So you decide on an early tee time. You and the boys hit up 18, first drive at 7:30am and you are mentally prepared for a 40 through 9 and sub 80 through 18. Spirits are high, the strokes are long and straight. By 10am, that mid summer sun is breaking through and the humidity is rising and you are now hoping for 80 through 9 holes. Your pals aren’t exactly going all Rory Mcilroy on the course, but nobody says anything… real men play 18. By the last flag, you’re going through the motions, that Midwestern humidity has made you soak through the hat and you can hear the rushing waves of Lake Michigan in the distance. As you drive back to the cottage, pieces of scorecard thrown about the front seat, you find a desperate need for a lawn chair and a sandy beach. As you throw off the spikes and slide on the sandals, you rush to that sandy shore, sit your ass in a lawn chair and prepare yourself a mid-day cocktail. A crisp, clean refreshing blend of sweet botanicals and pine seed over ice and a splash of lime juice, the perfect cure for the golf course woes. That cure is Jack Pine Gin, courtesy of the Northern Latitudes Distillery.
Tucked back in Leelanau County, one turn off the famed M22 is the Northern Latitudes Distillery with a lineup of spirits that are true reflections of the Great Lakes good life. Today we focus on one of their cornerstone products, Jack Pine Gin, a spirit whose name says it all. Now, what many come to expect from gin is usually due to past experiences with dry gin which taken straight can have a bite that companies like to label “botanicals” but really is one juniper berry away from rubbing alcohol (not to say these dry gins don’t pair well with tonic water, ginger or lemon, I’ll take a Tom Collins any day of the week). What Northern Latitudes provides is a crafted gin that requires very little, if nothing at all, to be thoroughly enjoyed, especially on a hot summers day.
Jack Pine Gin is complex to say the least, but has a very sweet taste to it and poured over ices, falls off the cubes as you might expect a liqueur or a light sap to. With the first sip, you are hit immediately with that punch of pine that is boldly written on its label. It then becomes a large bouquet of flavors with swirls of lemon peel and lavender dancing about your tongue. What struck us the most about this spirit is that the flavor does not fade away, at times intensifying long after the ride down the hatch. This to us is what makes a true Midwestern spirit, in its simplest form, it is perfect. While there are a number of cocktails that can dilute that dry gin, Jack Pine Gin is best for more simple cocktails like a Gimlet or Rickey.
With the rise of the distilling industry in the Midwest and around the country, before long it will become similar to the brewing industry where imitation overtakes innovation. However, Northern Latitudes Distillery appears to already be ahead of the game and has a collection of spirits that are unique, complex and drenched in Great Lakes influence. From their gins and vodkas to whiskeys and moonshines, this small distillery provides us with carefully crafted elixirs that utilize the harvests of the Midwest and combine them to make them their own. All of these spirits are on display at their tasting room, with a menu that goes beyond the traditional cocktail recipes but are crafted specifically for their line of spirits. Should you not have the ingredients to pour yourself a “Squatch” don’t fret, each spirit stands alone and is a cut above the rest.