It’s a fairly popular notion these days that buying locally made products makes sense for a multitude of reasons. First of all, by supporting our local economy, we keep more money in the community, which has a positive overall effect on our tax base and that is never a bad thing. Secondly, because locally crafted products are not being shipped to us, they have far less of an impact on environmental resources. It’s an easy way to support the idea of being as “green” as possible. Additionally, buying products where you can actually talk to the people who made them gives you the opportunity to know the exact ingredients and process that went into them. You can ask questions and develop some knowledge about what you’re consuming, and that leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of what you’ve bought. Finally, buying locally makes us part of the process and strengthens our sense of community, something that is so very important in a world where so much of our consumer interactions revolve around the click of a button, rather than a wave and a smile.
All of these ideas can be applied to buying locally crafted spirits and the same advantages would be true, so it’s definitely worth checking out the “locally made” section in your liquor store. But let’s take that one step further. It’s not that easy for craft distillers to break into national markets because liquor distributors often do not want to pick up locally made products, or if they do, it’s in very small quantities. This can mean some very lean years for craft distillers, especially when they’re just getting started. For this reason they often rely on visits to their distilleries as a source of revenue, and as a means of building knowledge and spreading the word. So in addition to buying locally made craft spirits, I would strongly encourage you to visit local distilleries as well. The experience can really be eye opening, and not just because of the knowledge you’ll gain from learning about the distillation process. Having met many of the distillers in Philadelphia and New Jersey, I can tell you that there is not a kinder, gentler community to be found anywhere. In addition to that, they are absolutely passionate about their craft and take great pride in the products they make. Maybe it’s being part of the creative process that makes them this way, or trying to break into a market that’s so dominated by large batch production, or just being part of an industry that so strongly promotes the sense of community and good cheer that comes from sharing a drink together. In any event, local distilleries are worth seeking out and it’s never been easier to do so in the Philadelphia area. There is now a website called Philadelphia Area Distillery Trail, created by a few of the local distilleries and spearheaded by Traci Browne from Rowhouse Spirits. This website provides you with a guide to 11 distilleries in the area that includes information about each one of them, as well as an easily navigable map that will help you get from one to the other. Be sure to check it out!
For today’s cocktail, I decided to do make one last variation of The Last Word as part of the Instagram campaign called #wehavethelastword that’s been going on for the entire month of April. For my base spirit I chose Petty’s Island white rum from Cooper River Distillers, which stands head and shoulders above most rums I’ve tasted and makes a phenomenal base for a drink. I also went with Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur which is not local to the Philadelphia area, but is hand crafted in nearby Brooklyn, NY, with nearly 200 pounds of ginger going into each batch. Originally made in founder Josh Morton’s kitchen for friends, Barrow’s has gone on to find more widespread success, and it’s not hard to see (or taste) why. It is definitely intense and absolutely wonderful in a cocktail! Instead of the lime juice found in the traditional Last Word, I chose to go with Element [Shrub]‘s Honeydew Jalapeño shrub, also a hand crafted product that started out in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a way for founder Charlie Berkinshaw to satisfy his pregnant wife’s cravings for a non-alcoholic beverage that was actually made from natural ingredients without tons of sugar. Element [Shrub]’s products are amazing and their unique flavors will truly elevate your cocktails to the next level. The final component of this drink was a mint simple syrup, made by me in my kitchen in Haddonfield, NJ. You can’t get any more local than that!
The Local Word
¾ oz Cooper River Distillers Petty’s Island rum
¾ oz Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur
¾ oz Element Shrub Honeydew Jalapeño
¾ oz mint simple syrup
Place the ingredients in the bottom half of a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake for 15-20 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a jalapeño slice and mint leaf. Enjoy!