The traditional way to make Krupnik is simple: make a spicy tea, blend that with honey, add alcohol. That’s pretty much it, and that’s the way we do it. What makes it, “The JVR Way”? The answer, mostly, is that we follow the old recipe even though it would be much easier to take a few shortcuts.
We make our tea starting with whole spices. Take vanilla, for example. We could buy processed vanilla extract and just pour it in the tea. But we don’t. Instead, we take hundreds of whole vanilla beans, slice them open, scrape out all of the vanilla goodness, and add it to the tea. Takes longer. Costs a bit more. Tastes great.
It’s pretty much the same at every step in the process. Need cinnamon? Buy it crushed or buy it whole and crush it yourself? We crush it ourselves to the exact JVR specifications. More work. Tastes great.
Nutmeg. Buy it ground? Nope. Keep the nutmeggy goodness inside the nutmeg until the last minute. Crack it open, crush it, and get it in the tea quickly.
Orange and lemon? Dried orange peels? No sir. Fresh peels from organic fruit, brimming with orangey and lemony goodness. Yep.
When we cook our tea, the distillery smells like the best Christmas you ever had at your grandma’s mountain cabin. And it smells like that for days afterward too.
When the tea is done, it’s time to blend it with the honey. Our honey comes from the same family owned operation that my dad bought his from forty years ago. They’ve gotten bigger, and we have many more choices for honey, but after extensive testing, we landed right back where dad did – wildflower honey.
Bees make honey by gathering nectar from flowers, which they convert to honey. Single-flower honey is what you get when beekeepers place their hives near large fields of a particular flowering plant. In that case, you know that a very high percentage of the nectar in your honey is from that nearby flower. That’s how you get orange blossom honey, clover honey, or blackberry honey.
We use wildflower honey, which means that the nectar comes from many flower sources. Many say that wildflower honey has a more complex flavor than single flower honey. We like that in Krupnik because subtle and complex flavor is what this spirit is all about. Wildflower honey varies from season to season and region to region, so we expect some different flavor notes in different batches of Krupnik. We’re okay with that. It’s okay if every batch tastes a little different, as long as every batch tastes good!
Traditional recipes call for vodka or neutral grain spirits. We use neutral spirits from grain that are column distilled at least twice for smoothness and purity.
We blend the tea with the honey and alcohol to 35% alcohol by volume (70 proof). We’re going for flavor and mouth feel, with the alcohol present, but not the focus. It’s sweet, spicy, and over and over, people are surprised to find that it is 70 proof. It’s really that smooth. You can drink it neat, on the rocks, or use it to add flavor to a cocktail. We recommend all of the above. In moderation, of course.
When we blend hot, spiced tea with honey and alcohol, the magic begins. The mix is cloudy and filled with what we call Krupnikite. It’s not in the periodic table of elements, but it should be. Depending on the batch size, it can take days, weeks, even months for the liquid to clarify and the Krupnikite to settle out. When it does, and when it tastes right, we bottle it and do our best to get it to you as quickly as possible.