In recent days I have been doing some serious damage to a new bottle of OYO Stone Fruit, the fourth product to come out of Ohio’s first microdistillery, Middle West Spirits, located here in Columbus. OYO Stone Fruit is based on the same rich winter wheat neutral spirit that makes up Middle West’s flagship vodka and fresh, tart Montmorency cherries. It is rounded out with a range of yellow peaches, and apricots, thus giving it the stone fruit moniker. In addition, the flaovr is enriched with almonds and sweetened with hibiscus and wildflower honey from local fields, not China. The result is a deep, complex liquor that is lightly sweet but carries considerable bite.
As with all their products, Stone Fruit is made almost exclusively with local products. The cherries are from the Niagara region, and the apricots are necessarily from further afield, but everything else is Ohio grown, allowing them the best freshness and control over quality.
The guys at Middle West call Stone Fruit an infused vodka. I don’t think this is a good idea, from an accuracy or a marketing standpoint. Like their OYO Honey Vanilla (my absolute favorite among their products), this is much too rich and nuanced a liquor to let be confused with the sea of infused vodkas on the market. And for such a small-run product aimed at the high-end cocktail maker, I think that’s a sales suppressant. This is a serious product, not some shelf-space expander.
Regardless of how you categorize it, Stone Fruit is a lot of fun to mix with. It holds its own as the primary spirit in a cocktail, yet also mixes very well with a variety of other liquors. It works particularly nicely with a soft bourbon like Four Roses or Maker’s Mark, as you’ll see in a moment. It pairs with good rum, depending on the variety, in ways either interesting or disastrous. I don’t have a rum solution good enough to offer yet, but I will suggest a bourbon pairing that I like quite a bit, another cocktail where the Stone Fruit is the primary spirit, and a third with champagne.
- 4 parts Four Roses Bourbon
- 2 parts OYO Stone Fruit
- 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 part Cointreau
Combine ingredients with ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a tightly wound twist of lemon.
The Rolling Stone is my favorite creation so far with the Stone Fruit. You can up the ratio of Stone Fruit to bourbon to as much as 1:1, but I think you get a more balanced result with these ratios. Four Roses works best for me with this, but try Maker’s for a little softer, sweeter result. Bigger, more robust, super-premium bourbons are both a waste and get a little titchy with the Stone Fruit. The drink leaves an interesting impression of passion fruit, or all things, without the distinctive electric vibe that fruit always leaves behind.
My bartender buddy, Cris Dehlavi, who also happens to be Middle West’s brand mixologist, suggested the Cointreau. Without it, the drink is still delicious, but that electric Passion Fruity effect is very pronounced. Don’t overdo the Cointreau, however, as it easily overwhelms the subtler flavor elements.
The Stone Fruit works nicely with different citruses, though I haven’t tried orange juice yet and make no warranty there. My second cocktail uses only the Stone Fruit which, when by itself, likes lime juice much better than the lemon I used in the Rolling Stone. I wanted to play up the almond notes in it and used a bit of BG Reynold’s excellent orgeat for a nice, funky sour.
- 4 parts OYO Stone Fruit
- 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1 part BG Reynold’s Orgeat
Shake very well with lots of ice. Garnish with a wedge of lime. Offer smaller servings since this needs to be cold to be its best.
The last cocktail I’ve come up with so far that is worth sharing is the serendipitous result of New Year’s leftover champagne that was much too good to pour out and a Twitter discussion I had with a reader who wanted something like but unlike a Bellini. I’ve also been on a French 75 kick lately, and things kinda clicked.
- 1 oz. OYO Stone Fruit
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- splash simple syrup
- 3 dashes Fee’s Peach Bitters
- Champagne to top
Mix other ingredients in a champagne flute, then top with plenty of good sparkling wine. Garnish with a pitted fresh cherry.
A few notes here. Do not use Fee’s Cherry Bitters here, as was my first instinct. They bring out the cherry flavors of the Stone Fruit far too strongly. The Peach Bitters instead highlight the supporting flavors. And this is one of those cocktails where the bottled juice just won’t do. Squeeze your limes fresh or don’t bother. Really.
OYO Stone Fruit is available all over Ohio, as well as online nationally at The Party Source out of Kentucky. Middle West also hopes to have retail distribution in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Maryland/DC by the end of February. If you can get ahold of some, I invite you to try it out.