Chris Joseph had a problem. His girlfriend liked to drink fruit-infused vodkas, but they always left her feeling bad the next day. He also had a friend who was selling berries at the farmers market and was constantly trying to figure out what to do with the leftover fruit.
Joseph decided to buy some high quality vodka and use the extra berries to make his own fruit- infused vodka. His homemade berry vodka not only relieved his girlfriend's hangover, but also tasted delicious. After sharing his DIY infused vodka with family and friends, Joseph could see there was a demand in the market for a product like his, and Wild Roots was born.
Four years and many awards later, Wild Roots Vodka produces its own vodka and six different infused vodkas: marionberry, raspberry, dark sweet cherry, cranberry, pear and apple cinnamon. They distill their vodka in Sisters, in a barn they share with Cascade Street Distillery. (They also have a tasting room on Distillery Row in Portland, in case you've seen them there.) The grain-based vodka is made with Central Oregon water filtered five times through lava rock from the Cascade Mountain range. To make the infusion they take berries or fruit from farms in Oregon and Washington and create a mash to add to the vodka.
The end product has over a pound of fruit in each bottle. It doesn't look like you could cram that much fruit into a bottle of vodka, but it's definitely there. When you uncork a bottle it smells almost exactly like the fresh fruit they are made from. I was so surprised by how good it smelled I had to do a little test. I had my partner smell Wild Roots Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka and a popular brand of apple flavored vodka. When he smelled the popular brand he picked up notes of maple and vanilla but nothing else, and couldn't guess the flavor. With Wild Roots he easily picked up the aroma of cinnamon and fresh cut apples. The difference between the two products is that Wild Roots Vodka is free of artificial fruit extracts, flavors and colors.
he most recent addition to the Wild Roots lineup, and the perfect addition for fall, is the cranberry-infused vodka. They partnered with Johnson Creek Farms, a third generation farm in Bandon, Ore., that produces certified organic cranberries. Wayne Stolz, owner of Johnson Creek Farms, said Wild Roots Cranberry Vodka "really tastes like what the actual cranberry fresh off the farm tastes like." I haven't tasted a cranberry from that specific farm but I do agree with Wayne: it tastes just like the real fruit. I wonder if combining the cranberries with vodka retains all the juicy benefits of the fruit—like reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, preventing gum disease and urinary tract infections? I'm sure that's a bit of a medical dream, but if that's the case, this is a way more desirable delivery system than cranberry pills!
You can find Wild Roots Vodka at most liquor stores, or head to Cascade Street Distillery in Sisters to order a flight or try a few mini cocktails. If you want to make a cocktail, the berry flavors pair really well with lemonade and the pear and cranberry pair well with ginger cider. If you want to get a little fancier I have a few ideas for you.
Wild Roots Vodka at Cascade Street Distillery
261 W. Cascade Ave., Sisters