RI-based company launching its oyster vodka in CT

Photo of Leeanne Griffin

It's not unusual to see an oyster as a garnish for a Bloody Mary, lending a taste of the ocean to the savory cocktail. But a new vodka product, launching soon in Connecticut, has distilled the essence of the sea into a bottle. 

The Industrious Spirit Company, a distillery based in Providence, garnered national coverage earlier this year with the launch of Ostreida, its vodka distilled with local oysters. Now they're moving into the Nutmeg State, introducing the spirit to restaurants and bars through distributor Brescome Barton.

The Industrious team was inspired to make the bivalve-infused spirit when they were commemorating their first year in business in 2021, enjoying drinks and oysters at Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown.

"We opened right at the beginning of COVID — March of 2020," said Manya K. Rubinstein, Industrious' CEO. "So we were sort of celebrating the fact that we survived the year. And we just started thinking: This is such a classic pairing. Why has nobody done this? We should try it."

The team first made batches of Ostreida with Rhode Island oysters, including Matunuck and East Beach Blonde varieties, and also Powder Point oysters from Duxbury Bay in Massachusetts. As Industrious launches the spirit in Connecticut, they're working on a special batch with oysters from the Thimble Islands. Each bottle now comes with a neck tag, highlighting the farm’s location and date of harvest.

The brand will introduce Ostreida at Shell & Bones in New Haven on June 23 with a "Meet the Producer" happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m., with special cocktails and pairings. The vodka's suggested retail price is $39.99. 

Industrious Spirits is also donating a portion of all Ostreida bottle sales to Connecticut-based nonprofit GreenWave, which works to train and support ocean farmers in the era of climate change. 

"We're extra psyched to be launching in Connecticut, where they're from," Rubenstein said. "The partnership with GreenWave was a nice way to continue that conversation about what sustainability looks like on the ocean, as opposed to in the land."

Industrious describes Ostreida as "the perfect expression of land and sea," with the salinity and minerality of the oysters lending oceanic flavor to the 100 percent organic corn-based spirit. Rubenstein said it's like a "slightly oystery dirty martini in a bottle," ready to serve over ice with an olive or a citrus twist. 

Rubenstein referenced the term "merroir" — similar to "terroir" for wine — to describe the environmental factors that create the taste of an oyster. "The flavors come through the distillation, so it's a fun way to make it an even more local product," she said. "We're able to get the special flavors of that place."

Ostreida is also a good base spirit for Bloody Marys, Rubenstein said, and noted that she wasn't sold on the idea at first. 

"At the beginning, I said 'I don't know, it's just such a beautiful, delicate spirit; you're going to lose that in a Bloody Mary,'" she said. "But I became a total convert after trying some. It adds this umami kick and this extra body...it turns a good Bloody Mary into a sublime Bloody Mary." 

Industrious' team has also used Ostreida in a "Chi of the Sea" cocktail with brine from locally-produced kimchi by Providence's Chi Kitchen, and a "Friggitello" drink, their version of a Hot and Dirty martini incorporating Ostreida fat-washed with pepperoncini butter, hot sauce and pickled radish. 

But Ostreida goes beyond fully savory drinks, too. Rubenstein said Jasper White's Summer Shack in Cambridge, Mass. is using the oyster vodka with passion fruit puree and pineapple juice for a "Salted Dreams" cocktail. And as Industrious kicks off its Connecticut launch with a special tasting event at New Haven's Shell & Bones restaurant June 23, the bar there will use the spirit to make an "Oyster of My Eye" cocktail with grapefruit, rosemary and lemon.