Although, for years, moonshine was made in secret by the light of the moon, husband-and-wife duo Joe and Patty Cunha are making sure the spirit doesn’t hide in the shadows anymore. Their family owned and operated farm craft distillery, Twin Stills Moonshine, first opened its doors in 2016. Since then, it has become a “must see” stop on the North Fork’s wine and beer circuit.
Originally, Twin Stills was created to preserve the memory of Cunha’s grandfather, who passed away in 2006. The patriarch of the family spent his days distilling immature and aged brandies in Europe. After his death, only a few gallons of his precious supply were left, so Joe decided to do something about it and bought a still of his own.
“We started out using grape skins,” says Cunha. “But I knew I needed to find a more readily available ingredient if I wanted to grow the business. A more viable option was a whiskey form of corn, which is always available all year round.”
The quality of their moonshine is of utmost importance. As such, Twin Stills follows an old Portuguese tradition of single small batch distillation made with 100-percent natural ingredients. Cunha also sources as much as possible from Long Island.
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Twin Stills Moonshine in Riverhead NY. Home of the O’Oldtymer brand of moonshine. It is family owned and they make a variety of flavors. Honey moonshine , apple pie moonshine as well as coffee, chocolate , mixed berry and strawberry. The plain one is 100 proof! They give out samples too. They have live music on the weekends. I bought a bottle for my brother-in-laws birthday. Perfect gift for the man who has everything and needs nothing. #moonshine #whiskey #alcohol #100proof #bottomsup #cheers #twinstillsmoonshine #twinstillsmoonshinevisit #bartender #liqour #bartenders #drinksareonme
“All of the corn that’s used to make our moonshine comes from Sujecki Farms in Calverton. We also get our strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkins from our local farmers. It’s a good thing for them and we’ve made a lot of friends out here.”
Even though the exact distillation process and their “recipe” are closely guarded secrets, Cunha wants his customers to learn about moonshine and accept it as a much more mainstream spirit than what they’ve seen on TV.
“On TV, moonshine is portrayed as a really high proof alcohol that only really big guys, with really big chests, can enjoy,” laughs Cunha. “But, at my distillery, we make sure that no matter whether you’ve tried moonshine before, or never tried it at all, you can enjoy the experience.”
Customers can order flights (3 types of moonshine for $9) served in ¾-ounce clay tasting cups. Imported from Portugal, their unique style and orange coloring make them incredibly Instagram worthy and customers “love them.”
“First timers” are started off with a lower proof moonshine like Apple Pie. At 50 proof, it goes down smooth as silk and tastes “just like Momma’s apple pie.” From there, customers will be moved on to something a little stronger like Chocolate at 70 proof or Honey at 80 proof.
“Then, if you really want to bang your chest, we’ll have you sample the 100 proof Moonshine,” says Cunha. “It’s funny because a lot of people really do like to try the higher proof just to see what it’s all about.”
Twin Stills also serves a variety of mixed drinks at the distillery and readily publishes the “recipes” on their website. In addition to popular standbys, like Apple Pie Moonshine, customers can look forward to Pumpkin Spice and Maple Pecan—both 50 proof—for the fall harvest season.
“There’s a bunch of stuff that people can do with our moonshine that people don’t even know about,” says Cunha. “That’s why we make mixed drinks—to show them that if they buy a bottle, they can make these really delicious drinks at home. You can add Apple Pie Moonshine to mulled cider, or pour Pumpkin Spice Moonshine over ice and seltzer. And Maple Pecan Moonshine is downright delicious in a glass of ginger ale.”
When it comes to creating new moonshine flavors, it all comes down to the bottom line. Even though they do take customer requests from time to time, if they don’t think that it will sell, they won’t invest the money into it.
“We tend to do this off the cuff and we just try to enjoy what we’re doing. If we see something or taste something that we like, we try to make it work,” Cunha says. “So, we recently started looking at jalapenos and developed the Jalapeno Moonshine, which is how we got to the Hot Apple Pie—apple pie with a jalapeno twist in it. This is a really good seller.”
Future flavors include a cherry moonshine, which customers have been requesting non-stop, as well as a pickle moonshine to tap into the “whole pickle craze.”
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TASTING: Friday, 4/5. 4-7pm Twin Stills @lioldtymer MOONSHINE. Made right here in Riverhead, from Long Island corn. Distilled and redistilled to perfection. Inspired by a family tradition. Come sample the original and all of their flavors. • #moonshine #twinstillsmoonshine #twinstills #craftspirits #craftcocktails #spirits #northfork #nofo #eastend #eastenders #northforker #riverhead #hamptons #longisland #drinks #drinklocal #shoplocal #whiskey #liquorstore #winestore #michaelsliquors #happyhour #cheers
The distillery is the perfect place for people to try moonshine in small quantities before they go ahead and purchase a bottle. According to Cunha, the goals is “to try before you buy.” Customers can pick up bottles of their moonshine at the distillery or at local liquor store on Long Island.
“I just really want people to know that our moonshine is not like anything you see on TV,” says Cunha. “People think that it’s strong and tastes like gasoline or lighter fluid—that’s the total opposite of what we have and what we do. If anything, people are always surprised—especially, first timers—at how easy it is to drink because it goes down so well. It can, however, sneak up on you, so make sure you have a designated driver.”
For more on Twin Stills, please visit their website.