Spectacular Spirits

Northwest Montana’s modern moonshiners put new twists on old favorites

By Justin Franz

One-hundred years ago, on a patch of land tucked between the Middle Fork of the Flathead River and the Lewis and Clark Range, Josephine Doody ran a moonshine operation the likes of which Al Capone would be proud.

In the early 1900s, Doody earned the nickname the “Bootleg Lady of Glacier Park” and she operated at least three stills in the wilderness north of Nyack. Legend has it her shine was so good it would stop Great Northern Railway trains right in their tracks. At the peak of her reign, trainmen would help Doody distribute her product along the line and in return a bottle or two would end up in the engineer’s grip for his own enjoyment after a long day on the high iron.

Legend has it, Doody was ferrying her shine across the Middle Fork well into her 80s. She only stopped when federal revenuers busted her stills while enforcing prohibition-era laws in February 1928.

Today’s moonshiners operate on the straight and narrow, but the folks producing whiskeys and vodkas in Northwest Montana still carry on Doody’s creative spirit. To honor that spirit, we asked three modern moonshiners to share their favorite drinks.

Spotted Bear Spirits – Whitefish

The Snow Ghost

The Snow Ghost cocktail from Spotted Bear Spirits in Whitefish on Feb. 3, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

In the shadow of Big Mountain is Spotted Bear Spirits, located in the heart of downtown Whitefish. The valley’s newest distillery is run by Lauren Oscilowski, who says this time of year, at the end of a long workday, she enjoys The Snow Ghost. The coffee cocktail is named for the snow-covered trees that top Big Mountain and it includes Confluence Vodka, house-made coffee liqueur, Montana Coffee Traders cold brew and Kalispell Kreamery half and half, topped with a dollop of homemade whipped cream and freshly grated cinnamon.

“This drink really showcases all of the local collaborations we’ve formed with products from Montana Coffee Traders and Kalispell Kreamery,” Oscilowski says.

Spotted Bear Spirits is open daily from noon to 8 p.m. and is located at 503 Railway Street in Whitefish. For more information, visit www.spottedbearspirits.com.

Glacier Distilling – Coram

The Indian Summer

The Indian Summer cocktail from Glacier Distilling in Coram on Feb. 3, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Although the name conjures up images of warm days in September, Glacier Distilling brand manager Molly Thorvilson says Indian Summer is the perfect cocktail for the cold days of winter. The simple drink is made with the distillery’s Fireweed Whiskey, spiced cranberry syrup and ginger beer. The Fireweed Whiskey is one of the distillery’s most popular spirits and it takes five pounds of locally grown Flathead cherries to make one bottle.

“There is a lot you can do with Fireweed and this cocktail really showcases it well,” Thorvilson says. “Fireweed is a people pleaser and even people who don’t like whiskey love our Fireweed.”

Glacier Distilling is open on Saturday and Sunday in winter from noon until 6 p.m. and is located at 10237 Highway 2 East in Coram. For more information, visit www.glacierdistilling.com.

Whistling Andy – Bigfork

The Russell

The Russell cocktail from Whistling Andy Distilling in Bigfork on Feb. 3, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

In a tip of the hat to one of the West’s most iconic artists, C.M. Russell, Whistling Andy in Bigfork has offered up its own twist on the always-satisfying Old Fashioned. The Russell, which was first created for a fundraiser for the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, includes Whistling Andy’s Harvest Select Whiskey, Agave nectar, orange bitters and is topped with soda water.

“The Agave nectar has some really great earthy tones and it really plays well with the Harvest Select Whiskey,” says distiller Brian Anderson.

Anderson says the Harvest Select is the star of the cocktail, so popular it has been featured in Esquire Magazine and Wine Enthusiast.

Whistling Andy is open daily from noon until 8 p.m. and is located at 8541 Highway 35 Bigfork. For more information, visit www.whistlingandy.com.

Photos by Greg Lindstrom

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