Prohibition Pig played a huge role in my drinking education: I first tried fernet at the Waterbury Brewery and Barbeque.
It was 2013 or so, and Fernet-Branca had its own tap next to beer. I sat at the bar, staring at its shelves full of booze and hoping I was cool enough to drink the bitter, confusing, almost medicinal shot.
These days, the school of spirits is high on the agenda at Pro Pig. In November, the restaurant launched its liquor company as part of an effort to bring its bar-to-ceiling liquor wall back to its pre-pandemic full glory.
The back of the menu of dishes now lists 30 three-ounce liquor flights, covering local spirits, after-dinner drinks, mezcal, rum, and 17 domestic and foreign whiskey selections.
“We’re highlighting some of our favorite things and digging into what Vermont has to offer, but we’re also taking people around the world,” said Jackson Strayer-Benton, beverage director for Heirloom Hospitality, the group. of restaurants in Vermont which includes Pro Pig, the two locations of Hen of the Wood and Stowe’s Doc Ponds.
“And [they’re] learning while they taste,” added Laura Thompson, Pro Pig bar manager.
You can, however, pair a flight of 12-, 17- and 25-year-old single malt Scotch from the Speyside Whiskey Distillery with pork cheek patty, peeling prawns or duck fat fries at Pro Pig.
The range includes its fair share of hard-to-find bottles that are new on the wall, including unique Highland Park Fire and Ice editions.
It also offers local favorites including Caledonia Spirits vodka and gin; rum from Mad River Distillers; and Dead Bird Brandy and Pommeau from the Shelburne Orchards Distillery, which is a treat rarely available outside of the orchard itself.
“We’re excited about this one, because it’s just mind blowing what Nick [Cowles] done here,” Strayer-Benton said of the orchard owner.
Each flight is served on an Original Provisions tasting board made from staves of old Maker’s Mark casks by Executive Chef Jordan Ware of Hen of the Wood in Burlington. It comes with a cheat sheet highlighting what’s special about the selections, from historical context to complex processes.
As I sipped the Old Forester Flight ($31), Strayer-Benton explained that it’s the only bourbon that was continuously sold by the same company before, during, and after Prohibition. Each pour highlights a different style of aging.
The card accompanying the Xicaru mezcal flight ($30) notes that chicken is added in the final distillation of the Pechuga Mole — a traditional step in the pechuga process that makes the drink non-vegetarian, Strayer-Benton confirmed.
While flights cost between $15 and $80, with most being between $20 and $40, the Liquor Corporation is free to join. Each member receives a tracking page in the Liquor Corporation binder. When they reach benchmarks of 10, 20 or all 30 flights – named Sea Bird, Malahat and Tomoka, respectively, for Prohibition-era smuggling ships – they are rewarded with gifts, gift cards or a private tasting.
“I’m always surprised who orders what,” Thompson said. “I carded the first person to command the Grand Marnier flight, and he was 22. He said his grandfather drank it all the time.”
Pro Pig’s motto is “Meat Here”, but it might as well be “Drink Here”.