The spruce tree is native to North America, in which indigenous people used its Vitamin C-rich shoots for a source of fresh nutrients during the winter months. Now that we have plenty of vitamin options and veggies shipped in from all around the globe year round, there isn’t as much practical use for the powers held within evergreen needles. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the vibrant flavors and aromas they can add to our favorite alcohols. Here are a few Northwest-made beverages that embrace the vigor of evergreen trees, from spruce to Douglas fir.
Rogue Spirits Spruce Gin
This gin from Rogue is a flagship for the company that now produces beer, spirits, cider and canned cocktails. In 2018, the Spruce Gin won five awards all around the globe, including a gold medal in Sip Northwest’s Best of the Northwest. The first thing you notice about this gin is its surprisingly distinct cucumber flavor, followed by a strong spruce finish that has a little bite, but is all love in the end.
Finnriver Farm & Cidery Forest Ginger Cider
Not only can you use evergreen needles to make excellent spirits but cider, too! Finnriver Farm & Cidery has blown it out of the water with this botanical cider featuring Douglas fir tips. This cider utilizes a blend of Washington apples — like Gala, Pink Lady, Braeburn and Granny — to give it a semisweet, apple-forward sip. The batch is steeped with the fir tips and finished with ginger.
BroVo Spirits Douglas Fir Liqueur
This Doug fir liqueur will make an excellent addition to your next whiskey drink. Each spring, the BroVo team ventures into the woods of Mount Baker to forage spring buds from recently replanted Douglas fir trees. The buds are infused with vodka and result in a deep piney flavor is backed by the sweetness of agave nectar, making it the perfect ingredient to spice up dark liquor with.
Fort George Brewery Magnanimous IPA
This list would not be complete without one of the oldest methods for utilizing evergreen needles in alcohol: beer. This winter IPA from Fort George is available October to December, so grab this hoppy, piney goodness while you can. The Magnanimous is a one-off beer infused with Grand Fir tips, but Fort George has been known to release a beer featuring some type of evergreen each winter.
Clear Creek Distillery Douglas Fir Brandy
If there was one spirit that is perfectly complemented by evergreen, it’s brandy. All brandies are distilled from fruit-based wine (grapes or apples) and most have excellent floral aromas, including this one from Clear Creek. The floral aromas in this bottle give way to the massive Doug fir flavors, so much is added to the clear spirit, that the finished product is tinted green. Sipping this stuff straight can be an eye-opener, but it’s best enjoyed on the rocks with some bitters and an accompanying liqueur like orange to balance out the Christmas tree in your mouth. Or in this recipe here.