When you think of Grey Goose vodka, it conjures images of a corporate luxury–the exact opposite of a handcrafted, farm-sourced product. Yet that is precisely the starting point of its luxury. I learned this recently at O’o Farms where Brand Master Aaron Rodonis explained Grey Goose nuances to a group of Maui chefs and bartenders.
If you haven’t been to O’o Farms yet, call them at 808-667-4341 to nail down a time for you to tour their grounds and feast and forage. The farm’s eight or so acres served as the nesting ground to get to know Grey Goose better over crop-created cocktails by Joey Gottesman, mixologist for Young’s Market. The farm is completely equipped for lingering over drinks and food, complete with an amazing outdoor kitchen, wood-burning oven and community table dining area.
Gottesman served the first sip-worthy concoction, a Vodka Sour more or less, with a sprig of rosemary, fresh lime slightly sweetened and it was frothed with egg white. The resulting cocktail was aromatic and refreshing.
Rodonis explained that Grey Goose will host a series of farm to glass events through the nation, starting with Maui. Kelii Heen, the new Young’s Market regional director for Maui, coordinated the event not just to expose Grey Goose’s handcrafted side, but to also get people talking about cocktails on Maui.
“I would like to bring the bartenders and chefs here today to not only enjoy the great farm experience that we can bring to our products and cocktails, but to also start a discussion about great drinks and what we do,” Heen said.
It’s Heen’s vision to use events as these to create a community of bartenders that will show each other different sides of the industry and inspire innovations, Maui-born creations and camaraderie. It’s something he says he experienced on Oahu and Big Island and would like to see here.
Richard Clark runs O’o farms and took us on a brief tour to check out the crops and see some of the fresh produce that inspired Gottesman and Rodonis. O’o farms was started by the owners of Pacific’o and I’o specifically to grow ingredients for their restaurants use, and remains one of the island’s only proprietary farms.
“We like to think of land ownership in a different sense,” Clark said. “We borrow from our children on the ‘aina–we do not ‘own’ the land.”
The operation is both biodynamic and organic. Chef Sheldon Simeon, formerly of Star Noodle and Leoda’s, and Chef Isaac Bancaco of Pineapple Grill, along with bartenders Freddie Scofienza of Westin Maui and James Shoemaker of Moana Cafe, were among those in attendance soaking up the Kula sunshine and sampling the herbs and grog. We compared crop notes and bit into exotic leaves as Rodonis explained that the same methodologies used to pick fresh garlic chive blossoms picked for garnishes in the cocktails were important in Grey Goose production.
“We use three farm cooperatives in France to gather our wheat,” Rodonis said. “We utilize 1/1000th of the wheat production in France for our vodka. The distillery is right in the field. We like to say it’s field to bottle vodka. We also do cover cropping with linen and other crops. We grind the flour right there and the milling process contributes to the sweetness and flavor specific to Grey Goose.”
O’o farm’s Chef Anton dressed up Gottesman’s Bloody Mary cocktail with pickled farm beets, fresh pressed tomato juice, beautiful purple garlic chive flowers, smoked salt and pepper. It was a welcome revival after the warm walk on the farm. The chefs and bartenders mingled as we watched Anton put the final touches on his midday feast of roasted pork, fresh flatbreads, parmesan polenta and roasted root vegetables.
The final cocktail was a simple citrus concoction not far from a spiked lemonade, with a balsamic reduction glaze inside the glass that added a whole new dimension to the flavor. It was simple yet welcoming with the pork.
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To make your own Grey Goose Sour try this:
The basic sour will be two parts liquor, one part lemon (or sour stuff) and one part sugar (or sweet stuff). Adding an egg white is optional but it will give your drink a creamy mouthfeel and it will be more substantial and frothy. You can experiment with how much egg white to add–it’s not necessary to have the whole white of an egg, and you can play around with the ration. The rosemary is a very woodsy herb, so you will need to strain bits of it from the finished drink.
• 2 oz Grey Goose
• 1 oz fresh pressed lemon juice
• 1 oz agave
• egg white
• a few rosemary leaves
• 1 sprig of rosemary for garnish
Put all ingredients in the shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a glass, add the garnish.