When father-daughter time goes pro
It was Sophie Newsome’s 21st birthday and her dad had gifted her … vodka.
Not an unusual gift for a 21st birthday. But Sophie’s dad — an English-born carpenter with a decades long career in historic restoration — had recently developed an interest in and passion for fermentation and distillation. So this vodka gift was special. He had made it and infused it himself.
“Everyone loved it,” Newsome says. And she saw an opportunity. “I was like, ‘We gotta do something with this.’ At first he brushed me off. He was like, ‘No, that’s crazy. No way.’”
But Newsome started to pursue it anyway. She looked into the cost of a license for a farm distillery and was surprised to discover it was about $1,000. Not cheap, she says, “but attainable.” She was beginning to persuade her father that doing something was possible, and that was the spark behind the creation of this father and daughter distillery.
They started to tour distilleries in the region. Her dad, Stuart, began constructing barrels for aging spirits. Between Stuart’s interest and love for history and Sophie’s devotion to the farm-to-table movement, they’d found common ground on a philosophy and an aesthetic. They wanted to be in the Hudson Valley, near farmers and the food they grow right here. They purchased the Olde York Farm in Claverack. The farm had two barns on its property that were built in 1790 and 1805; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and badly in need of restoration. The Newsomes got to work.
Cooper’s Daughter Spirits sold its first bottle in 2016 and today you can find their products throughout New York, New Jersey and in Illinois. (A “cooper,” by the way, is a maker of barrels and casks. All Cooper’s Daughter aged products are created in barrels handmade locally.) Sophie Newsome, as the flavor developer for the distillery, focuses on local grains, fruits, botanicals, and tree syrups for infusion. What goes into the spirits changes from season to season, year to year. “We use the Hudson Valley as our inspiration to create these flavors,” she says.
You’ll find more than a dozen different spirits at Cooper’s Daughter, depending on the season, at least 10 of which are available for tasting in their tasting room. On weekends, you can get food from the food truck pop-ups in the cocktail garden along with drinks from the distillery. They also host paint and sip events and small classes. Among their most popular spirits are their flagship black walnut bourbon and their cacao maple vodka. For spring, their rhubarb and honey vodka is very popular, Newsome says.
Each spirit’s delicate infusion of flavor is designed for sipping as much as for cocktail mixing. “We like to make it easy for people,” Newsome says.
Newsome is now 32, and leading this woman-owned distillery and cooperage, and her husband Rory Tice serves as head distiller and operations manager. Newsome’s dad still works alongside her, restoring features on the farm and, to some extent, building barrels. As he’s gotten older, he’s moved away from building as many as he once did. But he just helped to complete the restoration of the farm’s tollhouse, built in 1790, which now houses Cooper’s Daughter bourbon barrels.
Cooper’s Daughter also just acquired an apple orchard in Red Hook, another restoration project that Newsome says will eventually provide a harvest for making vodka. “We’re hoping one day we’ll be able to host our own farmers or makers markets there,” she says.
For Newsome, establishing the values and philosophy of Cooper’s Daughter was easy. “We’re organic whenever possible,” she says. “We came to this business with these values. That’s why we chose to move to the Hudson Valley, so we could be in a place where we could talk to farmers and see where food is grown. We use the Hudson Valley as our inspiration to create these flavors.”
Rhubarb & Rose Limeade
Build in a 16-oz. glass filled with ice:
- 2 oz. Rhubarb & Honey Vodka
- 1 oz. Rose Liqueur
- ½ lemon
- ½ lime
- 10 drops rose bitters
Top with limeade. Garnish with edible flowers or lemon wheel.
Build in a 9-oz. cup with one large ice cube:
- 2 oz. Smoked Maple Bourbon or Black Walnut Bourbon
- ½ oz. Thai basil liqueur
Line cup with cucumber slices.
In a large metal mixing cup with ice, mix:
- 2 oz. Rhubarb & Honey Vodka
- 1 whole lime, squeezed
- ½ oz. Black Currant Liqueur (or Rose Liqueur)
- ½ oz. blackberry lavender shrub
Shake, shake, shake.
Then strain into rocks glass with salt rim filled with ice.
Top photo: Husband-and-wife team Rory Tice, head distiller and operations manager, and Sophie Newsome, owner of Cooper’s Daughter distillery and cooperage. Photo by Nicole Nero.