By Jessi Loerch Herald Writer
The creations of Skip Rock Distillers have a deep connection to Snohomish County and the surrounding areas.
The distillers use local berries, apples, potatoes, grain, wine and many other local ingredients to create artisan spirits.
“I grew up here,” Ryan Hembree said. “I love that our products come from here.”
Hembree and his wife, Julie, are majority owners of Skip Rock, which is in downtown Snohomish.
Hembree says he enjoys the transformation and creativity of taking something like raspberries and turning it into something like the raspberry liqueur.
He started out making beer and wine as a hobby. He completed the Washington State University wine-making program, in addition to private distilling lessons in Kentucky.
Skip Rock sells several liqueurs — raspberry, blackberry, coffee and spiced apple — as well as vodka, gin and whiskey.
Hembree takes pride in his liqueurs. If there were an overall theme, he says, it is that they’re not too sweet. The liqueurs highlight the natural flavors.
“I want to make something that really features the raw material that it came from,” he said.
Another of Skip Rock’s products, its vodka, is unusual in that it’s made from potatoes: Yukon gold potatoes from Skagit Valley.
A tiny percentage of the vodka in the world is made from potatoes, Hembree said. He said the process of creating potato vodka is harder and messier than using the more common grains.
He describes the flavor of his vodka as creamy, earthy and sweet. The vodka scored 92 points and a Gold Medal from the Beverage Testing Institute. He says it’s perfect for Bloody Marys, Dirty Martinis and Moscow Mules.
“I’m not a big fan of neutral vodkas,” Hembree said. “I guess I drink water if I don’t want flavor. That’s why I love craft spirits; they have flavor and character you just can’t get in mass-produced products.”
Many of Skip Rock’s spirits can be savored on their own and they also make great mixed drinks. Hembree shared these recipes that go well with their spirits.
Raspberry Arnold Palmer
3 ounces lemonade
3 ounces iced tea
1 1/2 ounces Skip Rock Raspberry Liqueur
Pour over ice. Also try raspberry liqueur with just lemonade or iced tea.
2 ounces Spiced Apple Liqueur
Warm the liqueur up in a small sauce pan for a brief time. Be careful not to leave it on too long or get too warm. Perfect for sipping on cool spring nights.
2 ounces Skip Rock Vodka
1/2 ounce lime juice
4-5 ounces ginger beer (Rachel’s Ginger Beer is a local favorite)
Pour over ice and enjoy.
4-5 ounces Champagne
1/2-1 ounce Skip Rock Raspberry Liqueur
Pour Champagne into glass and top with liqueur.
Spring / Autumn Splash
1 ounces Raspberry Liqueur or Skip Rock Spiced Apple Liqueur
1/2 ounces Mac Donald Distillery Isis Gin (also a Skip Rock product)
1 dash orange bitters
Sparkling wine, tonic, or lemon-lime soda
Shake, strain into flute, top with sparkling wine, tonic, or lemon-lime soda.
1 1/2 ounces Skip Rock vodka
1 1/2 ounces Skip Rock Blackberry Liqueur
Chilled demi sec sparkling wine (tonic or lemon-lime soda are great as well)
Frozen blackberry, for garnish
Ice cube (if needed)
Add the vodka and the blackberry liqueur to a flute glass. Stir once or twice. Fill the glass about three-quarters full with sparkling wine. Stir again, briefly. Garnish with the blackberry by dropping it into the glass. Add an ice cube if your sparkling wine isn’t chilled enough.
Skip Rock Liqueur panna cotta
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup liqueur of your choice (coffee, raspberry, blackberry)
In a small bowl, combine the water and gelatin and let stand until firm.
Combine the cream, sugar and liqueur in a small sauce pan and heat until just simmering. Whisk in gelatin until the mixture is smooth and remove from heat.
Pour the mixture into 4 small ramekins (approximately 4 ounce size) and refrigerate until set. This takes 4 to 5 hours.
To unmold, gently warm bottom of ramekin in a pan of hot water and turn out onto serving plate. Garnish with berries, cookies, syrups, etc.
Note: The panna cotta mixture can also be poured in an 8-inch-square pan to be chilled. Scoop mixture into pastry bag when firm and used to top cakes or build a parfait type dessert.
Chef Barb Sowatsky
Nocino (walnut liqueur)
One of Skip Rock’s signature creations is nocino, a traditional Italian after-dinner drink. Hembree believes Skip Rock is one of only a half-dozen or so places making nocino commercially in the United States. The latest batch is sold out at the distillery, although a few stores may still have it in stock.
Hembree wants to make a larger batch and is looking for people willing to let him harvest green walnuts from their English walnut trees. If you have an unsprayed walnut tree in the area, call him at 360-862-0272 or email email@example.com.
Skip Rock plans an open house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 18. All of the distiller’s spirits will be available for sampling and sale. Snohomish restaurants will provide food and treats, some featuring Skip Rock spirits. There will be food and drink specials and coupons at local restaurants and bars that feature Skip Rock products. Information is available at the distillery, 104 Ave. C, Snohomish. Call 425-330-4885.