A good place to be. That’s how Heathermeade Distilling founders Rich Bentrewicz and Michael Maggio describe the whimsical Tree City, the name they’ve given to their 100 percent Jersey-made corn vodka.
“We were having cocktails on the deck a couple years ago and got the idea to experiment to see if we could make a good vodka,” Bentrewicz says. The two launched Heathermeade Distilling in Kenilworth in 2015 as a side project, then eventually left their careers to pursue distilling full time.
The distillery opened a tasting room in July. Separate rooms accommodate more than one group at a time, plus a large bar area, with a foosball table. “In case people want to have a little fun,” Bentrewicz says.
Tree City Vodka won a gold medal at the American Distilling Institute and is the only New Jersey-made craft spirit to have won that award. Heathermeade has also considered experimenting with flavored vodkas; the two were approached about making a pumpkin spice vodka. It is still in the experimental stage.
For now, Tree City is distilled with 100 percent Jersey corn, which is sourced from Etch Farms in Monroe Township. “We love [Etch Farms],” Bentrewicz says. “We say we need a half ton, they crack it, and I pick it up in a few hours.”
Heathermeade hopes eventually to produce a 100 percent organic version of their corn vodka, but the search is on for a 100 percent organic Jersey farm with enough corn to spare.
The tasting room is open Wednesdays and Thursdays 3-7pm and weekends by appointment, and Tree City can be found in many restaurants and liquor stores across the state. It is also available in every liquor store in Cranford, where both live. “If you can’t win over your hometown, how can you win over anywhere else?” Bentrewicz says.
Heathermeade considers Tree City a true farm-to-cocktail spirit. “Mashing, distilling and bottling is all done at the facility. We tweaked and tweaked. We’re trying to make it the best vodka in the United States. We hope it brings people to their good place.” —Julia Mullaney
835 Fairfield Ave., Kenilworth