COWICHAN – Ampersand Distilling Co. has created the missing ingredient for an all-BC Martini.

Thanks to a partnership between Ampersand and Rathjen Cellars, BC’s first dry vermouth hit store shelves in late July.

The new product, Imperative Dry Vermouth, joins Ampersand’s award-winning lineup that includes Ampersand Gin, Per Se Vodka, and a seasonal Italian-style green walnut liqueur called ‘Nocino!’.

Imperative is made from organic Ortega & Auxerrois grapes from the Saanich Peninsula and fortified with Per Se Vodka, which is made from organic BC-grown wheat.

“This collaboration not only gives us a better option than selling off surplus grapes, we also get to work alongside the talented Schacht family in bringing this exciting new product to market,” says Mike Rathjen, Owner and Winegrower at Rathjen Cellars.

The botanicals include wormwood grown on the Ampersand farm, roasted dandelion root, chamomile, marjoram, and orange peel.

Launched late last month, the product is already being carried as the house dry vermouth in several Victoria restaurants.

The distillery was founded in 2014 by two generations of farmers and distillers: Stephen Schacht, Ramona Froehle-Schacht, their son, Jeremy, and is wife, Jessica.

“We moved up to the Cowichan Valley in Spring of 2011 to help on Jeremy’s parents’ farm,” says Jessica. “Jeremy has a Bachelor in Applied Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of British Columbia and a passion for craft beer and and cocktails, so we started working on a business plan for a distillery.”

Jeremy and Jessica developed their gin recipe while Stephen and Jeremy built the stills and mash tun, including their unique 500L column still.

“We had seen the resurgence of craft distilleries, and with Jeremy’s knowledge, we knew we could make a really clean base spirit,” says Jessica. “We wanted to create a gin that would be a go-to. Customers would be able to serve it on its own, but also use it in any classic cocktail.”

Gin is the most frequently used spirit in classic cocktail recipes, so it was clear that the drink was to be Ampersand’s first product.

“We had a strong, clear idea of how we wanted to make our Gin, and when people tasted it at farmers markets, they liked it so much they asked us to make vodka as well,” says Jessica.

“We thought we contribute our own take, and released Per Se Vodka a year after we opened. The vodka has a creamy mouthfeel with a slight sweetness. You can taste the flavor of the grain, which showcases the 100 per cent organic BC gown wheat that we use. We also have an artesian spring that we use to dilute the product.”

This April, Ampersand received outstanding reviews at BC Distilled, the province’s premier spirits festival. They were voted Audience Favorite in both the Gin and Vodka categories for their third consecutive year.

“This event is great because we, as makers, get to connect with people” says Jeremy Ampersand’s Head Distiller. “It’s actually a requirement that someone from the distillery be at the show.”

As the craft spirits scene continues to grow, the Schachts are excited to meet other members and entrepreneurs.

“It’s a wonderful community to be a part of,” says Jessica. “We’re all finding ways to create and innovate.”