Carly Rubach

Great Lakes Distillery hosts special absinthe release

The Victory Garden Initiative and Great Lakes Distillery combine their love for community gardening for the "Amerique 1912" release event on Saturday, Aug. 25.

By - Aug 20th, 2012 11:39 am

Milwaukee’s small-batch distillery: Great Lakes Distillery. All photos by Angela Morgan.

At Great Lakes Distillery, it’s not just the absinthe that’s green.

The distillery (GLD, 616 W. Virginia St.) prides itself on hand-crafting small batch spirits in a sustainable fashion, and this Saturday GLD and the Victory Garden Initiative will celebrate with the special release of their Amerique 1912 Absinthe.

Great Lakes Distillery’s Bottle Conservation Program

In 2010, the distillery received permission from the federal government to launch their “Bottle Conservation Program,” which allows the reuse of bottles, and by eliminating the need to manufacture just one bottle, there is enough energy saved to power a Compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) for five hours. Individuals and bars can contribute to this program by returning their bottle to any of the acceptable locations listed on the distillery website. Michael Cothroll began working at the distillery in January, 2010, and now wears many hats for the business including Tasting Room Manager, herb grower, and label designer (he designed labels for the Amerique 1912 Absinthe, Roaring Dan’s Maple Flavored Rum, KinnicKinnic Whiskey).

Michael Cothroll from Great Lakes Distillery

“I went out to a farm in 2008 to get away from the city distractions and focus on my art,” Cothroll said. “I wasn’t paying any rent to stay on the farm so I agreed to help the farmer with his vegetables and I fell in love with plants.” Once Cothroll returned to Milwaukee, he began to experiment in his own gardens and try to figure out what grew well in the area. Most of the botanicals used in GLD’s spirits are already dried and purchased through the Spice House—this special release of absinthe will be the first batch to contain fresh wormwood. “I still have a lot more to learn and a lot more to grow, and I hope this project of using fresh and local ingredients can continue to expand,” he said. As the distillery continued to follow the route of sustainability, a natural connection developed between GLD and the Victory Garden Initiative. Cothroll explains that GLD produces a non-toxic byproduct in the form of spent grain from the production of vodka and whiskey. “It never seemed like the right thing to just throw it in the dumpster,” he said, “so we’ve been composting the grain at various places around Milwaukee including Concordia Gardens.” Concordia Gardens is a Victory Garden-sponsored project where GLD grows wormwood and hyssop used in their latest special release of absinthe.

“Sustainable is not a choice but an imperative,” said Gretchen Mead, Executive Director of the Victory Garden Initiative. “Companies like GLD not only step up the level of sustainability, they also ensure that customers have options.” The two organizations will combine their love for community gardening into one absinthe-soaked event this Saturday, Aug. 25. The Special Release of Milwaukee’s “Amerique 1912” Absinthe will begin at 6:30 p.m. with an absinthe tour and tasting starting at 7 p.m. Milwaukee band Lady Cannon will perform after the tour and locally grown snacks and absinthe cocktails will be served throughout the evening. Raffle participants will have the chance to win a bottle of absinthe with special absinthe glasses, bottles of Great Lakes Distillery liquors, apple trees, a Milwaukee Art Museum gift bag, VGI swag and more. The Victory Garden Initiative will be encouraging attendees to sign up for their membership program with great benefits like access to member forums, the option to log volunteer hours in exchange for services with the Milwaukee Time Exchange, “I Pledge to Grow More Food” bumper stickers, t-shirts, yard signs and more. “Becoming a member of VGI is both a statement that you are in support of this cause, and an opportunity to connect to resources for growing your own and a community of people who are growing food,” said Mead. Michael Cothroll gave us a preview of the upcoming distillery tour with a few of his favorite pieces of absinthe history:

  • Absinthe became very popular during a wine shortage.
  • Hemingway loved the stuff and invented his own Cocktail called, “Death in the Afternoon.” 1oz Absinthe, 4oz cold champagne. (I prefer a good Asti over a dry champagne)
  • The supposed first cocktail is called a “Sazerac.” Invented in New Orleans, absinthe is one of the key ingredients.
  • “Pernod Fils,” the company that first brought Absinthe to the market over two hundred years ago is now known as, “Pernod Richard,” and is the second largest alcohol company in the world. The brands they own, just to name a few, are Absolut, Jameson, and Seagrams. The company is based in Paris.

So why should you come to this event? Cothroll said, “Are you kidding me? We grew herbs in the city of Milwaukee we distilled those herbs with neutral spirit, infused them with more herbs grown in the same garden and made Absinthe! You show up, I explain the process, you get to drink it, you support the community gardens. How awesome is that?!”

0 thoughts on “Great Lakes Distillery hosts special absinthe release”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice! I still have yet to try the usual Amerique Absinthe duo but it’s on my review list so no worries ;). I have been privy to other distilleries prototypes that feature fresh wormwood. Usually wormwood is dry cured for at least a year before going in to absinthe production. There is a difference in the taste, although I can’t really say which I prefer. I’ll have to get a hold of a bottle of each Amerique Verte and compare them.

    Are they doing this with the Rouge as well?

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