What comes to mind when you think of making vodka? I think Russian, cold climate, men with thick mustaches, heavy accents, and fur hats. Or at least I did, until a recent grown-up field trip to the distillery of Florida Cane Vodka right here in Tampa, Florida! It was love at first sip.
I, along with my fellow bloggers of Tampa Bay Bloggers network, were treated to a really fun and informative evening at Florida’s first ever Vodka Tasting Room, courtesy of Florida Cane Vodka. My opinions are my own. Lee Nelson, one of the founders of Florida Cane and spirits guru, started us off with a round of a classic cocktail with a Florida Cane twist — the Moscow Mule. It was refreshing, embodied big flavors, but was smooth from your lips right down your throat. There was nothing harsh or bitter about this drink. I knew right then we were in good hands for the evening.
The back story of this local gem is actually quite interesting. It’s everything we love and embrace about the American spirit. A few pretty awesome people, who by their own admission are “kind of obsessed” with vodka, got together to develop a vodka made from all Florida ingredients with the backbone being Florida sugar cane. After getting the funding they needed to get started through conventional means as well as family and friend support, clearing all the necessary legal hurdles, and securing a space that would allow them to drill into the florida aquifer, the Florida Cane distillery went from dream to reality. Not only are they making lots of mixology enthusiasts happy but they are pumping money right back into the local economy while doing it and supporting local farmers. I’ll drink to that!
Lee explained the painstaking process it took to perfect their premium 80 proof vodka and it made me appreciate drinking it even more. If I had known the significance of chemistry when it came to booze I might have paid a bit more attention in my high school chemistry class. Seriously, it’s not easy. There’s the right combination of quality ingredients, the right timing, at the right temperature. Lee even said they brought in lights to simulate outdoor lighting because it helps when they are trying to be sure the vodka has just the right clarity. Distilling spirits is an artistry all its own.
Even if you’re not huge on vodka (I’m a rum and tequila type of girl myself), I guarantee you will find a flavor that you can enjoy. In addition to the Premium vodka, there is Orlando Orange, Beach Bum Berry, Weeki Wachee Watermelon, Plant City Strawberry, Okeechobee Cherry, Key West Lemon and Lime, Buccaneer Blueberry, Miami Mango, and Gator Grape. My personal favorites were the Orlando Orange and the Gator Grape. You can definitely come up with some very tasty cocktail creations for any of those flavors. I took home an Orlando Orange with me and it’s been perfect for Mimosas. The key to the zest of this flavor is the orange peel zest infused in the vodka. It’s not overpowering and just the right fruity balance. The last thing you want is for your vodka to taste like orange flavored cough syrup. No bueno. We also saw the initial experiments for some future flavors in the works but I’m not telling!!!
After generous tastes of vodkas, Lee was excited to share with us his pride and joy, their very own line of moonshine. I was ready to tap out at this point because I had no desire to drink anything that had the possibility of putting hair on my chest. Lee assured me this wasn’t my grandpa’s moonshine and so I had to put on my big girl panties and give it a try. They have managed to make moonshine sexy with their 4 varieties of Sunshine Moonshine. There’s apple vanilla, cinnamon, toffee orange, and blueberry/blackberry anise. We came up with all kinds of things to add these too, from hot chocolate to apple cider. They were quite tasty but the sudden warmth in my chest reminded me: Do not be fooled by the sleek bottles and fancy flavors. These moonshines are 109 proof so enjoy with extreme caution.
Nifty bottles! Sexiest moonshine I’ve ever seen.
Kudos to the folks at Florida Cane! I love what they’re doing and the movement to “Drink Local!” You can find Florida Cane vodkas now in Publix, Total Wine, Winthrop Liquors, and even at my beloved WDW Epcot! Visit their website www.cane-vodka.com for information on booking the tasting room, cocktail recipes, and a comprehensive list of retailers.
Lauren G. – Outdoorsy Diva
All pictures and accounts are the sole property of Lauren Gay unless otherwise indicated. Copyright 2014