When I was a kid there were three flavors of booze in my Dad’s liquor cabinet. Canadian Club or Schenley (where my grandma worked filling whiskey bottles), Old Grand Dad, and Popovs. Most of my dad’s friends drank the CC or Schenley. Some drank the bourbon. Others, mostly women, drank the Popove.
My-oh-my how things have changed. Today, craft-distilleries are all the buzz with new ones opening up at the rate of about one a day. Like micro-breweries, craft-distillers reflect their community’s tastes.
For my money, there is no better example of the drink-local mind-set than CJ Spirits in Kane, Pennsylvania. Once your lips touch the celery-salted rim of CJ’s signature cocktail you’ll know what makes this place worth the drive. And it IS a drive.
Where the whitetail outnumber the people
Kane sits on the eastern edge of the Allegheny National Forest, a camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation mecca of 513,000 acres located in northwest Pennsylvania. Kane is about a two-hour drive from Erie or Pittsburgh and about seven hours from New York City. So to put it bluntly, it’s in the middle of nowhere. The town consists of about 3500 residents, many of whom make their living in lumber, oil and natural resources. I fell in love with the area years ago due to the allure of the endless forest and the warmth of the people.
CJ’s co-owner Tom Jones feels that Kane’s backwoods location gives him an advantage. Ingredients used in the production of CJ’s vodkas, gin, rum and white whiskey are sourced locally, as much as possible. Grains used in distillation come from nearby farms and the spent grain is returned to be used as livestock feed. The water is the pure Allegheny Mountains variety.
However, it’s the forests surrounding CJ’s that deliver the secret sauce! Shortly after the spring snow melts, legions of foragers take to the woods to gather wild leeks. Allium triccum, also known as ramps, are native to the eastern North America mountains. They can be found growing in patches in rich moist soil and their locations are a closely guarded secret. CJ’s infuses these spring jewels during the distillation of their Wild Leek Vodka and the results are off the charts. Drink it neat, on the rocks, or in CJ’s signature Wild Leek Bloody-Mary.
For RoadTravel Foodies, CJ’s is a one of a kind experience you will want to put near the top of your bucket list. Surrounded by National Forest, the Kane area is an outdoor paradise with over two-dozen modern campgrounds and almost unlimited boondocking opportunities. See you on the road. Cheers!
Owners Sam Cummings Jr & Tom Jones opened CJ Spirits in April 2014
120 Willow Run Dr, Kane, PA 16736
CJSpirits.com. And all the social.