Food & Drink

Five O'clock Somewhere: Sweet potato vodka developed at Michigan State University



Lovers of vodka made from sweet potatoes, rejoice! The North Carolina sweet potato harvest is coming in, and it's healthy and huge, compared to last year's, which was hampered by wet weather at planting time.

What's that? You didn't know there was such a thing as sweet potato vodka? There is indeed such a thing. It's called Covington Gourmet Vodka, billed as the "Best Yam Vodka on Earth." We spoke with co-owner Jim Eason, who points out that some 52 percent of the American sweet potato harvest comes from the Tarheel State, and that about 90 percent of those sweet potatoes are a variety called Covington, hence the vodka's name.

While Covington Vodka comes from the sunny land to the South, it turns out that Michigan was instrumental in its development. Eason tells us it was developed several years ago in Michigan, thanks to MSU's Artisan Distilling Program. "We actually brought sweet potatoes to Michigan State University," Eason says. "We spent a week with the professor and his crew and we made our very first batch of sweet potato vodka there."

What does it taste like? Eason says, "It's more expensive to use sweet potatoes than even white potatoes and especially corn or wheat. But it's 100 percent naturally gluten-free and 'Putin-free.' But we don't distill or filter the hell out of it, so those sweet potato caramel notes really do transfer over in the distillation process." Evidently, those subtleties paid off, as the vodka won a gold medal in the 2013 World Spirits Competition. That's not just impressive; that's yam impressive!

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