Looking back, 2013 was a big year in New Jersey. Millburn’s own Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for her role in Les Miserables. Bon Jovi released What About Now, the band’s last album with Richie Sambora. Winemakers across the state were treated to one of the most promising vintages on record. And the state government majorly overhauled its booze laws for the first time since Prohibition.
Under the new rules, which went into effect on December 1 of that year, small-batch distillers could legally bottle and sell spirits in New Jersey. The result? Enterprising liquor makers begin sprouting up across the Garden State, paving the way for a craft spirits boom. That New Jersey artisans have jumped at the chance to distill and bottle on their home turf with gusto comes as no surprise to Avenel native and CEO of Devotion Vodka, Andrew Adelman.
“Jersey people have a different edge to them,” Adelman said from the company’s offices in Red Bank. “We look a little different. We’re a little more aggressive. We outwork everybody.” Adelman and his partner, fellow New Jerseyan Michael Calleja, first launched their product in Michigan in 2008 — before New Jersey’s new distilling laws — and now Devotion’s line of sugar-free, gluten-free vodkas have become available in 22 states. Devotion was also picked as Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 2014 and 2015 Breakout Brand of the Year.
Pioneers like Adelman and Calleja are helping to breathe new life into the state’s spirits industry. For the rest of us, that means it’s easier than ever to craft cocktails that truly capture the essence of life in New Jersey, from the Hudson River skyline to the Pinelands and all of the cool stuff in between. Just remember to enjoy responsibly!
Perfect for: when you get to up early enough on a Saturday to snag the best stuff at one of the state’s hundreds of community farmers markets.
It pays to be first. Just ask the folks at Jersey Artisan Distilling, the first recipients of the state’s a new craft distilling license. This cocktail is richly flavored with spice, sweetness, and fruit flavors that echo some of Jersey’s best produce. It’s a great way to warn up after a chilly morning at the market.
- 2 oz. Busted Barrel Silver or Dark Rum
- 2 oz. any flavor Blue J Syrups (also made in Jersey!)
- Club Soda
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the rum and syrup and then stir to combine. Top with club soda, then stir and enjoy. For extra fun, garnish with “Jersey Fresh” berries or serve alongside homemade apple crisp.
Perfect for: when your mother (or worse, your mother-in-law) makes you promise to go with her to the mall on Black Friday.
Smooth and sophisticated, this is a great way to reward yourself and your aching feet after a day spent in search of the best Black Friday sales. You’ll definitely be ready for the vodka after shopping with your mom or mother-in-law. Besides, cranberry juice is good for you, so you can argue that this is healthy.
- 2 oz. Devotion Pure Vodka
- ½ oz. Pama pomegranate liqueur
- Fresh cranberry juice
Combine the vodka and pomegranate liqueur into a shaker glass with ice. Add a splash of cranberry juice, then shake for just a bit. After all, you’ll be shaken enough after battling the Black Friday crowds. Strain into a martini glass (or a chilled hip flask if disapproving eyes are watching).
Petty’s Island Punch
Perfect for: when you and your childhood best friend get into a petty fight over whether it’s called “pork roll” or “Taylor ham.”
And really, who cares? They’re both delicious and positively sing with this cocktail. The grapefruit, pineapple, and lime juices are high in acid, which help cut through the all of the delicious fat of the pork roll (or Taylor ham), giving the natural flavor a chance to shine. This recipe serves 4-6 people, so you can enlist other folks in the argument.
- 8 oz. grapefruit juice
- 8 oz. pineapple juice
- 3 oz. fresh lime juice
- 6 oz. simple syrup (3 oz. water, 3 oz. sugar)
- 4 oz. amaretto
- ½ oz. Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pitcher. Mix well. Fill each glass with ice and 2 oz. each of Petty’s Island Rum. Top each glass with the punch mixture, then garnish with a lime wedge and grapefruit slice.
Perfect for: going “down the shore.”
And yes, that is how you say it. This is a great drink to chase away the late-season chill as you prepare to close the beach house and settle into the cozy rhythms of fall and winter. This cocktail travels well if you’re planning an end-of-season beach bonfire. Substitute a ½ oz. orange juice for the orange garnish, then stir the cocktail and add to a trusty hip flask or water bottle.
- 1½ oz. Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum
- ½ oz. sweet vermouth
- Regular or Diet Coca-Cola
Fill a 10-12 oz glass with ice. Add the rum and sweet vermouth, and then top with splash of cola. Stir and garnish with an orange wheel.
(Recipe courtesy of Cooper River Distillers)
New Brunswick Cocktail
This recipe is Stage Left Restaurant’s twist on a New Jersey classic, The Marconi Wireless, which is named for Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor and engineer known for his pioneering work in long-distance radio transmission. The New Brunswick Marconi Wireless station was located right on JFK Boulevard and Easton Avenue. Marconi’s namesake cocktail is traditionally made with apple brandy, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters.
Perfect for: relaxing after helping your kid come up with a last-minute idea for the school science fair.
- 2½ oz. Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy
- ¾ oz. Carpano Antica Formula
- ¼ oz. Gomme syrup (or heavy sugar syrup made with 2 parts sugar and 1 part water)
- 3 dashes Angostura or Dale DeGroff Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange. If you feel comfortable, flame the orange for a deeper, more complex flavor. (Click here for a great how-to.)
The Big Game Cocktails
If doesn’t matter if your heart belongs to the Devils, Big Blue or Gang Green — New Jersey loves its sports teams. Whether you’re prepping snacks for the starting whistle, or decompressing after a bad call, these cocktails capture the fruit-forward thrill of victory or the bittersweet agony of defeat.
Perfect for: any sports fan who’s in the mood for a cocktail.
NY Giants: Black & Blue Lemonade
- 2 oz. Devotion Black & Blue Vodka
- 4 blueberries
- 4 blackberries
- 4 basil leaves
Muddle berries gently in a high ball glass, then add ice. Fill the glass with sugar-free lemonade. Garnish with basil.
(Recipe courtesy of Devotion Vodka)
New York Jets: Gang Green Sour
- 2 oz. Silver Fox Rye from Cooper River Distillers
- ¾ oz. simple syrup
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- 1 egg white (optional)
- ½ oz. red wine (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well, then strain fresh glass filled with ice. If the Jets lose, carefully pour the wine over the back of a spoon so it floats on top of the drink.
(Recipe courtesy of yours truly. I was raised a Jets fan.)
New Jersey Devils: Angels & Devils
- ¾ oz. Devotion Pure Vodka
- ½ oz. St. Germain
- ¼ oz. honey syrup
- Dash lemon juice
- Dash orange bitters
- Combine ingredients, then stir and top with chilled, sparkling wine.
(Recipe courtesy of Devotion Vodka)
The Devil Palmer
The legend of the Jersey Devil is the penultimate Garden State ghost story. In 1735, on a stormy night in the Pine Barrens, Mother Leeds gave birth to her thirteenth child, whom she immediately proclaimed to be the devil himself. Shortly after birth the child morphed into a large creature with hooves, a goat head, bat wings and a forked tail. After thrashing about the house momentarily, the creature disappeared up the chimney. Since that time, the Jersey Devil, as he came to be known, has appeared in the foggy Pine Barrens and the edges of farms and towns to terrorize local residents and curious visitors!
Perfect for: telling ghost stories after an October hike through the Pine Barrens.
- 6 blackberries
- 1 ½ oz. Jersey Devil Moonshine
- 2 oz. lemonade
- 2 oz. iced tea
Muddle berries in a cocktail shaker. Add the Jersey Devil moonshine, lemonade and tea, then shake until well chilled. Strain into a lowball glass over ice, and garnish with extra blackberries.
“There’s probably nothing better than being in Jersey, sitting back after a long day, looking out over the water and enjoying that sunset,” says Andrew Adelman of Devotion Vodka. “With a Devo-tini? You can’t beat that.”
Perfect for: Friday night after work. The kids are at a slumber party, and you’re ready to finally relax. Cheers!
- 3 oz. Devotion Pure Vodka
- 1 oz. dry vermouth
Pour the vodka and vermouth into a shaker filled with ice. Stir and pour into a chilled martini glass.
(Recipe courtesy of Devotion Vodka)
About the author: Michele Thomas is a professionally curious; she likes to learn stuff. A certified sommelier with 15 years of experience writing about food, wine, education, and the arts, she chronicles her wine escapades as the Bed–Stuy Sommelier (@BedStuySomm) on Instagram and Twitter.