I’m proud to call Connecticut my home state–especially when it comes to innovative finds in the food and drink world. It’s true that we’re booming in the beer industry. Craft breweries are popping up everywhere, and growing rapidly in the process! And everyone knows about the Connecticut wine trail, with a passbook to chronicle your visits to the more than two dozen vineyards scattered throughout the state. But why let them have all the fun? There’s another, lesser known, homegrown product that is gaining a lot of notice right now: our handcrafted liquors.
Craft distilleries are relatively new to the Connecticut locavore scene, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less demand for them. From vodka, to rum, to legal moonshine, new boozes are popping up left and right. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes a business like Hartford Flavor Company, and everything you thought you knew gets thrown out the window.
Lelaneia Dubay wasn’t looking to become a distiller. A graduate of Southern Connecticut State University of Art, Lelaneia was a Painting major and Art History minor. She had a fulfilling career as a landscape designer. And then, a Christmas party in 2013 changed her life forever.
Lelaneia brought her homemade Lavender and Cranberry liqueurs as hostess gifts that year to the party. She had been making the cranberry for a few years at that point, and the lavender was a product of her own flowers from her garden. The guests at this party–some of which were mixologists and restaurateurs–were immediately impressed by her infusions and insisted that she and her husband, Tom, start a business right away. It took a little thinking on it–were they really ready for such an endeavor?–and some research and development. Starting a business was a foreign world for them, but with feedback from family and friends being all positive, before they knew it, they were on their way. The rest is history.
What makes Wild Moon so distinct as a product line? Well, as Tom Dubay, CEO and co-founder of Hartford Flavor Company, puts it, it’s sort of like health food–or, as close as you can get to it when drinking alcohol. They begin with a gluten-free, GMO-free, sugar cane-based neutral spirit they purchase in bulk, then filter before steeping with their own flowers, fruits, herbs, and spices for the 6 different infusions they currently market (Birch, Chai Spice, Cranberry, Cucumber, Lavender, and Rose). Currently distributed to over 250 liquor stores and bars throughout the state, it’s getting to be pretty easy to find these botanical liqueurs.
What’s next? Massachusetts and New York, hopefully, are on the horizon for expanded distribution in the first half of 2016. I’m crossing my fingers for them!
So, what do you do with a botanical liqueur? Pretty much anything you can think of! Add it to your sparkling wine for a little extra flavor. Throw some in your beer for a tasty twist. And, of course, cocktails. So much flavor without a chemical aftertaste–they’re just perfect for your home bar!
I recently purchased bottles of the Birch, Cranberry, and Cucumber for my own pleasure and couldn’t wait to get to work on a cocktail for you! With all this cold weather that’s finally descended upon us, I’m in a beachy state of mind. Wishful thinking, of course, with the wind howling outside my window presently. I felt that the Cucumber liqueur was deserving of a delicate drink–one not too heavy on sugar, so you could savor every component of it. On a recent trip to Richmond, Virginia, I had the pleasure of sipping on a cucumber-based mocktail that helped inspire this concoction. I made it my own, with the additions of pineapple coconut water, mint, and ginger, to bring you the Cucumber Cooler. It’s bright and fresh tasting, enhanced beautifully by the Wild Moon Cucumber liqueur. They were simply made for each other.
Intrigued? Then you need to stop by The Desultory Theatre Club‘s “Valentines in Vegas” Adult Variety Show at Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes on January 30th! Hartford Flavor Company will be serving up samples of their unique liqueurs for guests who are 21+ (bring your ID in order to sample!). Doors open at 7:30 PM and the show starts at 8 PM–see you there!
Cool As A Cucumber cocktail
- 3 thick slices cucumber
- 2 sprigs mint
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 1 part Wild Moon Cucumber liqueur
- 3 parts pineapple coconut water
- club soda
- Muddle the cucumber slices, mint, ginger paste, lime juice, and Wild Moon Cucumber liqueur in the bottom of a large glass.
- Fill with ice, add the pineapple coconut water, and stir. Top with club soda.
- Serve immediately.