Easy Breezy Cocktails

By Sharon Annen and Barb Krause | Photography by Shanna Wolf

Readers, we are back again, serving up creative drink ideas for the season. The recipes featured here were crafted with spirits from our three local distilleries: AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery, Rush Creek Distilling and Studio Winery + Geneva Lake Distilling. You’ll want to plan a visit to each of them, so check out “The Players” below for all the details.

VODKA: Lake Breeze

There are several local vodkas to choose from: Rush Creek and Studio Winery each craft their own. And technically, Leap Vodka and Tito’s have local ties as well (more on that later).

We went against our better judgment and opted for a recipe using Blue Curaçao, to create that summery-resort-type blue drink. To our surprise it received high marks from our testing team. For the Lake Breeze, combine 1 ounce each of vodka, Blue Curaçao and simple syrup, plus a 1/2 ounce of lemon juice. Squeeze a little orange or add a slice for garnish. (For simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water, bring to boil, then remove from heat, cover and let cool.

GIN: Bee’s Knees

We were excited about gin because each of the three distilleries offer one. Studio Winery’s Genever Style Gin is more of a cross between a gin and a whiskey, so that will give you a slightly different taste.

Our version of a Bee’s Knees combines 2 ounces of gin with 3/4 ounce of lemon juice and 3/4 ounce of honey simple syrup. For the honey simple syrup, stir together 1/2 cup honey with 1/2 cup water, warm it on the stove (no boiling!), and then let cool.

WHISKEY: Whiskey Mojito

All three distilleries have whiskey; Rush Creek’s varieties include wheat and rye bourbons (we tried the American Gold).

First, lightly muddle 5 mint leaves (farmer’s market anyone?), 1 ounce of honey simple syrup and the juice from 1/2 of a lime in each glass. Fill with ice, pour in 11/2 ounces of whiskey and top with ginger ale.

BRANDY: Chocolate Martini

Both Studio Winery and AeppelTreow produce brandy (AeppelTreow has peach and apple varieties).

We know we featured a chocolate martini in the winter issue, but we had to share this version, too. Combine 1 ounce each of brandy and an Irish cream liquor (such as Bailey’s), then add 1/2 ounce of Kahlua and 1/2 ounce of butterscotch schnapps. We topped ours with chocolate shavings, which was surprisingly easy to do (chocolate bar plus cheese grater).


THE PLAYERS

Rush Creek Distilling
Harvard, IL | rushcreekdistilling.com

Offers: Craft vodka (also jalapeño and vanilla infused), botanical and barrel rested gins, whiskeys (many varieties) and Malabar

Rush Creek was started by four local guys in 2017 with a passion to make the finest craft spirits. The distillery tour is not to be missed, along with some merch browsing in their gift shop. And if you have more time, we love their tasting room, with huge screened-in windows letting in the fresh air, plus an outdoor patio for warmer days.

Studio Winery + Geneva Lake Distilling
Lake Geneva | studiowinery.com

Offers: Genever Style Gin, vodka, brandy, moon- shine, whiskey, rum (and wine!)

The tasting room at Studio is a great space for sipping and listening to live music on weekends. Studio offers signature Old Fashioneds made with most of their spirits, including the Genever Style Gin, a cross between gin and whiskey, and a very creative drink menu for their other spirits, plus more than a dozen wine varietals, all crafted on-site.

AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery
Burlington | appletrue.com

Offers: Wisconsin Peach Brandy, Wisconsin Apple Brandy, Kettle Geneva Gin, Brown Dog Whiskey

AeppelTreow uses local crops to make draft hard ciders, wines and spirits. It’s located on the grounds of Brightonwoods Orchard, offering more than 150 varieties of apples in the fall (not a pick-your-own orchard, however). The winery and distillery is open Saturdays and Sundays, May through December (and 6 days a week in September and October).

Leap Vodka
leapspirits.com

Released in January, Leap is owned by local residents Steve Schulz and Chris Welch, along with Jason Quenzer and of course, former Green Bay Packer LeRoy Butler.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
titosvodka.com

Although Tito’s Handmade Vodka is a Texas brand, they recently sponsored Lake Geneva’s Restaurant Week, donating $9,000 in total to the local participating charities.

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