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A peak inside a Lake Placid gin mill

September 19, 2013

LAKE PLACID - Gin is the new vodka.

That statement holds true for the crew at Lake Placid Spirits, anyway. They started this summer selling Blue Line Gin, an addition to their line of three vodkas.

Mike McGlynn, or better known in Lake Placid as "Twig," showed the News his operation Monday, just after he and his production team finished bottling and boxing up a batch of gin.

Article Photos

Photo/Jessica Collier
Mike “Twig” McGlynn holds up a piece of white pine, the local botanical he adds to Lake Placid Spirit’s new Blue Line Gin.

When the gin is distilling, McGlynn said the scent of the botanicals fill his small office, tucked behind Swedish Hill Winery on Cascade Road. It's clearly just office space and a distillery - there's no extra room for a tasting area for guests to visit.

That was a decision McGlynn and his partner, Ann Stillman O'Leary, made when they decided to go into the spirits business. While many small breweries popping up around the area include a pub or at least a tasting room, McGlynn felt a tasting room for his product would detract too much from local businesses.

The office where Lake Placid Spirits are made is a long, narrow space on the side of a building that is mostly a garage. The front is packed with stacks of paperwork - it's a complicated process with the government to get and keep a license to make spirits, he said - computers and marketing materials. There are clean, white boxes with gin and vodka labels affixed to them on stacked tightly into a shelving unit, and a number of distilling materials are shoved into a rolling cart in the corner. Because it's such a small space, everything needs to be able to roll around, McGlynn said.

Behind the "office" area is the distillery, which houses several large tanks covered in sticky notes and memos markered directly onto them, a fermenter that used to be a bulk milk tank at a dairy, and a traditional copper still that was made in Portugal. Newspaper clippings, maps and other things of interested are taped and pinned around the walls.

McGlynn uses water from Lake Placid in all Lake Placid Spirits products. When it's pumped into local faucets, the water has chlorination added, so he gets it directly from the lake and filters it seven times before using it. He has to go to the house of a friend who has a bubbler in the water to keep it from freezing in the winter.

"We take great pride that we're using Lake Placid lake water," McGlynn said.

Lake Placid Spirits started with vodkas, including P3 Placid grain-based vodka, 46 Peaks potato vodka and Alpenglow, a cranberry maple flavored vodka. But gin is has an extra step in cooking it: soaking and including the botanicals that flavor it.

Juniper has to be included in gin by law. McGlynn gets some of it from near the Crow Mountains in Keene, and he had to get it verified by Cornell Cooperative Extension to ensure it was the right strain of juniper.

Then he decided that he wanted to focus on white pine as his entirely local ingredient.

"I'm trying to use as many local things as I can," McGlynn said.

After that, he tried combinations of about 30 different botanicals like lemongrass and grapefruit peel to get the taste he was looking for.

"We're trying to bring forth the white pine essence," McGlynn said.

What he came up with has a softer finish than many gins.

"When you drink it, it doesn't have a lot of bite," he said.

Now that they've got gin nailed down, McGlynn said he hopes to work on a line of whiskeys.

Blue Line Gin has been popular so far, McGlynn said. Brandon DeVito, who bartends at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery and works as a salesman for High Peaks Distributing, told the News that he's a fan.

"They really hit a home run with this," DeVito said. "As a drinker, I'm not a gin fan, but it being more 'wet' style gin with less of a juniper base, I love it and enjoy it on ice."

As a bartender, he said he likes that he can mix it into a complex cocktail or serve it simply as a gin and tonic. And as a salesman, he said the fact that it's local and has a piney flavor that reminds people of Adirondacks while it still tastes great makes it a competitor against well-known imported brands like Tangueray or Bombay.

A number of local restaurants are listing speciality drinks using Blue Line Gin on their menus, like the Aperol Tom Collins at Freestyle Cuisine or the "Cumbersome Concoction" at Lisa G's, and Zig Zags Pub is offering it as the well gin. It's is also available for sale by the bottle in a number of area liquor stores.

For more information, visit

Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or



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