Proprietary Spirits and Beers from Westchester Restaurants

Don’t look now but rumor has it that both Crabtree’s Kittle House and Xaviars Restaurant Group are looking to create their own proprietary beers. Of course, this news joins the long-awaited debut of Peter X. Kelly’s Slovenia Vodka, slated to launch in April with help from celebrities Mikhail Baryshnikov and Bill Murray. Blue Hill at Stone Barns has already dipped into the world of proprietary spirits with last year’s From the Field Gin. It was designed in collaboration with Port Chester’s StilltheOne Distillery and used honey and herbs grown on the farm-to-table restaurant’s property. In the past, BHSB has also worked with local breweries; it’s created beers with Rockland County’s Defiant Brewing Company, Westchester’s Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, and Brooklyn’s KelSo Beer Co. The KelSo partnership yielded six brews made    with hops, vegetables, and herbs grown onsite at BHSB.

According to Chef Kelly, his expansion into spirits was the organic extension of a career that, until now, has been based in Hudson Valley restaurants (X2O Xaviars on the Hudson, Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar, Freelance Café & Wine Bar, and Xaviars at Piermont). Having already created proprietary wines in both Napa Valley and the Hudson Valley, Kelly was interested in creating a label with the potential for a national and international profile. His new distillation is made with winter wheat and buckwheat, which Kelly believes lends an extremely smooth finish to the vodka. Though not yet available for retail, Slovenia Vodka (which is distilled in Slovenia) has already appeared in the European edition of   Playboy. Its American launch will be followed with a line of vitamin-enriched “super” fruit juices that are designed to be      used alone or as mixers with Slovenia Vodka. Quips Chef Kelly, “This will be the first case in which drinking vodka actually makes you healthier.”

Scott Vaccaro (owner/brewer of Captain Lawrence Brewing Company) has another take on the own-branding phenomenon. He has brewed proprietary beers for Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Manhattan’s The Ginger Man, among other restaurants. “I think that restaurateurs are creative people and they want to have control. They already control their restaurant’s food and décor, and now they want some say in the beer. It all comes down to creating some sort of uniqueness.” Chef David DiBari of The Cookery echoes this; he recently designed The Cookery’s Autumn Ambush Ale with Vaccaro. This traditional brown ale is flavored with DiBari’s mix of Indian spices (also proprietary), which includes black peppercorns, green cardamom pods, and other seasonings. “There’s nothing that makes my tongue feel happier than when it’s bathed in a sparkling amber libation!” says DiBari. “But also, artistically and creatively, it’s all about bringing those flavors together. I get the same buzz from it. Making beer is just like cooking. Plus, I got to work with Scott Vaccaro, which is always great.”

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