Media & Events

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Covid-19 Closure

Covid-19 Closure

To Our Mad River Fans,

March 25, 2020

In light of the recent Shelter in Place order for Vermont and the rapidly evolving situation with Covid-19, Mad River Distillers has closed both our distillery in Warren and the tasting room and cocktail shop in Burlington.

Where you can find our spirits:

Most liquor stores remain open. We are distributed in New England and NY. CA retail stores can also order our products. Email

Please check the Where to Buy section of the website for a geo-locator and online buying options.

We hope to see you again in May!

By in Media & Events, MRD BTV Blog Post Comments Off on What exactly is Rum, anyway?

What exactly is Rum, anyway?

Rum, Defined

Spirit categories can be nebulous and confusing. Some spirits, like gin, must make use of specific ingredients. Others, like bourbon and rye, must use certain ingredients and be aged in a specific way, while vodka can be made from virtually anything as long as it’s distilled at a high enough proof. Rum, on the other hand, comes in a variety of flavors and ages, can be sweetened or spiced, and has some close cousins like Rhum (or Rhum Agricole) and Cachaca. So put on your pirate hat, dust off your eye patch and grab your parrot, we’re talkin’ about rum, ya scallywag!

Sorry about that. I’ll try to keep the pirate speak to a minimum moving forward. 

Anyway, basic rum as a spirit category is pretty straightforward, with Rhum having a subtle but significant difference. Essentially, Rhum (aka Rhum Agricole) and Rum are both distilled from sugar cane: Rhum from sugar cane juice, and Rum from a refined product of sugarcane, such as molasses, turbinado or demerara sugar (which is what we use). If you know the basics of spirit production, the rest is fairly straightforward: the sugar is fermented, and then distilled.

A Difference in Taste

That sugar, however, makes a big difference in the final product. Rhum, for example, is characterized by an earthy, vegetal flavor, while molasses rum errs more toward a sweeter, vanilla-noted spirit. And while most rum (a whopping 97%!) is distilled from molasses, you can also make it from sugar, which is what we choose to do. 

Because molasses is a by-product of refining sugar cane into sugar, it typically requires a distillation at a very high proof to separate out the undesirable elements, most notably sulfur. Rum distilled from demerara, as we do, can be distilled at a lower proof, thereby preserving more flavor in the finished spirit. Specifically, demerara rums are characterized by subtle sweetness, light smokiness and slight vegetal notes.

All About The Finish

The other element that allows different rums to diverge in flavor is how they’re finished. Some producers will choose to spice or back-sweeten (add sugar to) finished rum. Some barrel age their rum and then filter it clear, while some add flavors (coconut pineapple rum, anyone?). At Mad River Distillers we use a variety of different aging and finishing techniques to transform our Demerara Rum into five unique projects. A maceration with vanilla beans results in our Vanilla Rum. Barrel aging gives us our First Run Rum, and finishing in used maple barrels gives us our beautiful Maple Cask Rum (my personal favorite. I don’t want to hurt any other rums’ feelings but hey, here we are) and our double gold medal winning PX Rum gets finished in used Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks. 

Our newest product, however, is Rum 44, and it’s silver. No barrel aging, no flavoring, no sweetening. Just a clear, clean drinking rum that gives a beautiful nod to the demerara from which it’s distilled. One of my personal favorite things is being able to taste aged and un-aged versions of the same spirit. It gives you a beautiful glimpse at the character that young spirits can have, while simultaneously showcasing the flavor and complexity that results from time spent resting in a barrel. 

So there you have, ya landlubbers. Hopefully you’re walking away a little more knowledgeable and a little thirsty. Sure beats walking the plank, if you ask me. Cheers!

By in Media & Events Comments Off on When to Stir, When to Shake, and When to Rattle and Roll

When to Stir, When to Shake, and When to Rattle and Roll

Cocktail culture can be intimidating. You see a lot of hip bars with even hipper bartenders shaking and stirring cocktails inside. There are spirits you’ve never heard of, obscure liqueurs and strange amari lining the shelves and populating the cocktail menu. And let’s be honest, sometimes you smile and nod like you’re in the know, but you’re not. We’ve certainly, secretly, looked something up on a phone before ordering, rather than just ask. 

Luckily, bartenders are a friendly bunch that, by and large, love to share and discuss their craft. That, and this is a post about stirring vs shaking cocktails, so you’re already on the train to cocktail knowledge-ville. You might even start spontaneously sprouting tattoos and a vintage style haircut by the end of this article. 

Maybe an important question to understanding when to stir vs shake is why stir or shake, ie: what does stirring do that shaking doesn’t, and vice versa. 

If you’ve never seen a stirred cocktail poured before, try it yourself. A properly stirred cocktail should look viscous when it comes out of the mixing glass, almost velvety. And that’s exactly how your first sip should feel: velvety. Stirring allows ingredients that readily blend together to do so, it dilutes the cocktail, making it more palatable, and (not least of all) it chills your drink as well. 

Compare this to a shaken cocktail (think margarita or classic daiquiri). These should pour out looking a little carbonated. You might see ice chips floating around from shaking those cubes so violently. Shaking creates that affect by breaking up the ice, chilling the cocktail more, while also sloshing all of that delicious boozey mixture around and aerating it, making for a frothy sipper rather than a velvety one. Also, perhaps most importantly, shaking mixes certain ingredients together that, if stirred, would separate by the time you drink them (citrus juice, for example). Also, please shake egg white cocktails. No one wants stirred eggs in a drink. Ever. 

So there you have it, you home-bar hipster you. Stir things made up of mostly or entirely spirits: manhattans, martinis, negronis, etc. And shake things that incorporate juices: margaritas, daiquiris, cosmos, etc. If you’re ever not sure how to prepare a specific cocktail, use that above rule of thumb or hell, just google it to be sure. A stirred cocktail that should be shaken, or vice versa, will make you sad in your soul, and no one wants a sad soul. You want a happy, cocktail sipping soul. So cheers to your soul, and to the delicious cocktails you’re sure to make at home. 



By in Media & Events Comments Off on Bourbon Comes From Kentucky...Right?

Bourbon Comes From Kentucky...Right?

With so many other regional distinctions, like Champagne needing to be specifically from the Champagne region in France or Tequila needing to be made in Mexico, it seems natural to lump Bourbon into the mix, especially since traditionally it’s been so associated with Kentucky. And while this may be a common belief, Bourbon can actually be made anywhere in the US as long as it meets certain requirements (none of which have anything to do with Kentucky).

Put simply, a bourbon mash needs to consist of at least 51% corn, be distilled at no higher than 160 proof, be barreled at no higher than 125 proof and be barreled in a charred new American Oak Barrel. That’s certainly a mouthful, even without a Kentucky distinction, so let’s break it down!

Alright, Bourbon mashes. While the actual mash bill needs to consist of at least 51% corn, the rest is fairly open ended. Corn is often attributed with lending sweetness to whiskey, but barley can add a round nuttiness, wheat often lends a more...well, wheaty taste with notes of honey.Rye often brings a peppery, spicy note to whiskey and oats can add a creamy, grainy flavor. For us, the perfect blend consists of predominantly corn, with smaller amounts of barley, wheat and oats blended in. This special mash bill is what gives our Bourbon it’s unique flavor with subtle sweetness and softness while still being robust and flavorful.

Additionally, Bourbon needs to be distilled and bottled and certain proofs, which is fairly straightforward. This mostly in strength of the finished product: distill at too high of a proof and you’re dipping into vodka territory!


As required, we barrel age our bourbon in charred New American Oak barrels and bottle a blend of different ages: from 1-3 years, to taste. 

And that’s it! That’s Bourbon! Further distinctions include “Straight Bourbon”, which requires at least two years in a barrel, and “Kentucky Straight Bourbon” does, in fact, need to be from Kentucky. But as it turns out, and contrary to popular belief, the Bourbon name lends itself to a lot of variation in region, mash bill and aging, which is what makes exploring different brands and distilleries so exciting! So...ya should come try ours!



By in Media & Events, MRD BTV Blog Post Comments Off on What are Bitters?

What are Bitters?

“So what’s the deal with all those little bottles?” a gentleman asks in a hushed voice leaning across the copper bar top in between sips of his Mad River Rye Manhattan.

“Bitters” I whisper back.

I point to the shelves lined with obscurely sized, shaped, and colored bottles, “We sell bitters from all around the world” now speaking at a higher decimal level.

“So what exactly are bitters?” he asks loud enough to catch his neighbors attention.

“Bitters are like spices for cocktails, a dash or two can elevate a cocktail to something beyond just the sum of its parts”, is the jist of my normal response.

For the majority of our patrons this serves as a satisfactory explanation, but occasionally a curious customer such as this gentleman, will push for more, to ponder between sips.

Sympathizing with their curiosity and relishing the opportunity to further the knowledge of bitters in the world I often jump into a long winded version of the following.

Bitters, like many things alcoholic, have roots in medicine, or what might be more accurately described as faux medicine. They are made by infusing or macerating roots, barks, fruit peels, seeds, spices, herbs, and other botanicals in high proof alcohol or glycerin.

Bitters were often billed as cure-alls for ailments ranging from headaches and indigestion, to malaria. They were consumed not in a dash, but gulped down as medicine. These “medicinal” tinctures made from flavoring agents like gentian root, cinchona bark, orange peel, anise, clove, and other spices were said to have magical healing powers.

In the 1850’s America saw a bitters boom not dissimilar to what we have seen in recent years, but at this time bitters were still considered medicinal. The burgeoning bitters industry was being spurred on by both social and political forces.

The temperance movement was making inroads in their quest to deem social drinking as unacceptable. However, proving that cognitive dissonance is not a modern phenomena, the daily consumption of bitters for “medicinal benefits” was normalized despite the high alcohol concentration.

Additionally, the government was levying higher taxes on alcohol sales, but bitters being considered a non-potable item, were exempt from the higher taxes and therefore cheaper option for one to get their fix.

Soon enough hundreds of bitter varieties were available, and as the selection grew so did the marketing campaigns and dubious promises about the power of bitters. The habit of taking a morning drink for health reasons only seems to have foreshadowed the pill popping country we would eventually become.

So how did some 19th century “snake oil” weave its way thru history to become an essential ingredient in any serious bartenders arsenal?

What many people don’t realize is that bitters were an essential part of the original cocktail, defined as; “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters”. At the time the word cocktail referred to a specific sort of drink, alongside other varieties like juleps, toddies, smashes, and fizzes. Today that definition would more aptly apply to an Old Fashioned, as the word cocktail has become a more general term for any variety of mixed drink.

Bartenders rely on a bottle of bitters the way a chef relies on salt. In recent decades these old drinks and their ingredients have been brought back to life as the art of the cocktail has been revitalized. As we continue to glamorize the history of these drinks and bring them into the modern world, bitters have tagged along, as a vital, but at times underappreciated sidekick.

The bitters commonly dashed into a Bourbon Manhattan are considered non-potable, due to their high alcohol content and concentrated flavor. These days there has been an explosion in the variety of non-potable or “cocktail bitters” on the market and behind the bar. The most famous and ubiquitous examples of these would be the yellow topped Angostura bitters from Trinidad and Tobago, Peychauds from New Orleans, and Regans Orange.

Other popular brands include Bitter Truth, Fee Brothers, Bittermens, Dr. Adam, and Scrappys. We happen to sell them all and many more in our tasting room.

Bitters designed to be sipped instead of dashed are considered potable bitters. They are commonly consumed before or after a meal to stimulate appetite or ease digestion. Well known examples of potable bitters would be Campari, Fernet Branca, and Jagermeister. These often include added sugar to bring some balance, and increase their sippability.

Humans like many animals are hardwired to be averse to bitter flavors. It's often a warning signal that you’re about to ingest something toxic, but bitter can also be an alluring taste found in popular foods like grapefruits, chocolate, eggplant, coffee, and various herbs. It offers a sort of cleansing taste that spurs you on to the next bite (or sip).

Many people assume that the purpose of bitters is to simply make a drink bitter. While understandable, this isn’t an accurate description of the essential role bitters plays in elevating, and deepening flavors in a cocktail. Bitters can reduce sweetness, slice thru richness, meld disparate ingredients, as well as add an aromatic spiciness. All of that from a couple drops from a little bottle!

“What do you think?” I ask as the gentleman sits back into his bar seat, appearing to be deep in thought and finishes the last sip of his manhattan. He starts to nod approvingly and says “I think I need another manhattan”. As I walk down the bar to prepare his drink he calls half-jokingly “and don’t skimp on those bitters!”


Written by Neil Goldberg

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Vermont Bartender of the Year!

Vermont Bartender of the Year!

Josh Wilcox, the bar manager of our Burlington cocktail shop, was runner up in the Vermont Bartender of the Year finals. The competition took place at Main + Mountain Restaurant in Ludlow, Vermont, on March 28, 2019.

Six bartenders competed in the finals, where they were tested on their service skills and bar demeanor. Three guest judges sat at the bar chatting with the competitors while they prepared drink tickets for seated guests in the restaurant. This is Josh's second appearance in the competition, and his best finish to date. Congratulations to Emily Morton from Deli 126 in Burlington, who came in first, and Jackson Zieper from Monarch and the Milkweed in Burlington, who finished third.

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Featured Bartender - Catherine Hood

Featured Bartender - Catherine Hood

Eight Seas Pop-Up Tiki Bar Proprietor Catherine Hood featured Mad River Distillers cocktails in her Dean Hotel Pop-Up Wednesday, October 17. Catherine is based in Providence, Rhode Island.  See our cocktails section for the recipes!

Catherine founded Eight Seas in 2017 as a pop-up cocktail experience inspired by historic and contemporary tiki cocktails and culture. Since then, Eight Seas has expanded beyond culinary arts and history, and now collaborates with visual artists, distillers, farmers, chefs, and other makers to create sensory events that celebrate much more than tropical tipples.

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Vermont Bartender of the Year 2018

Vermont Bartender of the Year 2018

Congratulations Chelsea Harris!

Chelsea beat out 12 bartenders over three rounds of competition. The finals were held at the Copper Grouse in Manchester, VT on April 10th. The winning cocktail featured Revolution Rye.

The "market basket" for the final round consisted of Revolution Rye, Fernet Branca, a coconut, and a choice of four ice cream flavors.

The winning recipe:

1 oz Revolution Rye

1 oz  Cocchi di Torino

.5 oz Coconut Milk

2 barspoons Fernet

Stir ingredients over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with maple blackberry whipped cream.

Maple Blackberry Whipped Cream

3 oz Lulu maple ice cream

3 oz Heavy Cream

6 muddled blackberries

Shake in a cocktail shaker until thick.


Find Chelsea at Pizzeria Verita in Burlington, VT.

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Mad River Distillers Forced To Rename Malvados Apple Brandy

Mad River Distillers Forced To Rename Malvados Apple Brandy

WARREN, Vermont (April 4, 2018) – Sometimes the need to change is inevitable. Other times it is forced by nature. But in this case, Mad River Distillers is choosing to rename its award-winning Malvados apple brandy to both avoid a wicked legal dust up and use the opportunity to enlist the public's help. The Warren, Vermont distillery was served with a cease-and-desist notice by the French spirits marketing board, who were unimpressed with the small company's translation skills.

"Malvados means 'wicked' in both Spanish and Portuguese,” quipped Mad River founder John Egan. “But we are lovers of brandy, not fighters. To be honest, we never thought we'd become big enough to show up on  their radar.”

Malvados is a traditional-style, dry apple brandy made entirely with native Vermont apples and handcrafted in Mad River Distillers converted horse barn. The company was pleased to receive the ultimate acclaim for the 100 proof brandy in 2016, when it was awarded a Good Food Award for Best Distilled Spirit. The recognition certainly brought the upstart distillery international acclaim, but with the increased profile came the registered piece of mail: change the name or face the legal consequences in court.

“We thought it would be fun to enlist the public's help with a new name,” said Mimi Buttenheim, President of Mad River Distillers. “So we came up with a nice prize package.”

The winning entry, judged by the Mad River Distillers team, will earn an overnight stay at Hotel Vermont in Burlington, a $200 dinner certificate, and a cocktail flight in the distillery's eponymous Burlington tasting room.

Entries may be submitted via Facebook, Instagram (@MadRiverDistillers) or via Twitter (@DrinkMRD) and should include the proposed name, as well as the hashtags #true802 and #RenameOurBrandy. The winner will be contacted for a mutually-agreeable prize delivery date. The contest runs from April 6 through April 27, 2018. Transportation to and from Burlington, Vermont for redemption is the responsibility of the winner.

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Featured Bartender- Jarek Mountain

Featured Bartender- Jarek Mountain

Jarek Mountain is the proprietor of Lion's Tail in Boston

Named one of the hottest new bars in America by Zagat, Lion's Tail is know for their innovative cocktail menu.

"A Cocktail Named Francis" features Mad River Revolution Rye, cognac washed with maple syrup and bacon, punt e mes, allspice, vanilla bean and smoked clove.

Lion's Tail Boston

Ink Block

354 Harrison Avenue

Boston, MA 02118

By in Media & Events Comments Off on Featured Bartender- Rory Caviness

Featured Bartender- Rory Caviness

Rory is the bar manager at La Voile in Boston, MA, and has worked with the whole Mad River Distillers line of spirits since we debuted in Massachusetts. The Sunset Fire cocktail features Revolution Rye and Tahitian Moon highlights Vanilla Rum. Find Rory on Instagram @50shadesofrory

Tahitian Moon

1.5  oz  Mad River Vanilla Rum

0.5 oz  Lazzaroni Amaretto

0.75 oz lime juice

0.25 oz ginger syrup**

1 dash Angostura bitters

3 drops Bitter Truth Pimento dram

Combine the ingredients above in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, and shake hard.  Then, fine strain everything in a chilled coupe glass.  Garnish with an edible flower.

**Ginger Syrup - - Mix two parts sugar with one part fresh pressed ginger juice.  Stir until sugar dissolves and bottle.  Add one ounce of high proof vodka to preserve.


Sunset Fire 

1.5 oz Mad River Revolution Rye

0.75 oz Emilio Lustau Amontillado Sherry

0.75 oz Wolfberger Amer Gingembre

2 barspoons Letherbee Fernet

1 tsp cane syrup (2:1)

1 dash Angostura bitters

1 dash Angostura Orange bitters

Combine ingredients above in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir.  Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass.  Garnish with a flamed orange twist and discard the peel.