Vinegar Shrub, Richmond
Meredyth Archer started experimenting with making drinking vinegars a few years ago, after coming across an old recipe in a vintage cookbook. It sparked memories of the vinegar and honey tonic her grandmother made her drink as a child. Having made kombucha (a fermented tea drink) at home, Archer wanted to try her hand at vinegar shrubs. Sour and spicy fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and miso are rising in popularity—think of shrubs as their more mellow beverage cousin. With a balance of tart and sweet fruit flavors, Archer’s shrubs also have the buzzy, slightly sour undertone of fermentation. They are usually diluted with club soda in craft cocktails or refreshing non-alcoholic spritzers.
Rather than the traditional, time-intensive method of letting macerated fruit and sugar sit before adding vinegar, Archer combines a cider vinegar with fruit juices from black cherries, cranberries, lime or grapefruit, then adds sugar to mellow the vinegar’s acidity. Friends loved Archer’s homemade shrubs, so after years of giving them away she decided last year to start a business from a rented kitchen in Goochland.
“I’m the mother of three boys,” she says, explaining how she came up with the name. “And I have had grandmotherly influences most of my life. My mother has also been a big influence and supporter.”
Shrubs aren’t just for drinking. Archer uses them in food to add a tart and sweet burst of acid that brightens up dishes like hummus, pound cake or a bowl of vanilla ice cream. $15-$18 for 16 ounces, depending on retailer. MotherShrub.com
Platinum Rum and Golden Rum, Charlottesville
“I became a microbiologist because I was making crappy beer,” says Vitae Spirits founder Ian Glomski. “I took a microbiology course to find out what was wrong.” He learned well, earning a PhD in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and working as an anthrax and infectious diseases expert at UVA medical school before leaving in 2014 to distill rum full time.
“To make good liquor you have to be able to make a good beer, since that’s your starting material,” Glomski says. His Platinum Rum is clear and clean, with a light sweetness just right for a mojito or (Glomski’s favorite) a classic daiquiri. “Just rum, lime juice and simple syrup,” he says. “Because I really like to taste the rum.”
Trading with his neighbor Brian Ashworth at Ace Biscuit & BBQ, Glomski uses sugarcane grilled on housemade hickory and oak charcoal to infuse his Golden Rum with smoky caramel flavor, then—in a truly full circle spirit—he gives the rum-infused cane back to Ashworth for smoking the pig. $36.99 per 750-milliliter bottle. VitaeSpirits.com
Big Fish Cider Co.
Allegheny Gold, Monterey
Instead of a glass of wine, how about pairing a 2016 vintage hard cider with that creamy spaghetti carbonara? If it’s the Allegheny Gold from Big Fish Cider Co., the answer is definitely yes. Allegheny Gold has a light acidity, without the heavy sweetness of many hard ciders. Roll it around in your mouth and you’ll notice the fruitiness and clean apple finish that makes it perfect for rich pasta dishes.
“What make Highland County apples special is that these are old, unkempt orchards,” says owner Kirk Billingsley, a banker who learned to make cider as a child by helping his father. “There’s no spray or fertilizer. Fertilizer makes the apple larger, but not necessarily more flavorful. And the excess nitrogen makes the fermentation go really quick.”
Instead, Billingsley does a slow, cold fermentation, taking months, not the usual weeks, to age each batch, working with heirloom apples like Golden Russets, Northern Spy and Ashmead’s Kernel. This golden elixir is a crisply drinkable bottle suitable for every Virginia wine cellar. $15 per bottle. BigFishCider.com
Copper Fox Distillery
Rye Whisky, Sperryville
If you’re wondering why Rick Wasmund’s whisky is spelled without the “e,” it’s because he’s following the Scottish tradition—only, instead of flavoring his liquor with smoked peat moss, he adds smoked native Virginia fruitwoods like cherry and apple.
Copper Fox, which Wasmund started in 2005, has true local spirit. The distillery uses only Virginia-grown grains from nearby in Sperryville and bayside Northumberland County. The distillers use a pre-industrial method of spreading the steeped grains on the floor and raking them periodically while they dry. Not only is the flavor better, says Wasmund, “But you don’t need a gym membership.” After the grain is dried, it goes into the smoker to add those fruitwood flavors. Then it’s distilled and finished in bourbon barrels. Rye whisky is sometimes known as bourbon’s spicier, raunchier cousin, but Copper Fox’s rye is smooth, with just enough of a spicy edge to keep things interesting. Think of it as the SoHo in your next rye Manhattan. $44.29 per 750-milliliter bottle. CopperFox.biz
See all of our Made in Virginia 2016 Award winners!
Andrea Donnelly Studio, Richmond
Loopy Scoops, Haymarket (category winner)
JM Stock Provisions, Charlottesville and Richmond
Ula Tortilla, Afton
Virginia Chutney, Flint Hill
Silver Tears Campers, Roanoke (category winner)
Tinkham Decoys & Folk Art, Norfolk
Join or Die Knives, Richmond
Jake's Clay Art, Waynesboro (category winner)
Blanc Creatives, Charlottesville
Jaeger & Ernst, Barboursville
Winners were selected by the editors from among hundreds of submissions received earlier this year.
Click here to see 2015 winners.
Click here to see 2014 winners.
Click here to see 2013 winners.
Click here to see 2012 winners.