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Sorgrhum: A Uniquely Indiana Spirit

Made from Indiana sorghum, creator Matt Colglazier says his craft spirit is unlike anything else on the market. We taste two cocktails made with the stuff.

sorgrhum and margarita mix

Photo: Eoban Binder/WFIU

According to Matt Colglazier, his Sorgrhum works well as a tequila substitute. He made this simple Indiana Margarita mix for the bartenders at The Rail to try out.

There’s a new craft spirit on the market that can claim 100 percent homegrown Indiana status — Sorgrhum, America’s First Sweet Sorghum Spirit.

Labor Of Love

Creator Matt Colglazier is a spirits enthusiast who decided to take his hobby to the next level. Through his American Craft Spirits website, he’s tasted spirits from all over the country, none of which were using sorghum. He wondered why not. “This is a homegrown sugar source. Why is nobody making this into booze?”

Colglazier speculates that potential distillers may have been deterred by how labor intensive it is to prep sorghum.

It grows like sugar cane, so the juice is in the stalk. The stalks are dried out and then pressed in a mill. The sugar is then boiled, similar to how maple syrup is prepared.

Most likely, the only people who attempted this process, Colglazier says, were farmers, “who have an incredible work ethic, no time for leisure and go to bed at 6:00pm,” and were probably not drinkers in the first place, he adds. “So, none of those people were like, ‘Hey let’s turn this into booze.’ That was my job.”

Old Fashioned Partnership

When he first started forming the idea for a homegrown craft spirit two years ago, he wanted to plant his own sorghum. But he scratched that and eventually got in touch with an Amish farmer who lives near Bromer, Indiana.

The seeds he uses to grow the sorghum have been in his family for 48 years, and most sorghum mills that have been reclaimed are over 100 years old. This makes for a very old fashioned prep process.

“Nothing more than a simple machine ever touches any of this, from the time it’s a seed to the time it’s actually in the bottle,” he says.

Tastes Like Home

The next step required collaboration as well, because unlike beer and wine, you can’t produce spirits for beverage purposes out of your own home. So, he joined forces with Stuart Hobson, the owner of Heartland Distilling in Indianapolis.

When they sampled the first batch, the sweet and earthy flavor was unlike any other craft spirit they’d tasted.

“It’s like tequila but it’s not. It’s like white rum but it’s not. It goes really well as a tequila substitute,” he says. “It’s really it’s own flavor profile.”

More: Read more about Matt Colglazier’s love of craft spirits here: American Craft Spirits Celebrates The Uniqueness Of Place.

Behind The Bar

One of the few places you can order a drink made with Sorgrhum is The Rail in Bloomington, Indiana.

Bartender Ben Zemel mixes a couple cocktails that incorporate Sorgrhum. He says it works best in a sour:

  • 2 ounces of liquor
  • ½ ounce sweetener
  • ¾ ounce of acid

From that basic formula, he can then get creative. “It always makes things interesting to work off of a new product,” he says, “something that’s not the same thing done over and over again, but something that’s really original.”

sorgrhum sour

Photo: Eoban Binder

The Rail in Bloomington, Indiana is one of the few bars that carries Sorgrhum. This Sorgrhum Sour is garnished with a few drops of Angostura bitters.

Sorgrhum Sour

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces White Sorgrhum
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup (2 parts water, 1 part sugar)
  • 3/4 ounce fresh squeeze lemon juice
  • white of 1 egg
  • Angostura bitters (garnish only)

Cooking Directions

  1. Fill 16-ounce shaker with Sorgrhum, simple syrup, lemon juice and egg white, then fill to the top with ice.
  2. Put that in a 23-ounce shaker and shake like crazy.
  3. Double-strain the drink into a coupe and sidecar glass.
  4. Garnish with several drops of Angostura bitters around the drink. Make a fun design by swirling the bitters around the fluffy top of the drink.

Hellfire Sorgrhum Sour

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces White Sorgrhum
  • 1/2 ounce Orgeat syrup
  • 1/3 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/3 ounce lime juice
  • 1/3 eye dropper Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub
  • white of 1 egg
  • Angostura bitters (garnish only)

Cooking Directions

  1. Fill 16-ounce shaker with Sorgrhum, Orgeat syrup, lemon and lime juices, Hellfire Shrub and egg white, then fill to the top with ice.
  2. Put that in a 23-ounce shaker and shake like crazy.
  3. Double-strain the drink into a coupe and sidecar glass.
  4. Garnish with several drops of Angostura bitters and Hellfire Shrub around the drink. Make a fun design by swirling the bitters around the fluffy top of the drink.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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