With beer, wine, vodka and sake already established enterprises on the North Fork, it would seem that every alcoholic beverage has been tapped, right? Wrong.
Get ready to try moonshine. Twin Stills Moonshine is making it in Riverhead.
For husband and wife partners Joe and Patty Cunha of Riverhead, the business is more than a labor of love: It’s born out of a family tradition.
While growing up, Mr. Cunha learned about distilling spirits while visiting his grandfather in Portugal. His grandfather owned two distilleries there and it’s where Mr. Cunha learned how to make grappa.
“My grandfather had done this since 1926, and when I’d go to Portugal in the wintertime, I’d watch,” Mr. Cunha said. “When my grandfather passed away in 2006, we ran out of the grappa, so we started making our own.”
From there, Mr. Cunha went on to try moonshine. The idea to distill his own spirits soon followed.
“Moonshine is a spirit; it’s like a whiskey,” he said. “You have to let the corn mash set and then ferment, which can take anywhere between two and three, maybe four weeks, depending on the temperature, and then we transport it into the still. The still usually takes about five hours. The distillation is by condensation. You’re pulling the alcohol out of the mash.”
Twin Stills’ corn mash is made and distilled on the premises at their Sound Avenue tasting room in Northville. Currently, the Cunhas eventually plan to grow their own corn and other forms of produce.
“We will grow apples, pears,” Ms. Cunha said. “Some of our flavors will be seasonal, so when peaches are in season, you’ll get the best flavors from the fruits, which are local.”
What is truly unusual about Twin Stills’ distilling process are the copper, urn-shaped stills the Cunhas imported from Portugal.
“That’s where we get our name from,” Ms. Cunha said. “There were two twin stills that Joe’s grandfather used back in Portugal. This will be smaller so we can refine it and get a stronger alcohol content, but none of our alcohols are very strong. The highest we have is 100 proof.”
While moonshine has a reputation for being an alcoholic drink made illegally in some backwoods still by somebody’s friend’s uncle, Twin Stills’ moonshine is nothing like that. This is a refined beverage made to be sampled and savored.
“The plan is to have something for everyone,” Mr. Cunha said. “We’ve been doing this for a while, working on it, all the recipes and the flavors: strawberry, apple pie and honey, plus the straight and coffee. Chocolate is coming.”
During Saturday’s soft opening, Twin Stills served small batches of its flavored moonshine. Apple pie, pumpkin spice and more were available last weekend.
While the moonshine is Twin Stills’ main draw, it can also be purchased by the bottle. The Cunhas even have some local craft beers on tap. Their moonshine is specially served in shot glass-sized cups also imported from Portugal.
“They’re clay,” Mr. Cunha said. “They drink spirits out of these, so I thought it would be nice to do our tastings out of them. They’re more interesting than regular shot glasses, but we do sell it by the shot glass as well.”
Cutchogue resident Kevin Thompson, who visited the tasting room Saturday, said he enjoyed the apple pie and honey varieties.
“This is my first time here,” he said. “I have been waiting for them to open.”
Twin Stills Moonshine, located at 5506 Sound Ave. in Riverhead, opens officially Saturday, March 19. It will be open Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, call 631-779-3199.