If you ask most people what vodka tastes like, they’ll shrug and say, “Nothing.” That neutral flavor is the reason most people mix vodka with other liquids. But after living in the United Kingdom and visiting a range of inventive distilleries, Cathy Plourde and Kara Larson learned how many botanical ingredients you can mix into this kind of spirit. Think elderberry, lemon balm, and autumn berries. Not quite sure what paw paws and naturtium taste like? Well you can find out this month, when RI Spirits opens in Pawtucket.
“Flavor matters to us,” says Plourde. “We forage and work with local growers of unique botanicals to create drinks that couldn’t come from anywhere but the Blackstone Valley and Rhode Island.”
The married business partners have been busy renovating their new distillery in a 3,300-square-foot industrial space, and their grand opening is slated for March 8. They hoped to open earlier, but the government shutdown slowed down the necessary approvals, so carry-out bottles will have to wait. Still, Plourde and Larson plan to provide samples and cocktails, and their full stock will include not only vodka, but also gin and select liqueurs. The tasting room is designed to fit 100 people at a time.
“We think we can add something distinctive to the city’s growing food and drink options,” says Larson. “We’d like locals to think of us as an extension of their homes or neighborhoods, a third space where they can feel at home, meet friends, and relax.”