Winter Wonderland at Bellemara Distillery

by Peter Candia
Bellemara Distillery in Hillsborough Township, NJ

Bellemara Distillery has made waves in its first year of operation. The addition of a new gin and dozens of handmade syrups, tinctures and bitters means that this winter, Bellemara Distillery is the place to be. Whether to tour the distillery, enjoy a drink at the bar, relax by the fireplace in the upstairs lounge, or book the outdoor, heated igloo, Bellemara Distillery should be on your list of must-go places. 

First Time?

Bellemara Distillery in Hillsborough Township is New Jersey’s first single malt distillery. Head distiller and co-founder, Camden Winkelstein, studied distillation in Scotland before making his way back to the states to open his very own distillery. Winkelstein’s focus is spirits made from malted barley. Currently, there are three spirits that are available for purchase and used in an array of Bellemara’s craft cocktails with a fourth about to drop before the holidays.

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Single Malt Spirit

Bellemara’s Single Malt Spirit is clear and neutral in flavor, all while retaining a complexity around the edge that is often missed entirely within the category. While it is a close corollary to a vodka, Bellemara’s Single Malt Spirit to me is much more pleasant to drink than your standard vodka, and the terroir of the malted barley makes for a neutral spirit that is extraordinarily interesting.

Single Malt Gin

A clear, unaged gin made from malted barley. This is Bellemara’s answer to a London Dry style of gin. Their single malt spirit is distilled with the addition of Juniper, orange peel and corriander— lending the botanical bite that defines the category. This gin is smooth and easy to drink. It shines equally when enjoyed on its own or in one of Bellemara’s signature cocktails. 

Single Malt Tropical Gin

If it isn’t clear by now, the single malt neutral spirit at Bellemara Distillery is a blank canvas of sorts. Like the gin before it, Winkelstein distills this concoction with botanicals, this time with the addition of dried mango and pineapple to create a gin that is fruity and floral without being overly sweet. This becomes the perfect base for tiki-style drinks and so much more. 

Tropical Gin at Bellemara Distillery

Single Malt Tropical Gin | Photo from @bellemaradistillery on Instagram

Coming Soon:  Single Malt Aquavit

Once again, the single malt neutral spirit forms the backbone of this herbal spirit. This time Winkelstein distills the malt spirit through caraway, dill, and other botanicals. Though we weren’t able to try it yet, the Aquavit sounds like a fantastic extension to their current lineup.

These spirits are noteworthy on their own and we suggest keeping a bottle in stock at home, but while you’re at Bellemara, why not sit down and have a drink? Russell Aagenes is the Tasting Room Manager and Head of Product Development at Bellemara Distillery. He has over a decade of craft cocktail experience and puts his knowledge and experience to use daily behind the bar. 

The Bellemara menu is filled with creative riffs on classic cocktails as well as drinks that are entirely unique to the scene. Because of strict liquor regulations in New Jersey, Aagenes is limited in what he can and cannot use. Bellemara is prohibited from selling anything containing liquor that they did not make themselves. This means no store-bought vermouth, no Aperol and no sparkling wine. This creates a unique challenge, but one that Winkelstein and Aagenes have essentially knocked out of the park. A hibiscus aperitivo is their answer to Aperol, while a digestif is a take on vermouth. Each housemade liqueur is a collection of botanicals, herbs and spices infused in none other than Bellemara’s signature Single Malt Spirit. Add these to a list of homemade bitters and tinctures and what you get is a cocktail menu that is made entirely from scratch and completely unique. No one could replicate this menu no matter how hard they tried— Bellemara Distillery is special in that way. 

For Winter, the cocktails are fresh and festive. 

Take the Hot Buttered Barley, for example. This sweet and winter-spiced concoction is served hot, so it’s the perfect solution to the cold weather outside. Single malt spirit, butter, brown sugar and spices are combined and heated before being served in a glass mug. Homemade cold-brew coffee liqueur can be added upon request. We think this might just be the perfect Holiday drink. 

bellemara distillery

Bellemara Distillery in Hillsborough, NJ

If hot beverages aren’t your thing, fret no more. Bellemara has dozens of other cocktails for you to try. The Bestemor Appletini is a take on the classic appletini, which rightfully has garnered a bad name for itself throughout the years. At Bellemara, there are no artificial colors or cloying ingredients. Instead, their upscale appletini is made with freshly juiced Granny Smith apples, green tea, lemon, pistachio orgeat syrup and Single Malt Spirit. The drink is refreshing and light, with a profound body to support it. I never thought I’d find an appletini I enjoyed, but that was before I discovered Bellemara Distillery. 

The Beach Igloo is my personal favorite of the new drink menu. The Single Malt Spirit is infused with coconut oil in a process known as fat-washing. Then, that mixture is combined with orange, vanilla, pineapple and topped off with Töst Sparkling (a non-alcoholic sparkling wine alternative made from white tea). This drink is easy-drinking and simply fun. It shows glimpses of warmer weather in taste, but still presents itself as a fine winter cocktail. 

What winter cocktail menu is complete without the bitter-sweet Negroni? Obviously, the three-part drink becomes a tad more difficult when you can’t sell Campari or vermouth, but Bellemara doesn’t dwell on what could be, they instead provide solutions. Their new tropical gin is combined in equal parts with their house-made Aperitivo and Digestif. This is stirred and strained over a large rock of ice. To finish, it is anointed with an expressed orange twist. It drinks lighter than a classic Negroni, but is similarly complex. I thought I might be displeased with this drink, but once again I was proven wrong. 

a negroni

Negroni | Bellemara Distillery

Aagenes and Winkelstein have also produced a mixed spirit that is their answer to an Old Tom-style gin. The Old Paw gin is the signature Single Malt Gin infused with pawpaw fruit and chamomile tea, and lightly sweetened with honey. The gin itself is caramel-hued and slightly sweet. Believe it or not, I enjoyed this immensely straight, but it is equally as great in their riff on a classic Martinez. Old Paw Gin is stirred with a housemade digestif, raspberry and hibiscus. The cocktail is served up— allowing it to present itself boldly and definitively. This was a deliciously crafted drink to showcase the creativity behind the Old Paw Gin. 

What Are You Waiting For?

Bellemara Distillery is the place to be this winter. Book a tour of the distillery, complete with a guided tasting of their housemade spirits if you’re looking to learn the ins and outs of the operation. Or, book the outdoor igloo to fully get into the holiday spirit. The igloo is heated and decorated with couches and tables so you can drink in warmth and style. Igloo reservations and tours are now available to book for December and January here.

@njdigest With new #cocktails, new spirits, a heated igloo and more, this is your sign to go to Bellemara Distillery in Hillsborough, NJ this #holiday season! • • #igloo #distillery #winter #holiday #holidaycountdown #homemade #newjersey #nj #centraljersey #njtok #newjerseycheck #christmas #christmascountdown #mariahcarey #alliwantforchristmas #drinks #cocktaillovers #love #yummy #drink #mixology #alliwantforchristmas ♬ All I Want for Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

About the Author/s

Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for food journalism midway through his schooling and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. Peter never stops learning and he is always in the weeds.

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