Martini’s… shakin’ not stirred. Highballs…on the rocks or straight up? Whatever your poison there are a plethora of choices when it comes to selecting ones five o’clock libation. Let’s put beer and wine aside for a moment and take a look at the spirits industry. It’s on fire. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, Inc.,” the global craft spirits market is expected to reach USD 80.43 billion by 2025.”
Michael Davidson is the owner and CEO of Black Infusions and is celebrating five years with his Distilled Spirit Specialties. He’s developed a product that is taking the market by storm, one sip at a time. His handcrafted infused vodka comes in two flavors, Black Fig Vodka and Gold Apricot Vodka. It’s made in small batches, producing on average 10,000 bottles per batch, is hand-filled and specially bottled in Bend, Oregon. Approximately one pound of fruit goes into each bottle. The product is delectable and sui generis. Luxury spirits is not all this gentleman is cultivating, nor his only success story. We’ll get to his other liquid venture after soaking in the work he’s doing with dried fruit and corn.
Black Infusions The Story
Black Infusions Vodka celebrated their five-year anniversary in September 2018. I was curious as to how this Bostonian got his fig-gig started. I know I said we would the wine aside, however, it plays an important part in the company’s history. Michael spent 10 years making his own wine at home. He said, “I have always been interested in how wines pair with different foods, and how each complements the dining experience. After much experimentation, I discovered that I could make high-quality, all-natural spirits in a way no one before me was doing, that mirrored the craftsmanship and care of winemaking.”
Black Fig Vodka has since grown in distribution to 14 markets across the United States and was awarded Double Gold honors for Best Flavored Vodka at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Infused Vodka is the New Black
Michael is a lifelong entrepreneur and his attention to detail extends beyond the product. What does “black” represent in the company name? Michael explained his ‘black’ philosophy, “The adjective ‘black’ often implies the highest level of exclusivity–the Black Card is available by invitation only, and a Black Tie event indicates a formal affair. To that end, we chose the name Black Infusions to capture the specialness of these premium blends.”
Why Figs? Why Apricots
Michael was looking for a flavor that would appeal to a diverse global palate. “Figs and apricots are very versatile and complement a wide variety of cuisines, from Mediterranean and Italian food to steak dishes. After much trial and error, we arrived at the most high quality, all-natural infused spirits, Black Fig Vodka and Gold Apricot Vodka.”
I didn’t walk away with the secret recipe for the salacious drink but Michael was clear to highlight some of the techniques they use to ensure their black-label preeminence. As with any good story, there must be a view, the sound of a babbling brook and birds singing sweetly off in the distance. Okay, that may be a little much, but I can tell you that their distillery overlooks the Cascade Mountains and sits by the Deschutes River. They say, “home to the purest water sources in the world” and given the calibre of the product, it must be part of the magic.
The Black Fig Vodka “begins as a gluten-free spirit base made from corn. It’s then filtered through charcoal, and then again through lava rock.” They add the dried, whole California figs and let is sit four to six weeks. The product is gluten-free and kosher-certified. The Apricot Gold experiences the same process…replace figs with apricots, repeat.
Michael explains how the charcoal filtration system impacts the final product, “Filtration is often an overlooked and under-appreciated part of the production process, but for Black Infusions, it is critical to our success. We follow a tradition of filtration through Volcanic Lava Rock that produces a super-smooth vodka with no bite and no burn.” No bite, no burn. It’s smooth.
To ensure consistency in the product taste and quality from one batch to another tasting is critical, “It’s a constant process of trial and error that sometimes takes up to nine rounds to get it exactly right. It’s a time-consuming method but one that we’ll never compromise, to ensure the highest quality Black Infusions vodkas.”
When asked what flavor he’ll be pairing with vodka next he simply replies, “Stay tuned! Similar to Black Fig and Gold Apricot, we’ll only consider new flavors that complement our favorite foods, are all-natural, with no artificial flavors or additives of any kind.”
The Story Continues….
Now, I wish I had the skinny on Black Infusions next release, I’ll stay on top of that. What I can tell you is that the story isn’t over. Michael’s entrepreneurial spirit has him also dabbling in another liquid venture, this time it’s olive oil. He co-founding Metrowest International LLC, a company that produces and distributes “Olliv,” a premium organic olive oil from Greece. Olliv brings the same developmental pleasure to this flavor-seeker. There must be some similarities to crafting both products, right? “Similar to Black Infusions, Olliv brings out the best flavors of foods and is all-natural, with a clean, light taste that is unlike any olive oil I’ve ever tried. With both these brands, we will never cut corners or compromise quality for commercial gain; it’s this careful curation that ensures only the highest products on the market.”
Forever an Entrepreneur
This entrepreneur says what he enjoys most about creating his own destiny is “no two days are ever alike, and every day presents new challenges and exciting opportunities. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” It’s more than luck that brings him continued prosperity. He follows these pillars and claim they’re the foundation for his success: “stay relentlessly focused on your goals; know what you know–and what you don’t know; and seek feedback from others. Feedback is the gift that keeps giving, as it allows us to continually pivot and improve as we go.”
Michael Davidson, Fun Facts
It’s always fun to veer off topic a bit as I wind down an interview. You never know what you might learn. My first question wasn’t too far off base for this interviewee, I just couldn’t resist.
What is your favorite cocktail?
That’s a tough one as it really depends on what types of food I’m eating and who I’m celebrating with. Lately, I’ve been partial to the Fig Martini and The Godfather, the Apricot French Martini and the Apricot Tom Collins. All recipes…can be found on blackinfusions.com.
What is your favorite book?
Right now, I’m reading as much as I can about the spirits industry and the history behind this fascinating business. I just finished, “Inside the Bottle: People, Brands and Stories,” by Arthur Shapiro. It’s a funny and honest insider’s look at the exciting world of liquor! A really fun read that I couldn’t put down.
Savory or Sweet?
How do you define luxury?
Luxury is all about the details of a given product or experience-like the way we only hand-select the best fruit for our vodkas, and continually test each batch until it exceeds our expectations. Luxury is a mindset, when only the best will do.
My Final Thoughts…
For the savvy cocktail connoisseur looking for a luxe spirit to add to their personal mixology collection, Black Infusions Vodka is a must. Fig or apricot? Why not both! Equally Olliv should be explored and both make incredible holiday gifts.
Please enjoy the cookie and cocktail recipes provided (below) by Black Infusions. Let me know what you think of the product. Cheers!
Michael, thank you for the interview!
Cookie & Cocktail Recipes:
Black Fig Martini
- 1.5 oz Black Fig Vodka
- 1.5 oz Vodka
- Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives
Combine both vodkas in a shaker.
Add ice, shake, and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with blue cheese stuffed olives.
Apricot Spritz Martini
- 2 oz Gold Apricot
- ½ oz Prosecco
- Dash of Lemon Juice
- Club Soda
- Lemon Twist or Apricot Slice
Combine the vodka and lemon juice in a shaker filled with ice.
Shake until chilled.
Add a splash of club soda and lightly stir.
Strain into a martini glass and top with prosecco.
Garnish with a lemon twist or slice of fresh apricot.
Black Fig Infused Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- ¾ tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 cup Old Fashioned Oats
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- ½ cup Raw Honey
- ½ cup Black Fig Vodka
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 Large Eggs (room temperature)
- 12 oz Dark Chocolate Chunks (or chips)
Preheat oven to 375℉ (or 350℉ if using a convection).
Combine baking soda, flour, salt, and oats in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, combine butter, sugar, honey, and Black Fig Vodka.
Beat on medium-high speed for two minutes and add vanilla.
Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed.
Scrape sides of bowl and gradually add flour mixture on low speed. Be careful not to over mix.
Fold in chocolate chunks.
Drop by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown.