Feeling chilled? Warm up with handcrafted Appalachian spirits!

Cocktails … photo: Smooth Ambler Spirits Facebook

Pour yourself a glass of comfort this winter. From mountain whiskey to rum, Southern West Virginia’s liquors warm the heart— and make fantastic cocktails.

Isaiah Morgan Distillery— Summersville

Meet one of America’s smallest distilleries. Since 2002, Isaiah Morgan has earned a following for its small-batch liquors. It’s also one of the few places where you can get moonshine— a legendary Appalachian drink.

In addition to “white lightning,” the little distillery produces whiskey (bourbon and rye) as well as grappa, an Italian brandy made from pressed grape skins and seeds. In fact, Isaiah Morgan is part of Kirkwood Winery— hence the grape connection.

Care for a sip? Stop by the tasting room for free samples. While you’re there, visit the gift shop for bottled souvenirs. In addition to liquors, you can take home red, white, vegetable, and fruit wine. Popular picks include Mountain Blueberry and Moonglow Pear.

Smooth Ambler Spirits— Maxwelton

Sophisticated and traditional, this distillery makes liquors the old-fashioned way. Fresh grains, mountain spring water, and on-site milling make Smooth Ambler’sliquors truly local. Even the bottles are hand labeled.

Such personal attention is rare. It takes more effort and time—- something that’s in short supply these days. But that’s what makes Smooth Ambler’s rum and barrel-aged whiskeys so unique. Each one has unusual depth and character. Standouts include Contradiction, a blend of two whiskeys, and Revelation, a rye-cask rum.

Visit the handsome tasting room for free tastings and a glimpse of the production floor. Pull up a chair and warm up! Tours are also available. Friendly and knowledgeable, Smooth Ambler’s master distillers are always happy to chat about their trade.

Hawk Knob Hard Cider & Mead— Lewisburg

Hawk Knob Hard Cider and Mead … photo Facebook Page

Hard cider refreshes the palate with its dry, crisp finish. And at Hawk Knob, this specialty beverage gets even fancier.

The secret: heritage ingredients and classic techniques. Like settlers of old, owners Josh Bennett and Will Lewis harvest heirloom apples from local farms. They don’t rush anything, either. Hawk Knob’s carefully crafted drinks slowly age, sometimes in barrels from Smooth Ambler. Others are enhanced with infusions of elderberry— yet another old-fashioned touch.

If you’ve never tasted Appalachian cider, make a visit to Lewisburg. These are historic American flavors. Hawk Knob also has mead, an ancient type of honey wine. Bennett and Lewis make theirs with West Virginia wildflower honey and heirloom apples.

Hawk Knob’s tasting room has samples for $5. You can also get artisan cheese and meat for an impromptu picnic by the pond.

Fun winter recipes

Rum and cider are great by themselves. Still, cocktails are more of an occasion. The next time you host a party, try these recipes with liquors from Isaiah Morgan, Smooth Ambler, or Hawk Knob!

Spiced Old Fashioned

Serves 4

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 orange, cut into wheels
  • 12 oz bourbon
  • Maraschino cherries


  1. Put first five ingredients into a sauce pan and simmer until sugar dissolves. This is your simple syrup.
  2. Boil mixture, cover, and remove from heat. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes, then strain spices from the simple syrup.
  3. Let syrup cool. Once it’s room temperature, place in refrigerator and chill for an hour.
  4. Place maraschino cherries into each glass.
  5. Get a large shaker and fill with the cold syrup, bourbon, and ice. Shake.
  6. Pour mixture into each glass. Top with orange wheels and more cherries if you want.

Buttered Rum

Serves 4

  • 3/4 cup of rum or spiced rum
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional: 4 sticks of cinnamon


  1. Boil the water. Set aside.
  2. Mix the sugar, butter, honey, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Stir until smooth. Add rum and boiling water. Stir until smooth.
  3. Pour into 4 mugs and garnish with cinnamon sticks.


  • 4 cups of apple cider
  • 1/2 inch (or more) of fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • .25 oz of vanilla extract
  • 1.5 oz of whiskey or bourbon per mug
  • Optional: thin apple slices


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients (whiskey/bourbon excepted). Simmer for an hour.
  2. Measure the whiskey or bourbon into individual mugs. Top off each one with hot wassail.
  3. Garnish with thin apple slices

Bottoms up! What’s your favorite winter cocktail?