Local beverage makers have funneled their imaginations into new libations that are popping up around town on store shelves and bar trays.
This is a diverse bunch of flavors, to say the least, ranging from a dill pickle vodka to coconut cake liqueur.
Just how do they get these genies in a bottle?
Chilled Dills vodka
Oh, how a little tropical vacation can mess with the mind.
The idea for a pickle-flavored vodka was conceived on a family and friends vacation in Florida three years ago. The resident tiki bar offered a “shot of the week,” and at the time the flavor was pickle. It was an instant hit with the group.
Its popularity soon begged the question: Can we bottle this ourselves?
Many months later, actually in the summer of 2012, the definitive answer came. Partners John Lloyd, Marty Lloyd and Neil Caruso finally had their Chilled Dills Pickled Flavor Vodka, thanks to Terressentia in Ladson, a private-label distilled-spirits manufacturer.
Caruso says they experimented with artificial flavorings but decided that a real pickle juice infusion was the only way to go.
Chilled Dills became available in South Carolina last fall and is in more than 100 retail locations across the state. The 70-proof vodka also is making inroads in Ohio and Tennessee. (Go to the store locator on the website, www.chilleddills.com.)
A 750ml bottle ranges from $18 to $20.
The partners originally thought the signature drink would be the Pickle Shot, but bloody mary lovers have asserted themselves and brought a change of mind. Chilled Dills is now making a push for the big brunch business, and requisite bloodys, all over Charleston.
Fat & Juicy
With distribution of their Fat & Juicy Bloody Mary Mix spreading rapidly across the country in just two short years — 6,000 retail locations in all — Joe Good and John Glenn III decided the cocktail world was in need of a “real” margarita mix.
Not one of those sticky-sweet electric-green mixes prevalent in the market, Glenn says. So the partners and former bandmates embarked on creating a naturally flavored base for a margarita.
As they did with the bloody mary mix, the two worked together in Glenn’s kitchen on James Island and made batch after batch, tweaking along the way. They were almost there when Glenn read about the “best” margaritas being made in Costa Rica. One ingredient in them was a hint of sour-sweet tamarind fruit. So they borrowed the idea.
The mix also includes key limes and fresh orange, resulting in a pale green concoction that they boast is “perfectly balanced with the right amount of tart and sweet.”
The just-released Fat & Juicy Margarita Mix is on the shelves of Piggly Wiggly stores in South Carolina and Georgia and retails for about $6.
Good, a practicing attorney, and Glenn, who works exclusively for Fat & Juicy, now expect to roll out a new product every six to nine months.
Firefly Distillery’s Southern Accents line of liqueurs are all based on beloved desserts, and all of them have to pass the ultimate taste test: a dozen women in the office.
“When I think it’s right, I bring it into the office and I’ve got 12 women here and all 12 women taste it, and if all of them give me the thumbs up, we go with it,” says Jim Irvin, co-owner and flavor developer at the Wadmalaw Island distillery. “If not, I keep trying until all 12 of them say yes.”
Irvin’s latest creations are Coconut Cake and Chocolate Pecan Pie. They, like all products in the line, are made with all natural ingredients and took months of testing, Irvin says.
“You start out with them in your mind asking yourself, ‘What’s in the dessert?’ You’ve got dough, different kinds of flour and flavors, and you need to figure out what that is. You get flavors by using the real thing and mix it with a little bit of alcohol and then distill it and then the flavor comes over the alcohol.”
Irvin, who has a chemistry background, says the process can be frustrating, and sometimes he has to walk away from it.
“You’ll be downtown shopping with your wife and then the idea will come to you what you need to do to it. So then you keep doing it and doing it until it’s right.”
The Southern Accents liqueurs are priced in the $15-$16 range and can be found in more than 200 stores statewide. They also are available at the distillery.
He’s working on new Key Lime Pie and Red Velvet Cake flavors that so far are proving elusive.
“It tastes super when I make it, but when I taste it in a couple of days and it’s married, it morphs into a different flavor. I have to figure out how to get it right.”