A New Pear Brandy from Harvest Spirits
Update: Harvest Spirits Pear Takes The Bronze
In April, Harvest Spirits Pear brandy was awarded a bronze medal by the American Distilling Institute at the sixth annual ADI Brandy conference and competition in Alameda, California. The pear brandy/eau de vie category was the most competitive, drawing dozens of entries.
The Swedish call it “aquavit,” the French “eau-de-vie,” and the Germans “schnapps.” But since there is little tradition in this country for drinking spirits made from fruit, most Americans don’t know what to call it. The direct translation from Swedish and French, “water of life,” sounds a little over the top, at least hereabouts, so Harvest Spirits settled on “brandy” to describe the latest addition to its line.
“We had no intention of doing pear brandy but Fix Brothers Farm in Hudson had a bunch of pears that had been hit with hail,” says Derek Grout co-owner of the Valatie distillery that makes Core Vodka, recently awarded a Gold Medal by the Beverage Testing Institute, with a 92— the highest score of any domestic vodka in a tasting of more than 80. “They asked me if we could do anything with them. I could have turned them into vodka. But we decided to try a brandy instead.”
First fruit, then cider, then the alcoholic beverage: It was the middle step, the fruit-to-cider part of the cycle, that was troubling to Grout and his partner Tom Crowell. Golden Harvest Farms, the parent company of Harvest Spirits, uses a rather slow, old-fashioned, rack-and-cloth cider press. So Bob and Linda Fix proposed that they involve yet another farm, Eger Brothers, in the scheme. Fix delivered his fruit to the Egers who made it into cider in their more modern press, then the Egers delivered the cider to Harvest Spirits who turned it into brandy. “I didn’t even know Mark and Jim Eger until the Fixes introduced us,” says Grout.
The net result of this collaboration between three Columbia County farms is 500 slender bottles of a beverage simply called “Pear,” 100 of which have already been spoken for. Not to be confused with the syrupy schnapps sold in liquor stores and bars, this clear liquid isn’t sweet. It is quite similar, in fact, to the French brandy Poire William. It is designed to be drunk chilled and neat, as the Swedish do their aquavit when their host raises his glass and proclaims, “Skal!” Or it may be mixed with lemon juice plus something sweet, such as triple sec, to make a delicious cocktail.
“Once it’s gone that’s it until next year’s harvest,” says Grout. And what if there is no hale next summer, hence no bruised fruit? Grout shrugs, clearly untroubled by such an unlikely prospect. “I’m lucky that I can take an ingredient that was just going to fall on the ground and rot and be able to make something valuable out of it. But it took a lot of ‘cooperation-ship,’ as our current President would say, to make Pear.”
For a pitcher of Pear cocktails, mix together:
2 cups Harvest Spirit’s Pear brandy
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
1/3 cup triple sec
Strain into 6 martini glasses.
Pear is available at:
Fairview Wines & Spirits
160 Fairview Ave, Hudson; 518.828.0934
Hudson Wine Merchants
341½ Warren Street, Hudson; 518.828.6411
Kinderhook Wines & Spirits
2967 Route 9 (Hannaford Shopping Plaza), Valatie; 518.758.8463
Little Gates & Company Wine Merchants
58 South Center Street, Millerton; 518.789.3899
On weekends, it also may be purchased directly from the distillery, which is open for tours:
Harvest Spirits at Golden Harvest Farms
3074 U.S. Route 9, Valatie; 518.758.7683