event to attend. For the Iron Bartender: Championship Finals, six professionals were challenged on the history of distilled spirits, and presented their showpiece cocktails, lovingly created concoctions audience members were able to sample.

While much of the focus of the event is on Michigan-made spirits (such as the many cocktail and small plate pairings at area restaurants and discussion/review sessions), O’Haire said that “we have no problem tipping the hat [in the craft spirit industry] to those who are doing a great job.”

One of those companies is Brown-Forman, who is helping to put on Iron Bartender during Cocktail Week. Part of their brand includes Old Forester, which is the longest running continuously distilled liquor in America. Fun fact: This happened because they were allowed to legally distill during prohibition, receiving a government license to continue for medical purposes.

History and artistry runs through the veins of the GR Cocktail Guild and through all the events around Grand Rapids this week.

If you are seeking something a little more low-key, but still full of fun (and alcohol), make sure you check out the showing of Hey Bartender at the UICA and the adjoining event at the Downtown Market, where you can enjoy cocktail hour and apps and get some speed lectures on cocktails or spirits from resident experts.  And with every lecture, comes a drink.

What more could you ask for?

 

Cocktail Week Grand Rapids is made possible by the combined efforts of the Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild, Experience GR and the Michigan Distillers Guild. For a full schedule of events, please visit: http://www.experiencegr.com/cocktail-week/  

Cocktail Week GR Logo Final

GRAND RAPIDS – The Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild, Michigan Distillers Guild, and Experience GR are teaming up to host 11 days of cocktail appreciation starting this week.

From Nov. 11-22, Grand Rapids residents and visitors can take advantage of restaurant specials, educational opportunities, and tastings all celebrating Michigan’s burgeoning craft spirit culture.

Throughout the duration of the event, called Grand Rapids Cocktail Week, 29 participating venues will offer a special on two cocktails made with Michigan plus a shared appetizer for $25 or less.

The Bistro, for instance, will have a Blackberry Basil Old Fashioned made with New Holland’s Walleye Rye and a Salted Caramel Mocha Martini crafted with Journeyman Distillery’s organic Red Arrow Vodka and Snaggle Tooth Coffee Liqueur. You can enjoy these two cocktails alongside a plate of roasted butternut squash or smoked duck tartlet. Or you can visit one of Grand Rapids’s own distilleries, like Long Road Distillers, and try two hand-crafted cocktails made with in-house liquor and Michigan ingredients with a plate of short ribs or fall root vegetable flatbread.

But the week isn’t only about tasting; education is also a key component. Grand Rapids Public Museum will get in on the action with an exhibit titled “American Spirits: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition.” Put your imbibing into perspective by finding out why America went “dry” in the first place and then why alcohol regained legality 13 years later.

The museum will also host the Iron Bartender Final Championship on Nov. 18. Six bartenders, all winners of the past six Iron Bartender challenges, will go head-to-head to see who can craft the best cocktail.

To close out the series, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) will pair up with Downtown Market to host a class and movie combination event called “Hey Bartender” through Big Screen Cuisine on Nov. 22. The event will start in the Downtown Market teaching kitchen, where lecturers from the Grand Rapids Cocktail Guild will discuss the history, practice, and technique that go into making cocktails. There will be snacks and sampling. Afterward, attendees will convene at the UICA movie theater to watch the documentary “Hey Bartender.”

These key events only scratch the surface of activities taking place during the week. Businesses throughout the Grand Rapids area will be hosting a variety of cocktail-related events. For a comprehensive list, check out the Experience GR website.

 

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