2023 Best of Lake Erie: Sips & Spirits

Sip your way through our magnificent shores with refreshing cocktails, boat drinks, bourbon experiences, wine tours and more.

Best New Wine Tour: Locale Wine Tours
Locale Wine Tours prides itself on delivering a grape education. Did you know that 85% of grapes grown in the Chautauqua region are sold to Welch’s, and the remaining 14% are crafted into wine? “There are more than 20,000 acres of vineyards in the county, which is the largest grape-growing area outside of California,” says Morgan Dinger, who started the tours with her husband, Matthew. During the daylong tour, you’ll visit three wineries and enjoy a flight at each stop in the towns of Westfield, New York, and North East, Pennsylvania — all led by a certified wine expert. “You’ll learn a lot,” Morgan says. “We don’t just drop you off at a winery.” localewinetours.com

Best Craft Cocktails: Twisted Lemon
There’s always been a creative bent at the Twisted Lemon Restaurant & Boutique Inn in Cayuga, Ontario, where chef and proprietor Laurie Megna, who is classically French-trained, plucks herbs and veggies from a sustainable garden 30 steps from the kitchen back door. But a “divine intervention during the pandemic” took that creativity even further, resulting in a new line of Clarity Cocktails that can be enjoyed with dinner or purchased and taken home, including creative concoctions made with vodka, gin, whiskey and tequila. “Clarity Cocktails were the answer to the problem,” Megna says, “and allow us to expedite service while delivering drinks with layers of flavor.” twistedlemon.ca

Best Bourbon Experience: Everwild Spirits
Everwild Spirits in Sandusky, Ohio, is a bourbon lover’s paradise created by husband/wife duo Rick Lynch and Gia Gennari-Lynch. Their journey began in 2020 with the acquisition of more than 300 barrels from Kentucky suppliers that they aged, finished and blended in-house with award-winning results. Everwild prides itself on catering to all bourbon drinkers, 50 percent of whom are women. “Women have 10,000 more taste buds than men, so they experience the drink differently,” says Gia. She established Whiskey Girls on the second Wednesday of each month to give all those extra taste buds the chance to sample whiskey flights and seasonal craft cocktails, like this one. everwildspirits.com

Best Boat Drinks: Blood Mary Bar and Shiphouse Vodka
Boating and drinking go together like fish and chips, once the boat is docked, that is. Here are two ways to indulge. 

The Bloody Mary bar at the Old Fish House bar in Huron, Ohio, became so popular that the owners decided to bottle their concoction. Now, you can take home the award-winning Ship Faced Bloody Mary Mix. shipfacedbloodymarymix.com 

Distilled six times and filtered 10 times through activated charcoal, Shiphouse Vodka is made from wheat and corn and poured into a bottle that’s a real keeper —a replica of the Benson Ford ore freighter that sits on land in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. shiphousevodka.com

Best Coffee: What’s His Nuts?
They call it “comfort in a cup,” and we agree. Saucy Brew Works has five Ohio locations, including Sandusky and Put-in-Bay. While they brew both beer and coffee, it’s this mild blend — What’s His Nuts? — that won us over with notes of chocolate and peanut butter. saucybrewworks.com

Best Beer: Pulpo Brewing Co.
If you’re a first-timer at Pulpo in Willoughby or Westlake, Ohio, then it’s apropos to order its first-ever brew — the Blonde Mamacita, an ale with premium malts and hops that delivers a sweet-and-dry finish. It’s an easy, satisfying swill, as are the rest of the brewery’s beers. pulpobeerco.com

Best Pairing: Grand River Cellars
Cookie dough and wine. That’s what we call indulgence, and a pairing of both is offered at Grand River Cellars in Madison, Ohio, in April and May. (Mark your calendars.) Can’t wait that long? Check out the chocolate and wine pairing tray. grandrivercellars.com