A few days ago, I jumpstarted a chilly spring morning with a shot of vodka. Black tea and peach bitters were blended in, too, but the warm feeling that spread through my shoulders still felt kind of illicit at 10 a.m.
The excuse was solid: a drop-in to the new Vermont Spirits tasting room in Quechee, which opened about a month ago. Last summer, Vermont Spirits had their steel headquarters painstakingly dissembled and moved from Barnet — where they'd distilled for 13 years — to this complex along Route 4.
The place took longer than expected to assemble, but the care shows in the details: an elegant slate floor, modern industrial lights, a bar made from salvaged barn beams, and shelves stocked with bottles of vodka and Fee Brothers Bitters, as well as books and videos from the American Distilling Institute.
If you haven't tried a Vermont Spirits Vodka yet, here you can sample either the crisp Vermont Spirits White (distilled from milk sugars) and the subtly sweet Vermont Spirits Gold (distilled from maple sap). Then, you can move on to a tiny sample of a craft cocktail that changes weekly — even if it's before noon (the tasting room opens at 10 a.m., six days a week).
Through a wide, open doorway (and behind a velvet rope) visitors can spy the gleaming column still used to make these libations, and maybe even catch distiller Harry Gorman decanting some fresh spirits.
It doesn't have to stop there. The rest of Quechee Gorge Village is a veritable beverage-and-food crawl: The Cabot store is loaded with free samples, and Snow Farm Vineyard has a tasting room at the far end of the building. Sharing the village is the Farmer's Diner and an eclectic ice cream shop called Frozen Memories.
If you plan to take it all in, do it soon, so you can start with the tipple of the moment: the Golden Peach.
The Golden Peach
2 parts Vermont Spirits Gold
3 parts strong black tea
1 part lemon juice
5-6 dashes of Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
Combine all the ingredients over ice, then top with seltzer.