NOTHING INSPIRES CREATIVITY quite like distaste. For Lisa Averbuch, one too many appletinis did the trick. “I was really put off by the bright neon green with fake … everything,” she recalls. So intense was her loathing of that bygone cocktail’s saccharine flavor that she began experimenting with fruit-infused liqueurs at her Bay Area home. Riffing on limoncello, the classic Italian digestif, Averbuch infused her concoctions with all the fresh fruit she could get her hands on—lemons, apples, bananas, tangerines. Once she finished honing her recipes, she needed a distillery that would take on the challenge of handcrafting her organic recipes on a commercial scale. Her gaze turned northward, where she found the perfect partners at Portland’s New Deal Distillery.
The adamantly DIY folks at New Deal made a name for themselves in 2004 when they launched their own line of artisanal vodkas, all made with Bull Run water. These days, owners Tom Burkleaux and Matthew Van Winkle can often be found in their Southeast Portland tasting room, peeling their way through piles of California tangerines or chopping Oregon lemongrass to make Averbuch’s Loft Organic Liqueurs. The resulting spirits—available in lavender, ginger, lemongrass, tangerine, blueberry, and raspberry, all naturally sweetened with agave nectar—are a refreshing antidote to the syrups of yore. And whether they’re sipped on the rocks, splashed into a glass of champagne, or shaken into a martini, the clean flavors of their fruits and botanicals offer a subtle but bracing touch. Thanks to Averbuch, we can be grateful that something good was born of the appletini’s reign.