Crostwater Distilled Spirits just opened their doors in Lewisberry, but their story started back in Russia during World War II.
Owner Vicki Close is first-generation Russian-American, both of her parents escaping Russia from religious and political persecution and eventually finding each other here in the states to start a family.
Close started the distillery wanting to connect the history of spirits with her family’s story.
After a few failed attempts to register a name for their soon-to-be distillery, Close’s 15-year-old son was the one who finally had the “a-ha” moment.
It symbolizes the history of spirits connecting people across bodies of water and the journey of Close’s parents from Russia to America.
Crostwater opened its doors Friday, Sept. 29 at 506 Industrial Dr., Lewisberry, Pa. with an extensive craft cocktail list, along with a seasonally-inspired menu from American Heritage Kitchen.
Spirits with history
Currently, Crostwater offers Rum, Spiced Rum, and Vodka.
Only the Rum is available for purchase at the time of publishing, but they were packaging their Vodka while we were there for an upcoming release, and the Spiced Rum will follow.
The overall takeaway from tasting the pure spirits is that they drink smooth and clean. Even the Spiced Rum, which uses a spice mix of allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cassia bark, orange zest, and nutmeg, has a clean finish with layers of flavor.
Close is very much still connected to her Russian heritage, which means vodka plays a vital role in the company. In fact, their business title is Holy Water Spirits LLC., which pays homage to a family tradition of toasting with vodka, or Holy Water, at family gatherings.
Close told us the vodka we were sampling wasn’t the final product because it wasn’t 100 percent perfect, but that it was good enough to make infusions for their craft cocktails.
We also tried the “imperfect” vodka straight, and it was extremely smooth with just a hint of sweetness at the end. The “perfect” version releases in bottles soon.
Although the current version wasn’t up to Close’s standards, it did work for infusions for their craft cocktail menu.
When distilleries first open, food and crafted cocktails are often an afterthought (or non-existent).
That’s not the case at Crostwater.
Crostwater offers a variety of craft cocktails utilizing all three of their spirits in the pure form and infusions.
Jimi opted for the Melonball, which uses cucumber-melon infused Crostwater Vodka, cranberry juice, and a splash of sprite for a refreshing drink.
Since the Spiced Rum was our favorite spirit, I went with the Spiced Chai-Tini made with Spiced Rum, chai tea, and heavy cream. With cooler weather rounding the corner and the mix of spices from the tea and spirit, this drink is a must during your visit.
Other intriguing cocktails include Wish I Was At the Beach Breeze, The Redhead, and the ever-reliable Orange Crush.
Crostwater also offers local craft beer and cider in bottles and local wine by the glass.
American Heritage Kitchen
Be sure you arrive at Crostwater hungry. You will want to check out the current menu Chef Kevin Warren is cooking up at American Heritage Kitchen.
Warren is no stranger to the local food scene. He’s worked at Bricco, Capital Academy, and opened Crawdaddy’s in Midtown.
His menu changes weekly to utilize fresh and seasonal ingredients. During our visit, this covered comfort food like Pork-Tine to elevated bar food like Smoked Chicken Wings and Beef Brisket Quesadilla.
A surprise favorite was the vegan feature, Vegetable Jambalaya Stuffed Poblano Peppers. It was hearty and flavorful with just the right level of heat.
Plus, you’ll want to check out Taco Thursday. Last week the selections ranged from ground lamb to smoked mushrooms. On my list for the next visit!
Close was working at her family business when she realized she didn’t want to sit behind a desk anymore.
Inspiration struck when Close and her husband were on a wine trip through Northern Virginia, and they stumbled on the Catoctin Creek Distilling. Close said she was in awe of the process.
That curiosity stayed with Close, and over the next two years she went to distilling school and read everything she could about distilling.
In January 2016, Close finally took the plunge and started working on her business plan.
Close found her distiller Julia Celano, who was working for Close’s sister-in-law as a veterinary technician and originally hired to come on as a coffee shop manager. Instead, Celano transferred her science background and has found her calling with distilling.
Crostwater’s space is very inviting. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t think that your next Amazon purchase is being processed down the street.
You can choose to pony up to the bar or take a seat at one of the many tables, or if you’re looking to lounge, they also have a few couches waiting for a large group of friends.
The distillery side of the building is expansive with ample room for Crostwater to grow. Currently, they have four large fermenters and a state-of-the-art still that helps the produce the finest quality spirits.