Vodka. It’s everyone’s favorite spirit. Okay, maybe not everyone’s, but it sure has a wide fan base among us cocktail drinkers! Did you know that Kenilworth is home to one of the hottest new craft vodka distilleries on the market? Tree City artisan vodka launched just this past October, but you can already find it in nearly every restaurant and liquor store in our area! There’s a reason for that: it’s damn good!
Michael Maggio and Richard Bentricwz are Cranford neighbors who’ve share the same backyard for years, which they affectionately nicknamed “Tree City” for the large old trees scattered throughout. Rich has a career in IT sales, and Michael is an engineering consultant with a masters in chemistry and an MBA from Cornell–two very different business backgrounds. But both of them share a love of vodka, and over the course of their ten-year friendship (and many a friendly drink), they got to wondering if they could make a better vodka than what was on the market, and at a better cost.
So Mike and Rich did just that! They bought a machine to distill vodka, and according to Mike, “We went through hundreds of recipes and eventually got a second machine, and after a couple of years we got to the point where the vodka was good enough that we would use it in the mixed drinks that we made for friends and family, and no one knew it was our own vodka.”
Armed with a delicious vodka recipe, Mike and Rich opened a small distillery in nearby Kenilworth, where they began manufacturing the vodka on a larger scale under their brand Tree City, using only premium ingredients. Mike said, “Because I have an engineering background, I spent a lot of time analyzing the manufacturing process of the distillery to ensure reproducibility, in other words our first bottle will taste just like the thousandth bottle. The big difference between us and a lower-end vodka is that we don’t try for volume, we go for quality.”
Tree City currently makes one vodka, but they have plans to add a second product down the line, such as a vodka citron or perhaps even going in a different direction with gin. But first, Mike says, “Our goal is to be the #1 selling vodka in NJ.” Since they launched in October, Tree City has placed 180 cases of their vodka in restaurants and liquor stores! Dittrick’s of Garwood was the very first store to take a case, the first to host a tasting, and they are still one of Tree City’s biggest customers. Walk into almost any other restaurant, bar, or liquor store in our area, and you’ll find them serving or selling Tree City vodka.
If you’re of the “try before you buy” mentality, don’t be shy! Mike and Rich regularly host tastings at the Kenilworth distillery, complete with a tour of the facility! And bonus–you can purchase up to five bottles of Tree City at the distillery at cost. To schedule a tasting call Mike at (908) 499-0250.
For more information about Tree City, visit them on facebook or at www.treecityspirits.com. I know I’ll be adding a bottle (or two) to my bar at home.