In Your Cups: A spirited publication in Virginia, while Richmond flows with apples, honey, and recognition

Our favorite combo!

Photo by: massdistraction

The booze pages

Believe it or not, you and the Commonwealth of Virginia can be on the same page. Would you like to throw a proper Kentucky Derby party, complete with an authentic Mint Julep and the accompanying backstory? The Virginia ABC can help. Want to know more about Margarita before you sip her sweet nectar on Cinco de Mayo? The ABC’s Spirited Virginia magazine has you covered.

The free quarterly magazine contains stories behind drinks and spirits, cocktail recipes, liquor-based food recipes, home bar tips, and more. The magazine also contains product listings and prices–including what’s new–so you can better plan your next trip to your neighborhood liquor store.

The new issue, available at all Virginia ABC outlets, highlights Richmond spirit as well, including a recipe for McCormack’s Mac Sauce on the menu at both McCormack restaurants, Margarita recipes from Michael Avery at Casa del Barco and an interview with Greg White, Bar Lead at Belle & James.

Full disclosure: I’ve had the opportunity to write many of their assigned articles, to research drink histories and experiment with recipes, so I may be biased when I suggest that you swing by your local ABC store and pick up your own copy of Spirited Virginia. But for the price, what have you got to lose?

The apple of their eye


At the recent opening of the new Short Pump Pub at Whole Foods, I chatted with the guys from Blue Bee Cider. (After all, the 48 taps at the new pub include cider, kombucha, and a non-alcoholic root beer; the pub serves food, too!) Although I already had an appreciation for Blue Bee and craft cider, I came away with a new appreciation for what our first local craft cidery and founder Courtney Mailey brings to the table in appreciation of both history and innovation.

For example, Blue Bee has presented workshops on grafting and pruning for apple trees as well as on making cider. They’ve been part of one Virginia Historical Society History on Tap event with one more in the works. They’re bringing back the heirloom Hewe’s crabapple (Thomas Jefferson grew these apples back in the day). But they’ve also crafted sour ciders (intentionally) and ciders with hops.

Coming up, you can pluck the newest batch of Aragon 1904 from the cidery on April 16th. Or, if you’re a member of their cider club, you can taste vertical flights of Aragon 1904 from the 2014 and the 2015 harvests on April 15th.

Perhaps my favorite takeaway from chatting with the Blue Bee cidermakers, though, was a reminder that gender identity issues still linger in the craft beverage world. One of the bearded male cidermakers told the recent tale of the man purchasing a bottle of Blue Bee Cider at the tasting room. The purchaser seemed compelled to clarify that the cider was not for himself, but his wife.

Men, it’s okay to have plenty of testosterone and still appreciate cider!

More apples in Scott’s Addition

Will Correll of Buskey Cider tells me that he is poised to open his Scott’s Addition cidery, but not quite ready to announce a date. He has lots of finished product but is waiting on final permits.

“Pending formula approvals for some of our more innovative recipes (and for some ingredients to be in season), we will be launching three lines,” he says, “including a semi-sweet cider made from a blend of different batches and various yeasts, a drier cider from an exotic strain of yeast, and an unfiltered cider.”

And even more in Goochland

While Blue Bee and Buskey operate as convenient urban cideries, Courthouse Creek Cider in Goochland has an abundance of land for growing their own apples on site, with more than 20 varieties of cider-centric apple trees so far, plus Asian pears and English Perry pears.

The first blend (The Honest Farmer) is in the tank, owner Eric Cioffi told me: “finished to dry blend and bottle conditioned. A clean, crisp first offering, most of the cider for the blend was fermented and aged in rum and wine barrels. The second blend (Bella Vita) is going into tank this week as well.”

After that, Courthouse Creek will be offering a raspberry-ginger-infused cider.

“Everything is small batch, and available in 750ml and 500ml formats,” Cioffi says.

The tasting room is still in the planning stages, but guests will be welcome by appointment, at

How sweet it is!

Richmond’s very own meadery, Black Heath, earned a medal in the Mazer Cup International Mead Competition on March 18th-19th in Colorado.

“The mead that we took the bronze medal with was in the dry melomel category,” owner Bill Cavender says, referring to the honey-wine style with a dry finish, using a fruit or vegetable for added flavor. The winning mead was called Berry Goode–using berries from Chesterfield’s Swift Creek Berry Farm owners, the Goode family, made with 100 gallons of traditional mead racked on top of 200 pounds of blueberries.

And back to Virginia spirits

The week of March 28th, representatives from Belle Isle Craft Spirits, Blue Bee Cider, Vagabond and Metzger traveled to New York City for the #VisitRichmond Culinary Experience giving a taste of the RVA culinary scene to New York food, travel and lifestyle media and influencers.

The evening’s cocktail hour featured two cocktails made with Belle Isle Moonshine and one with Belle Isle Moonshine and Blue Bee Cider.

Erin Bagnell of Richmond Region Tourism said, “My favorite part of the night was raising a glass to a job well done with the #RVADine team following the official event. The Richmond Region restaurant and beverage scene is full of amazing talents and fun personalities and they genuinely enjoy working together, celebrating each other and collaborating on efforts to elevate Richmond.”

I’ll drink to that!

And, of course…

There’s also this piece of news

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Annie Tobey

Writer and editor Annie Tobey dutifully studies the craft beverage scene, then runs Richmond’s roads and trails to earn the next round of research.

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