So you’re taking a trip and the only thing on your agenda is some good drinking. And while you know you could get your hands on some good beer (among other things) in Colorado, explore bourbon history in Kentucky or get more than your fill of wine in California, why not strike out on some lesser-known drinking adventures?
We’ve rounded up a few states that have a little more unique-flair to their drinks. But don’t worry, if cocktails aren’t your thing we’ve got an awesome brewery recommendation for you as well. Maybe these states don’t scream, “That’s my next vacation!” but with some great booze options, what else do you need?
The drink: Old Vermont
Several (unofficial) state cocktail lists out there claim the Old Vermont is The Green Mountain State’s namesake drink. Some even say that to make a true Old Vermont, you have to use Barr Hill Gin (distilled in Vermont) and maple syrup made within state lines. Vermont actually produces more syrup than any other state (over 1.3 million gallons annually) and sets the nationwide standard for grading maple syrup. In addition to gin and maple syrup, the cocktail also contains lemon juice, orange juice and bitters.
The brewery: Hill Farmstead Brewery
Hill Farmstead Brewery – not to be confused with Barr Hill Gin – has been said to be the best brewery in America. It’s probably hard to find a more family-focused brewery than this. Owner Shaun Hill (Hill like Hill Farmstead this time) has created this masterpiece at the farm where he grew up and on land that much of his family has called home. The tap and bottle list rotates, so you aren’t able to get your hands on the same brews on any given day. You might find American pale ales Conduct of Life or Edward – named for Shaun’s grandfather and made with water from his well. While you can find a limited list of the brewery’s beers on tap at bars in Vermont, you’ll find the most extensive list at the brewery, located off the beaten path in northern Vermont – on a hill, of course. And though it’s a trek, know that many of the beers are low ABV, crafted by Shaun with the people of Vermont in mind.
The drink: Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy
Even if nature excursions aren’t really your idea of a vacation, Maine has plenty to offer those that prefer the great indoors. While Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy is actually produced in Massachusetts, Maine can call this drink its own as the coffee brandy is the number one selling spirit in the state. The 60 proof brandy is naturally flavored from the extract of imported coffee beans. The drink is a Maine tradition, with people adding a splash to coffee, drinking it as a Sombrero (1 part coffee brandy, 1 part milk) or mixing it in a variety of other coffee cocktails or treats. More likely than not, you’ll be able to find this coffee-like brandy at any Maine establishment with a bar.
The brewery: Monhegan Brewing Company
On Monhegan Island – a teeny tiny island located 10 miles off the coast of Maine – is an unexpected gem: Monhegan Brewing Company! The island, just barely a square mile in area, has a year-round population of about 65 and has been an artists’ haven for more than 100 years. The family-owned brewery displays displays local artwork through its artist-designed bottle labels. Like the weather and the tourist season, the brewery is only open 8 months out of the year, and the tasting room is open May to October. During that time, the tap list is always changing, with as many as four beers on tap at a time (and two sodas!).
The drink: Brandy Old Fashioned
While nine times out of ten the Midwest is not going to be considered a dream-vacation destination, maybe that’s all the more reason to drink when you get there. If you’re an Old Fashioned drinker, you may be confused when ordering one in this state. You’ll most likely be asked “Sour or sweet?” In response to your blank stare, the bartender will inform you that a Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned can come sweet (with 7 Up or Sprite) or sour (with a soda like Squirt) in addition to the typical bitters and sugar. It will also probably come garnished with a cherry and orange, so prepare yourself for that little flourish.
The brewery: New Glarus Brewing Co.
You’ll also be able to get your hands on brews from New Glarus Brewing only in Wisconsin as the popular craft brewery doesn’t distribute outside the state. The owners of the small brewery in the Swiss heritage town of New Glarus are determined to keep it local, maintaining control of what is being produced and continually investing back into their brewery. Though small in size, you can find these brews throughout the state, from local bars to big supermarkets. The company’s flagship brew, Spotted Cow, is a farmhouse ale that is offered year round. Among New Glarus’s other year-round iconic options are Raspberry Tart, a Wisconsin framboise ale, and Serendipity, a fruited sour ale, both of which are sold in 750 mL bottles or ¼ barrels.
The drink: The Bootleg
Since you’re already in the Midwest, might as well make your way west into Minnesota. The Bootleg drink is allegedly the state cocktail and made with a Bootleg Mix that you can only find at Woodhill Country Club in Wayzata – or so they say. It seems that the history of The Bootleg and what exactly goes into it is largely contested. If you find yourself outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area, ask around on if this drink exists and where you might find one. The gin or vodka Bootleg is meant to be a refreshing drink with some combination of fresh lemonade or limeade, mint and club soda.
The brewery: Surly Brewing Co.
Some people really care about their beer. Enough so, that they even change laws. Surly Brewing Co. is the result of a homebrewer turned entrepreneur turned founder of world-renowned craft brewery, except this man, Omar Ansari, had to change a prohibition-era law in the process. With the backing of two Minnesota state legislators and support across social media (the brewery had its fair share of opposition), Omar and the Surly crew were able to change a law that prohibited breweries from selling and serving pints of their own beer to consumers at the breweries. A visit to Surly’s Destination Brewery in Minneapolis – a $30 million expansion project – is understanding what the “Surly Bill” did for craft breweries in Minnesota. Have a beer here and you’re having a taste of Minnesota history.
The drink: Grand Teton Potato Vodka
Rated the number one American-made vodka, Grand Teton Potato is a product of Grand Teton Distillery, which is surrounded by acres of Idaho potatoes and lays at the foothills of the Tetons. If you hold sustainability as one of your top priorities, this is the place to drink for you. The distillery uses mountain water from the snow-melt off the Tetons, biodegradable tasting cups and has a charging station for Tesla electric cars, among many other sustainable practices. The potato vodka is distilled and filtered multiple times for a clean and soft spirit, which the distillery recommends enjoying over ice with a twist of lemon or lime. The distillery also makes a variety of other vodkas and whiskeys.
The brewery: Grand Teton Brewing
Okay, so maybe Idaho is more of a destination if you’re into drinking, thinking and being in water for your entire vacation. With endless whitewater and hot springs, this state definitely has its share of H2O. But don’t dismiss Idaho yet. If potatoes aren’t your thing, there is wine country and the Boise Ale Trail – a journey through the city’s booming microbrewery culture. You also may want to check out Grand Teton Brewing. The brewery has a history that includes re-creating and introducing the modern growler and the legalization of brewpubs in Wyoming. A creek at the Idaho brewery (where it moved in 1998), and the water used for the brews, is glacial runoff that has filtered over 300 to 500 years and surfaces at a spring near the brewery. Yes, they like their water (and potatoes) in Idaho!
Maybe these states are more nature-focused than you planned, but don’t ever count them out when it comes to drinking. Bon voyage!