Just at the very beginning of Long Island’s North Fork is a town called Baiting Hollow. Like many towns on the North Fork, Baiting Hollow is charming, rustic, and full of wineries, including the not-so-surprisingly-named Baiting Hollow Farm Winery. I’ve visited that winery and will have an article about it, too, but about 100 yards away from the winery sits Long Island’s only vodka producer, the LiV distillery, pronounced with a long i to rhyme with five. LiV vodka is made with potatoes, which is a nice callback to the days when the North Fork’s cash crop was potatoes instead of grapes. We were told at the distillery that they share the crop with North Fork Potato Chips, which are fantastic kettle-fried chips, very tasty, so it speaks well of the quality of potatoes.The distillery has a tasting-room, which, one might imagine, is very popular. They give away a LiV-branded double-shot glass to take home as well. On site, they were selling their vodka for
For under $15, this is a great vodka. It’s not as smooth as some triple-distilled vodkas, but if I may have a moment to confess: I find most vodkas extremely boring. If I wanted to drink rubbing alcohol, I could save myself a lot of money by buying a tub of it at a drugstore (please note: never drink rubbing alcohol—this is a sarcastic comment on the lack of character of most vodkas). However, the LiV vodka has a subtle, almost-vanilla flavor to accompany the burn, and the burn isn’t as strong as cheap faux-Russian vodkas, like Georgi or Smirnoff. This is a vodka that I could safely add to delicate cocktails without producing off-flavors, and it’s strong enough to add to something like a Bloody Mary, giving it enough kick to let us recognize that it actually contains alcohol.
The LiV distilleries also produce a brandy, which, unfortunately, I cannot find on their website. But I got a chance to try it in their tasting-room. It’s made with local grapes, and it’s killer. The nose is all turpentine, but a swig of it is like licorice-fire. During the tasting, it was compared to grappa, and it was smooth and frightening at the same time. A few others at the tasting couldn’t get past the smell, so I was lucky enough to “taste” a few shots worth of it. I know it’s available in bottles on premises, but I’m unsure if it’s available elsewhere.
LiV also makes a line of liqueurs called Sorbetta, which are flavored and sweetened forms of their vodka. In general, I found the citrus flavors (lemon, lime, orange) were fine, but the strawberry and raspberry were a bit too candy-like for my tastes—others at the tasting seemed to like the raspberry. The Sorbetta are sweet and would probably be great in a beginner’s cocktail. If I owned a bar, I might keep them on hand, but they’re not for me.
It’s been Long Island month here at DnU and I doubt that will change much in the near future, because it’s exciting to find local producers of excellent products. But I’m not exclusionary: I’ll invite in booze from all corners of the world, and I look forward to trying it all. Still, a locally produced vodka
for less than $15 that’s actually drinkable? I’m a lucky, lucky fellow.
Update Nov 20: Thank you, Rich Stabile, owner of LiV, for commenting and correcting an egregious error on my part. The 750ml bottle of LiV vodka goes for $35.00 in the tasting room. I regret the error, which I attribute to hazy memory on my part, due to multiple tastings of that wonderful brandy. (return)