Finding the Tahoe spirit(s) in local craft cocktails
There’s nothing like spending the day hiking, biking, boating, or shopping and then relaxing at a restaurant or bar with a refreshing cocktail. What makes it even better, though, is having that cocktail with a locally made liquor. Here are three companies that are passionate about the lake as well as their alcohol, and a few places that make signature drinks with these Tahoe signature spirits.
Tahoe Blue Vodka- Signature Drink: Cranapple Mule at Jake’s at the Lake (Tahoe City)
Tahoe Blue Vodka is one of the most recognizable liquors in the Tahoe Basin. Designed to be as clean, pure, and fresh just like the lake itself, it is arguably in 95 percent of the bars and restaurants on both the North and South shores.
Tahoe Blue Vodka was conceived when its CEO Matt Levitt visited Lake Tahoe on the last day of his cross-country road trip, and he quickly fell in love with the area…so much that he never left. He teamed up with a few master distillers and came up with a unique blending process with water sourced straight from Big Blue along with naturally distilled grapes, corn, and sugarcane, making it 100 percent gluten-free.
This one-of-a-kind vodka is found everywhere from the Tahoe Bleu Wave yacht to the bar at Boreal ski resort on I-80, but you can also sip on Tahoe Blue Vodka at Jake’s on the Lake and directly see the connection to the inspiration and making of this spirit. Try it in the Cranapple Mule, a signature cocktail made of Tahoe Blue Vodka, apple, cranberry, ginger beer, lime, and a cinnamon sugar rim.
72 Mile Spirits- Signature Drink: Matcha Talkin About?! at Tunnel Creek Café (Incline Village)
Or the Smoked Sazerac at Crystal Bay Club Casino
Crystal Bay Club Casino General Manager Eric Roe says that spirits have always been a passion of his, therefore he and his wife Brianna joined up with friends Paul and Paola Pruteanu and created 72 Mile Spirits, named after the circumference of the lake. The four friends make all the spirits themselves in 150-gallon batches, from the mashing to the fermenting, distilling, bottling, labeling, proofing, marketing, and distribution. Its whiskey is aged in new American Oak barrels for at least a year, while its Cascade Bourbon (a blend of the Desolation Rye and corn-based bourbon) sits in the barrel for at least three. The 72 Mile Spirits team smokes its whiskey grain before they mash it.
Committed to being a Tahoe brand, 72 Mile Spirits is mostly found in several places throughout Incline Village/Crystal Bay (but there are a few spots in Reno and Carson City that carry it as well). Tunnel Creek Café in Incline Village has two signature cocktails with 72 Mile Spirits including the Matcha Talkin’ About?! cocktail made with 72 Mile Gin, green tea, lime, egg white, and honey syrup and the Espresso Martini made with 72 Mile Vodka, espresso, milk, and vanilla syrup. Both are equally amazing.
72 Mile Spirits can also be found at the Crystal Bay Club Casino.
“Sage Leaf [in Incline Village] highlights our cocktails as well and we have a pretty good presence at the Crystal Bay Steak & Lobster House,” he says. Its Smoked Sazerac signature cocktail is made with 72 Mile Desolation Rye, a sugar cube, angostura bitters, lemon peel, and an absinth rinse.
Old Trestle Distillery- Signature Drink: Hibiscus Negroni at FiftyFifty Brewing (Truckee)
Or the Sierra Toddy at FiftyFifty
Back in 2012, a group of friends who lived in Truckee believed that the world’s best whiskey was yet to be created so they figured they’d give it a shot by learning from master distillers and filling some barrels. Aged at a 5,820-ft. elevation, its first mountain-born double-barrel expression Sierra Bourbon was released in summer of 2020 and is the most popular and widely distributed spirit in the Old Trestle line.
Although Old Trestle is rooted in whiskey, it has since added gin and vodka to its mix. Its Theory Gin line has different flavors such as the: Theory 1- a classic gin made with locally harvested botanicals; Theory 2- a gin infused with Asian-inspired Five Spice; and Theory 3- a barrel-aged gin with local honey.
Old Trestle can be found at the Auld Dubliner at Palisades, Drunken Monkey, Bar of America, Pianeta, and Best Pies, to name a few. However, FiftyFifty Brewing has an entire Old Trestle Series section on its cocktail menu.
The OTD 75 is made with Theory Gin #001, Rose Lillet Blanc and a lemon squeeze topped with prosecco while the Honey Basil Tom Collins is made with Theory Gin #003 and the Vitality Theory is made with Theory Gin #004. The Hibiscus Negroni is smooth and strong, made with Campari, sweet vermouth, and Theory #005 gin. FiftyFifty mostly sells straight bottles- the person sitting next to me at the bar had a bottle of Theory Gin #001 with a cool tree cookie on its label- but its Sierra Toddy cocktail made with the lemon, honey, and Sierra Bourbon is also one of its best sellers.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2023 edition of Tahoe Magazine.
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