The Traverse City region offers a spoil of riches for lovers of food and drink. It’s a must-taste destination for foodies craving fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. These local indulgences are served at four-star restaurants and out of funky food trucks. This area is heralded for its abundance of amazing breweries and wineries. It’s increasingly becoming known for the excellent spirits being produced by Traverse City distilleries that call “Up North” home.
From whiskey to vodka, gin to rum, Traverse City distilleries are making their mark with a wide range of craft spirits. You can find these brands on retail shelves and in restaurants and bars throughout the state. However, one of the best ways to sample them for yourself is to visit their tasting rooms while exploring Traverse City.
Traverse City Whiskey
Traverse City Whiskey introduced its flagship bourbon (no, bourbon does not come exclusively from Kentucky) in 2012. Its tasting room opened in 2015. Its roots date back decades, long before its founder Chris Fredrickson was born.
After Fredrickson and his father discovered his great-grandfather’s distilling recipes, which were patented during the Prohibition era, the seed of the idea for Traverse City Whiskey sprouted.
Traverse City Whiskey’s tasting room is located in a brick building at the corner of Cass and 14th Street. This area is south of the hustle and bustle of downtown. The rustic, industrial interior of the tasting room is the perfect setting to enjoy a cocktail in laid-back style. Additionally, this tasting room frequently features live music during happy hour.
Traverse City Whiskey’s bourbon is smooth with just the right bite. It is perfect for sipping. You can also sample cocktails, such as an old fashioned or whiskey sour that take the edge off of the 86 proof bourbon.
I had a chance to catch up with Fredrickson about what’s new and in the works at Traverse City Whiskey. “Our XXX Straight Bourbon and American Cherry Edition are now being sold in 16 states. The American Cherry Edition is quickly gaining in popularity, selling almost as much as the bourbon,” said Fredrickson.
He also explained that he’s incorporating more fruit than just cherries into Traverse City Whiskey’s spirits. “In Michigan, we’re blessed with exceptional apples, so we kicked-off a fun winter project making apple brandy. We’re working with a local orchard, fresh pressing their apples to make apple cider, fermenting the cider, distilling the hard cider, and aging the finished apple brandy in our whiskey barrels.”
I am a frequent patron of Traverse City Whiskey’s tasting room. It’s one of the places I like to bring visiting friends to give them a sense of the culture, vibe, and craftsmanship that this region offers. If you’re looking for a taste of this area’s distillery scene, Traverse City Whiskey is a great place to start.
Grand Traverse Distillery
Grand Traverse Distillery has been milling, fermenting, and distilling spirits in Traverse City since 2007. You can sample its whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum at one of its five tasting rooms. These are located in Traverse City, Leland, Frankfort, and Grand Rapids. Its large, flagship tasting room in downtown Traverse City serves craft cocktails every evening. This Traverse City distillery frequently features entertainment, art exhibits, and other events. I recently dropped in to sample some excellent whiskey and its highly regarded True North Vodka.
Grand Traverse Distillery is the “elder statesman” of this region’s distilleries and has grown considerably over the last decade. But despite its growth, quality and craftsmanship have remained at the forefront of its business. For example, it uses rye, corn, and cherries sourced locally from Northern Michigan farmers in its various spirits. You can taste the local love in every sip.
Northern Latitudes Distillery
When touring the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula, visitors to this region often stick to the M-22 shoreline. This drive allows the opportunity to check out the coastal towns of Suttons Bay, Northport, and Leland. Yet, there’s another coastal town on the shores of the Lake Leelanau narrows that has a lot to offer. Northern Latitudes Distillery is located in the quaint town of Lake Leelanau, set smack dab in the middle of the peninsula.
Mark and Mandy Moseler founded Northern Latitudes Distillery. It offers tastings of individual spirits and craft cocktails in its charming 3,000 square foot tasting room. It produces rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, liqueurs, and limoncello from locally sourced ingredients. On a recent visit, I had a chance to sample a delicious “Horse’s Neck” cocktail. It consisted of bourbon, bitters, and ginger beer.
Northern Latitudes Distillery owner Mark Moseler explained to me that he has a number of new initiatives underway for his brand. These include two new liqueurs, the seasonal release of its popular Voyageur (Saskatoon berry liqueur), and the possible release of early barrels of its own bourbon this summer.
The next time you find yourself on the Leelanau Peninsula, head inland and check out the “spirited” atmosphere at Northern Latitudes Distillery.
Civilized Spirits is part of Northern United Brewing Company. This company also owns and operates Jolly Pumpkin and Mission Table restaurants. Civilized Spirits distills vodka, whiskey, gin, and rum at a 5,600-square-foot facility (the same location as its restaurants) on the western shoreline of Old Mission Peninsula. This beautiful, fertile spot allows Civilized Spirits to “instill a unique essence of the North in every bottle of spirit.”
While the distillery does not have a dedicated tasting room, the bar at Jolly Pumpkin or Mission Table patio (which offers amazing views of Grand Traverse Bay) are ideal places to sample Civilized Spirits. Great food, killer cocktails, and stunning views – sounds like a great way to wrap up a perfect day touring Traverse City distilleries.
Plan a Distillery Stop on Your Next Visit to Traverse City
It’s hard to keep up with all of the growth in the food, beverage, and hospitality industries in Traverse City. Traverse City is historically known as a destination for beer and wine, it’s increasingly becoming known for its distilleries, too. If you’re looking to take in an artisan experience on your next visit, make sure to check out these four Traverse City distilleries and sample the world-class spirits they are crafting using local know-how and ingredients.
Don’t miss our list of the best local Traverse City restaurants or check out our best Traverse City breweries guide. Looking for the best hotels in Traverse City to stay at during your visit? We’ve got you covered in our ultimate guide of things to do in Traverse City!
What are your favorite Northern Michigan distilleries? Let us know in the comments.