Fall is here! What is the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps cooler weather, pumpkin spice latte’s, cashmere sweaters, suede boots or perhaps dishes like a sweet potato casserole. If you are a fan of the latter and currently living in NC, we are fortunate that our state is the #1 producer of sweet potatoes. As an NC foodie, it has been impressive to see chef’s and restaurateur’s embrace the farm to table movement. However, did you know that we also have NC distilleries embracing the same movement and using our homegrown sweet potatoes?
34 miles outside of Morrisville, North Carolina, a short 38 minute drive, is Oaklee Distilling Company in charming Wendell. The 1920’s historic building off of 13 North Main St. is home to the family operation founded in 2014 by NC native Lee Browne. Lee manages Oaklee’s Distilling Operations while his mother leads Marketing and father heads Sales. The distillery focuses on producing classic spirits like bourbon, brandy, rye whiskey and a soon to be released gin. This past December, Oaklee released their “TROOP STRENGTH” BOOTS VODKA or what I like to call, “The Farm to Martini Glass Vodka”. The entire vodka creation process is NC made, starting with the sweet potatoes and corn that are sourced from North Carolina farms to the milling, distilling and bottling process that all takes place in Oaklee’s Distilling Wendell operation.
BOOTS VODKA has the presence in approximately 30 counties in North Carolina and Virginia, including Wake County. You can find the vodka at ABC Stores as well as Raleigh bars and restaurants like Circa 1888, Fox Liquor Bar, and Angus Barn. If your local ABC store doesn’t have BOOTS VODKA in stock, you can request that your ABC store order the vodka.
The TROOP STRENGTH VODKA is not a liquor that you want to mask with too many ingredients. I consider it a tasting vodka which is best drank chilled or used in a classic cocktail like a martini with a twist or a vodka tonic. The sweet potatoes and corn provide earthy and sweet flavor profiles that you will want to savor. If you already have a bottle of BOOTS VODKA at home or plan to purchase a bottle at your local ABC store, here are a couple of recipes shared by Lee Browne and one of my recipes called City Girl’s Spicy Mule.
The Holiday Martini
In a shaker combine 2 oz. Boots Vodka Troop Strength with 1/4 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth and ice. Shake until chilled and strain into martini glass. On a toothpick or holiday skewer, place a slightly baked sweet potato cube and toasted marshmallow. Garnish the martini with the sweet potato & marshmallow skewer and place a sage leaf on top of the martini.
Gettin’ Figgy With It Martini
In a plastic or glass vessel, combine 3 dried mission figs with a bottle of Boots Vodka Troop Strength and let sit (covered/closed) overnight. Remove the figs and strain the fig infused vodka into another container. Add 2 oz. fig infused vodka and 1/4 oz. Dry Vermouth to a shaker with ice and shake until chilled and then strain into martini glass. Garnish with half of a fresh mission fig.
City Girl’s Spicy Mule
In a shaker combine 2 oz. Boots Vodka Troop Strength, the juice of 1/2 a lime and ice. Shake until chilled and strain into a copper mug. Top off the cocktail with 1/2 a cup of Blenheim Not as Hot Gold Cap Ginger Ale and add a couple of cubes of ice. Garnish the side of the glass with 1/4 lime wedge and a slice of candied ginger.
If you have a favorite BOOTS VODKA recipe, please share & comment below! I would love to try your recipes.
- October 19th at The Little River Ducks Unlimited Banquet in Wendell
- October 21st at The Rex Hospital Gala in Downtown Raleigh.
If you do visit Oaklee Distilling Co., make it a day trip to Wendell and dine at Grounds Cafe before your tour. After your TROOP STRENGTH VODKA tasting, you can head over to the General Store across the street from Oaklee for some tasty ice cream. Cheers!