Utah economy

Green Plate Special: If you live in Maine, skipping Russian vodka is no small feat

In late February, when bars, restaurants, supermarkets and liquor stores pulled Russian-made vodkas from their shelves, they did so to pressure Vladimir Putin to pull out of Ukraine.

In a rare show of bipartisan support for any idea, the governors of Alabama, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and West Virginia have called on their states’ liquor control agencies to delist Russian-made vodka. Governor Janet Mills asked that “retailers join us in this symbolic but clear sign that Maine stands with Ukraine.”

In the aftermath of those announcements, social media posts showed vodka drinkers pouring bottles of Stoli and Smirnoff down the drain. Since none of the brands are made in Russia (the first is produced in Latvia by a Putin critic in exile, and the second may have been made in Moscow in 1864 but is now made in Britain by a British conglomerate), I doubted that Putin resented any taxation. the pain of the boycott. While emblematic of how consumers can show contempt for terms they find hard to swallow, these measures, according to liquor industry watchers, were largely, as Mills described : symbolic.

Russian vodka imports to America in 2021 accounted for just 1.3% of all vodka imports, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Their combined value was $18.5 million, just down from the $1.4 billion bracket of total vodka imports from France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Latvia. And that’s insignificant when you consider that Americans are expected to spend $22 billion on vodka in 2022.

If you’re a vodka drinker in Maine, passing down Beluga Russian Vodka, Hammer & Sickle Russian Vodka, Moskovskaya, or Russian Standard is no sacrifice. Consider your many local options: At least a dozen Maine companies make from scratch, distill and/or bottle plain and flavored vodkas.

Batson River Brewing & Distilling makes Clock Farm vodka in small batches in Kennebunk. The Chadwick Distillery in Pittston recently expanded its line of maple-based spirits to include vodka. The Blue Barren Distillery in Hope offers a plain 80-degree vodka and another flavored with Maine kelp. Cold River Vodka is made from Maine potatoes in Freeport.

Liquid Riot Distilling Co. launches its Well… vodka with a neutral grain alcohol base produced in another more efficient facility, then runs the alcohol through its own tiny, less efficient still in Portland to clean it up and add character. Maine Craft Distilling’s Black Cap Vodka, made from Maine grains and filtered through Maine Black Tourmaline and Charcoal Maple, is named after our state bird, the Chickadee black (or is it?). Twenty 2 Vodka, bottled since 2009 by Northern Maine Distilling in Brewer, has won numerous national awards for its neutral taste.

Split Rock Vodka begins life as New England corn, which is crushed, fermented and triple distilled before being diluted with well water and bottled at the company’s facilities in Newcastle. . Eric and Jenn Bouchard, owners of Stone Fort Distillery, are also involved in every step of making their vodka from grain to glass in Biddeford. Stroudwater Vodka, made in Portland from a naturally gluten-free corn base, is distilled eight times to be 190 proof, then diluted 80 with Maine water before bottling. The Wiggly Bridge Distillery in York offers the southernmost vodka in Maine.

“In the American spirits market, vodka is king because it is consumed in so many different ways,” said Jeremy Howard, founder of Blue Barren Distillery.

There is no total figure for the amount of vodka distilled in Maine. But if the quantity is unknown, the quality is crystal clear as vodka. “I’m biased, of course,” Howard said, “but I think Maine craft distillers have a really strong vodka game.”

Maine vodka is a sustainable prospect on many fronts. First, the process requires local agricultural products, from the corn and grains used to make the base alcohol to the blueberries and seaweed used to flavor it.

Next, it is a spirit with a very short lead time. “As distillers, we have romantic ideas about spirits that we age in barrels for 18 months. But we also can’t generate revenue from those who are sitting down,” Howard said. The vodka, which takes just three weeks to make, gives craft distilleries a steady cash flow to sustain their bottom line.

Topher Mallory, co-owner of Split Rock Distillery, says vodka is one of the most labor-intensive spirits his company makes. “But that means more work hours, more jobs, so it’s also good for Maine’s economy.”

Mallory acknowledges that the distillation process can be energy-intensive, but says her company tries to offset some of its production footprint by donating alcohol-free spent grains from its distillation processes to local farms for livestock feed.

You can purchase all of Maine’s craft vodkas at their respective distillery tasting rooms. Most are also available at major liquor stores like Bootleggers, Damon’s, Bow Street Beverage, and RSVP, and many can also be found in Hannaford. The price is around $18 to $40.

Prices for locally made vodka are between $1 and $3 compared to the big commercial brands, according to Jake Bosma, tasting room manager at Stroudwater Distillery. “Plus, most have a more unique taste. So why not spend a little more to support local small businesses and funnel those extra dollars into the local economy? »

The top five brands of vodka sold in Maine are Tito’s (made in Texas), Pinnacle (formerly made in Lewiston but now made in Kentucky), Smirnoff Plastic Bottle (made in the UK), Crown Russe Vodka (made in Kentucky) and Absolut (made in Sweden), according to data from the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

As locavores, we can do better. Make your next vodka purchase a local one.

Local food advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is editor of Edible Maine magazine and author of “Green Plate Special,” both a sustainable food column in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her cookbook from 2017. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

The Mifflin Martini, topped with spicy homemade vermouth brined olives. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Mifflin Martini

Jake Bosma, Tasting Room Manager at Stroudwater Distillery, developed this twist on a dirty martini. To make vermouth-infused olives, drain half the brine from a jar of Spanish olives. In its place, add 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic, a few sprigs of thyme and sage, a couple of lemon and orange zests, and either black peppercorns or a dried chili pepper. Fill the jar with Dolin Dry Vermouth and let the olives sit in the brine for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 cocktail

1 ½ ounces flavored vermouth/olive brine mix
2 ounces of Stroudwater vodka
Olives and sprigs of sage and thyme, for garnish

Mix the vermouth/brine mix and the vodka with plenty of ice in a shaker. Stir until the drink is a little diluted and very cold. Strain into a frosted shot or martini glass. Garnish with the vermouth-cured olives, sage and thyme.

Raspberry Sparkling Anniversary Vodka. Happy 21, Eliza! Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Raspberry Vodka Birthday Sparkling

I developed this cocktail for my daughter Eliza’s 21st birthday, which is April 8th. Like her, it’s soft, stylish and sophisticated.

Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces vodka made in Maine
1 ounce Royal Rose raspberry simple syrup
1 ounce lemon juice
club soda or prosecco
Fresh raspberries and a twist of lemon, for garnish

Combine vodka, simple syrup and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake well and pour into a glass with ice. Top with club soda or prosecco. Garnish with fresh raspberries and a twist of lemon.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion