History, Hooch and Hospitality

I love out-of-town company but for repeaters (people who come often) sometimes I run out of places to take them and ways to entertain them. Recently, I found one of the ultimate destinations. Bloomery Plantation Distillery is a 12-acre farm with an 1840s historic log cabin (the distillery made moonshine in the past) nestled next to the Shenandoah River in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia. Bloomery Plantation is located at 16357 Charles Town Road in Charles Town, W.Va. and offers tours and tastings.

Bloomery Plantation Distillery was launched in 2010 when Linda Losey and Tom Keifer, who had just returned home from a trip to Italy, went on a quest to find the best limoncello in America. Limoncello is the national drink of Italy and the duo became enamored with making their own, something that would replicate the taste and experience of their wonderful Italian adventure.

They took the challenge and created a charming mini-distillery, where they make artisan cordials by hand from their farm’s own lemons and raspberries. They have won 14 international awards with their limoncello.

Their 12-acre farm was purchased after they saw a Craig’s List ad. The Keifers took on the challenge of restoring an 1840s cabin and created a mini-distillery where they began to make artisan cordials by hand. Their cordials use their farm’s own lemons, ginger, nuts and raspberries. Yes, lemons and Hawaiian ginger do grow in West Virginia. Everything is grown on the farm, and all production is done by hand — when I was there, one of the staffers had zested, grated and squeezed 2,500 lemons in one week. The hand zesting guarantees no pith in the zest. They proceed to craft a variety of versatile, hand-made, artisan fruit cordials called SweetShines, from chocolate raspberry to peach ‘shine, to their proprietary raspberry lemon, to “Moonshine Milkshake Cremma Lemma.”

And, the limoncello rivals any award-winning Italian limoncello. In fact, in two world competitions, their SweetShines have taken 20 medals for their limoncello, cremma lemma “Moonshine Milkshake,” raspberry limoncello, hard lemonade, and chocolate raspberry liqueurs. Other flavors include ginger shine, black walnut, pumpkin spice (seasonal) and peach shine.

The top flavors are the raspberry lemon, limoncello and black walnut. These inventive cordials range from 35 to 70 proof, with hard lemonade being the lowest proof, and black walnut the highest. These all natural Sweet Shine flavors are crafted after the old-timers’ recipes using 190 proof ‘shine from Kentucky, pure cane sugar and farm fresh ingredients. In fact, the distillers will try macerating pretty much anything as long as it’s a fruit, root or nut!

The different flavors of limoncello have a variety of uses: You can just drink it; use it in other drinks like margaritas, gin, vodka, champagne, tequila, rum, cold and hot teas, and especially white wine; use it in recipes; and use it to make marinades.

Limoncello is an excellent digestive if served cold. Some prefer it at room temperature, or even stirred into tonic water. Use it as a topping: Pour it over gelato, sorbet or ice cream, or fruit salad.

Come early to guarantee yourself a seat at the bar for the free complimentary tasting, when you sip and sample nine different SweetShines, some mixed drinks, plus some sorbets. Go chill on the hill with history, hooch and hospitality. Something will always be macerating. On Fridays and Saturdays the distillery features live music from 6 to 8 p.m.

Call 304.725.3036 for directions; visit www.bloomerysweetshine.com for additional hours.

Sex on the Peach

1 part peach shine (made and sold at Bloomery Plantation)

2 parts cranberry juice

1 part ginger ale

splash of lime juice

To make the peach shine mixture, combine the peach shine, cranberry juice, ginger ale and lime juice. Serve over ice.

For a fabulous dessert Bloomery Plantation style, grill a few peeled peaches cut side down and place on a serving platter cut side up. Top with a splash of peach shine mixture, creme fresh, and a dash of cinnamon. Enjoy.

Oh My

This treat is named for what the distillers most commonly hear in their tasting room after guests try a spoonful. It’s a simple palate cleanser or dessert treat, just a scoop of passion fruit sorbet drizzled with SweetShine limoncello and stirred. For larger servings, use a pint of sorbet and about 2 ounces of Limoncello. Mango, peach and lemon sorbets are also nice.

Editor’s Note: For more edible delights by Sheilah Kaufman, go to www.cookingwithsheilah.com.

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