From Rinds to Riches
We all know the old adage: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Many of us are also familiar with comedian Ron White’s welcome addendum to take your lemonade and find someone whose life has given them vodka and have a party. Fortunately, Tamworth Distilling and Flatbread Company have done just that, teaming up to craft The Bee’s Squeeze, a scratch made, lemon-infused artisanal vodka derived from the waste of Flatbread’s fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Although this is their first collaboration, neither enterprise is new to the local food movement or establishing partnerships therein. Flatbread Company has been at the forefront of locally-sourced and sustainable food practices since opening in 1998. As Stacy Krecklow, the district manager and member of the team basically since its inception, tells it, “the opportunity was right in line with the three R’s we live by: Recycle, Renew, and Reuse.”
It was also a chance for Flatbread to help carve out a space for another dedicated, conscientious local business in the market. “What really excited us about the project,” adds Krecklow, “was the community connection, meeting the crew at Tamworth and seeing the love and thought that was going into their work.”
Tamworth Distilling, though only opened in May of 2015, is no stranger to crafting communities along with their spirits. According to distillery founder Steven Grasse, the key to running a sustainable business is a return to “scratch made ethos,” which entails distilling their spirits with only local, house-milled grain, pure water, herbs and botanicals from the woods and garden, and local fruits and vegetables.
“We were entertaining the prospect of creating a lemon vodka, but it seemed like such a waste—and expensive—to purchase whole lemons when all we needed were the rinds,” says Jill Anderson, director of sales and one of the seven owner-employees of Tamworth. “Luckily, someone in the meeting thought of Flatbread’s homemade lemonade and suggested we reach out to them to see if they’d be willing to let us have their used lemons.” Flatbread was of course enthusiastically on board.
The initial plan was to procure the squeezed lemons only from the North Conway restaurant, but it didn’t take long to realize that was not going to suffice. A single batch—600 750ml bottles—of what would come to be impeccably known as The Bee’s Squeeze requires 800 pounds of lemon rinds, which sent Anderson on a weekly circuit of Flatbread locations. But acquiring enough squeezed lemons was not the only hurdle.
Matt Power, who Anderson describes as the distillery’s chemist, and master distiller Jamie Oaks, discovered that the traditional use of a heat still changed the flavor profile of the lemon, creating a less than ideal concoction. They then adapted their method and approached the process by way of cold infusion, which captured the crispness of the lemon while mitigating its tartness. Having achieved their intended base, they added Vermont honey to mellow the acidity and the elderflower for a hint of floral aroma, and voilà—ambrosia—only better, and better named.
Although summer has ended, don’t underestimate the versatility of the lemon. Both entities are looking forward to the sweet tang of winter. Flatbread is already experimenting with a variety of new signature drinks specialized for each of its locations and Tamworth is looking forward to offering The Bee’s Squeeze in its retail space. So, whether it’s one of those unseasonably warm days in November or an early chiller in December, you know where to pop in for a truly spirited refresher.