Off The Wagon

with Kent

Hosting can be a stressful affair, especially when a bunch of strangers are coming into your home expecting you to put on an event entertaining enough for it to be worth it to leave their house; it's not an easy task today. There are some tricks to help you, as a host, get your guests to loosen up and feel welcomed into your home, and the main trick is alcohol. Most people travel anywhere in the name of alcohol, but if you really want to wow them, there are some ideas we're offering to make sure your guests remember the night... or not. Cocktails can get anyone excited, and we want you to have just as much fun as your guests with these easy tips to elevate your cocktails.

1. Invest in interesting bitters

Bitters has become a fad in the world of bartending over the past fews years even though it's been around for a very long time. When most people think of bitters in cocktails, they think of the Old Fashioned with the classic Angostura bitters, but bitters come in all sorts of flavors that can be really fun to play around with in cocktails. You can either buy or make your own bitters in a multitude of flavors ranging from coffee to chocolate to orange. You can check out our Pinterest page for some bitters cocktails inspiration!

2. Buy a variety of garnishes

A beautiful garnish can surprise your guests making them think that there must be a bartender working your party! Garnishes are amazing for a lot of reasons, some being that they're usually relatively cheap to buy and they're easy to work with. Usually all you have to do is pop in whatever garnish you fancy into the drink, and viola! It's especially easy to garnish cocktails when you buy specific ingredients to use in cocktails, and set aside a little as a garnish. That way you don't have to pick up anything extra from the store. Garnishes can range from an orange slice to a sprig of rosemary and even as easy as adding a cherry on top! Those little moments your guests have looking at a beautifully made cocktail will make for a memorable night.

3. Have a good set of bar equipment

The equipment you use doesn't have to be fancy or expensive by any means, but having the right equipment can make cocktail making a hell of a lot easier. Some tools to invest in for your home bar include:

-shaking glasses



-bar spoon


With these tools, you can make pretty much any cocktail there is and the rest can mostly be improvised. I recommend for shaking glasses to get a metal shaker and a pint glass. That way the pint glass can act as your vessel you muddle and add the ingredients of the cocktail in and you can add the ice and pop the metal shaking glass on top and it seals nice and tight. It also makes the bartending aspect of hosting a lot less stressful and a lot more fun!

4. Create unique ice cubes

Yes, it sounds weird, but you will be surprised at how easy it is to make creative ice cubes and how impressed your guests will be. Bartenders have been doing things to ice cubes in cocktails for a long time mostly because it is so easy and unique. Granted, many of these ice cube ideas will not be able to be mass produced if you have a large party coming over, but it is a little treat you can offer to your special guests. Here are some ideas for creating beautiful ice cubes:

-add flowers in the ice cube tray

-add natural food coloring

-buy different shaped moulds for your ice cubes

The flowers and different colors really brighten the cocktail, especially when the party is taking place outdoors, and the different shapes add a uniqueness to the cocktail. Even pouring a spirit over a large spherical ice cube or a perfect cube shows your guests that you put a little extra effort into their drink.

5. Buy quality spirits!

Obviously, having unique and delicious spirits are going to win the hearts of your guests. People are picky when it comes to their drink, so having quality spirits around helps people know what they want when they come over to drink. There are a lot of people who are purists and want their alcohol unadulterated, and that's where good spirits will help you out. Our Cherry Vodka and Cherry Whiskey are wildly popular and make incredibly delicious and unique cocktails. And for the purists or those who want to stick with the originals, our Ole George Rye Whiskey and True North Rye Vodka are good solo or in those classic cocktails such as Manhattans and Martinis. Depending on your audience or the time of year, you may lean more towards whiskeys and vodkas for warm weather and traditional cocktails, while in the warmer months you may want to kick things up a notch with our rums and gin. Whichever products you choose, there are a plethora of ideas as to how to create beautiful and delicious cocktails in your home.

Check out our Pinterest page to see our original cocktail recipes and inspiration from others.

You can also go to our website to find out more information about us and where to buy your next bottle from Grand Traverse Distillery!


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Updated: May 3, 2019

The equipment involved in the distillation process is one of the most vital aspects of running a true craft distillery. The type of still used, the filtration system, the mill for the grain are all important in the process of making delicious and smooth spirits. Knowing the equipment well and what’s best for each individual distillery could set them apart from the competition.

Speaking of new equipment, we got another still! It’s an Arnold Holstein, like our other still, but this one is about double the size with a 2500 liter kettle or about 660 gallons. It’s a beast of a still weighing in at 6000 pounds of copper. This gives us the potential to make a lot of booze! As previously stated, knowing the specifications of the still gave us insight into whether this was the right purchase for us. So what led us to buy the still that we did?

We had a couple of main objectives for this new still that would help us grow as a business, and the first thing was to start doing contract distilling. Merchant distilling is pretty common practice today as many companies don’t have the resources themselves to make their own spirits, so they go to someone who does. For those who are interested in making their own spirits but don’t have a still themselves can now come to us to make their product. Anyone from individuals looking to start their own brand, restaurants wanting their own in-house spirits, or other distilleries looking for a new distillery to make their base product can now use us as a resource. What’s best about having two stills is now we can do contract distilling and continue our own production as well.

The second objective of this new still is to streamline our own production process. Our new still has four plates, which once the product is run through from start to finish means that it has been distilled five times, each plate acting as an additional distillation. As good as this may sound, five times distilled doesn’t really cut it for us. Our old still has the capacity to distill 37 times which makes our spirits much smoother. In order to streamline our distillation process, we can run a rough cut of a batch through the first still, then transfer it to the old still for the final cut, and we can repeat this process while utilizing both stills. This process will especially help with our whiskey and rum production in order to get our spirits in the barrel quicker.

So what should you expect from us in the future? First, there is a much less likely chance that we will run out of a product now because our distillation schedule will accommodate the use of both stills, allowing us to put more product out faster. We are also looking for people who are interested in getting a product into the spirits industry and want to use our still to make their spirits. We plan on introducing new products this year and this additional still will allow us to get those spirits to you guys sooner. We’re excited about this new chapter at Grand Traverse Distillery, and we can’t wait to show you what we’re working on later in the year!

If you’re interested in doing contract distilling with us, check out our website for more information and how to get in contact with us!



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Updated: May 3, 2019

There's no denying that the United States has experienced a significant increase in the microdistillery industry within the past ten years. Currently, there are over 2,500 “craft distilleries” across the US. There are quotes around "craft distilleries" for understandable reasons as some distilleries are not fully functioning distilleries. When you think of the inside of a distillery, you might think of the iconic copper still, or the vast amount of barrels held in a rick house. However, what goes on in the day-to-day business of a distillery is the distinguishing factor in identifying a craft distillery from something called a merchant distillery.

A craft distillery is what most people believe every distillery to be. They buy the grain or fruit and mill, mash, ferment, and distill everything in-house, and then out comes a beautifully made craft spirit. Unfortunately, a significant number of distilleries across the US do not do this. As one might think, it is immensely more expensive to buy the equipment to be able to distill from grain in-house. This is where the term merchant distillery came about. Those who wanted to start a distillery in the heat of this industry's economic boom without breaking the bank had another option besides becoming an outright craft distillery. It's possible to buy an already distilled product from a bulk alcohol distributor and then finish and bottle the product themselves. Not that there's anything wrong with this method of running a distillery, but what is typical for distilleries today is not to disclose this information to the public. Not only is it distrustful for the customers, but it also takes away the charm behind running a craft distillery. At a craft distillery, the prices per bottle are dependent on many factors including the cost of the base product, an employee's time and pay, the utilities to run the equipment, and the long list continues! When a merchant distillery prices their bottles, those little details aren't applicable, so the price inevitably ends up being lower. It's cheaper to buy in product and bottle it as opposed to creating the spirits from scratch. So what ends up happening is when a craft distillery has direct competition with a merchant distillery, people end up wondering why one distillery's spirits are cheaper than another. This is one of the most significant differences you'll find between distilleries.

Now you may be wondering how you as a customer can distinguish the difference between a merchant distillery and a craft distillery. One way is to do a side by side tasting and decide for yourself which you prefer. However, if you're not interested in popping bottles and spending the money, there is a way you can find a craft distillery's spirits right in the store. It's not surprisingly all about reading the fine print. By understanding the label and looking for key phrases, you can confidently walk out of the store with a craft microdistillery product. Usually, at the bottom of the label either on the front or the back of the bottle, there will be a line that says either “produced and bottled by..." or “manufactured and bottled by”and then the distillery's name, or "distilled and bottled by...". If the label says anything other than “distilled and bottled by..." then it's a merchant distillery, Whiskeys get a little more specific for craft distilleries, where they read "distilled, aged and bottled by...". If the distillery doesn't establish anywhere that they distill and age their own product, they probably don't. It's as simple as that.

The moral of this post is marketing can get tricky, taking away from the craft spirits industry. We're not here to shame anyone for liking specific products that may be from a merchant distillery; we just wanted to share our perspective on the industry coming from a family-run craft microdistillery. We feel it's important to educate the public on the spirits industry in any way we can because it is indeed an exciting business, but like many other businesses out there, not everyone is in the industry for the good of the public. Deception is not a marketing tactic, and we want everyone to see the transparency behind running a craft distillery, and what we do versus other microdistilleries. Below are a couple links to articles further discussing this issue between craft and merchant distilleries. Being a craft distillery versus using crafty marketing tactics is more important to us. Understanding whether you are supporting a grain to bottle distillery versus a bottling company makes all the difference in the world in the spirits industry.

Check out our website to find out more about our spirits and what GTD gets up to on the daily!



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