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A Chat and Tour with MSW's Ryan Ebner

Since we firmly believe everything is better outdoors (especially stiff drinks), we tapped the cocktail connoisseurs at Manatawny Still Works to help us sharpen our campsite bartending skills. The folks at Manatawny come from neighboring Montgomery County, right outside of our hometown of Philadelphia, but we share much more than an area code. Manatawny also puts a lot of thought and care into what they make, except their medium is alcohol instead of apparel.

All of their small-batch spirits are meticulously made by hand using a combination of old-world techniques and modern technology. We stopped by their distillery to get a tour, sample (we swear, just a few sips) their cocktails, and to pick their brains about campsite-friendly beverages. Here’s their full story according to one of Manatawny’s own, Ryan Ebner, complete with cocktail recipes designed to be enjoyed (responsibly) around a campfire.

Tell us about Mantawny Still Works! How did you get started?
Manatawny Still Works was founded because a group of guys wanted to create a distillery that represented both themselves and the local community. MSW creates products made professionally but with the thoughtfulness of craft distilling. Our distillery is located along an 18.2 mile tributary of the Schuylkill River, known as Manatawny Creek. The name comes from the Lenape Indians’ word Man'en'tau'wata'wik, or “the place we meet to drink,” and it means the same to us today. Manatawny Still Works was developed to produce world class spirits with character in small batches. Our distillery is modern, but our practices are based on old world production with a reverent nod to the history of the region. The spirit of Manatawny is focused on quality, but rooted in the past.

All of your small-batch spirits are inspired by our hometown of Philadelphia and the surrounding area. What do you wish more people knew about Philly?
The people of Philadelphia love the story behind the product, the pride of local accomplishment. Philadelphians are big fans of the underdog. Perhaps you could call it the Rocky affect.

Which spirit, in your opinion, is the most underrated?
Our Hidden River Gin is a gin that has rested in a whiskey barrel for about six weeks. It combines the herbal flavors of gin with the toasted touch of whiskey. The result is a product that is unique, refreshing, and smooth. It is also the most versatile spirit we offer.

“Our distillery is modern, but our practices are based on old world production with a reverent nod to the history of the region. The spirit of Manatawny is focused on quality, but rooted in the past.”

What are the most versatile mixers that campers can throw in their packs for a campsite cocktail party? What's your avorite way to use them?
If you’re going camping, you better have at least one knife. And if you’re in nature, I say keep it natural. Fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, and cherries can all go into a ziplock. Add a couple sugar packets, and something that fizzes, and you’ve got dozens of options.

What drink reminds you most of the great outdoors?
The most outdoorsy drink I can think of is the Moscow Mule. It includes a root and a fruit, and it’s got a refreshing citrus taste.

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We'd love to pick your brains about what to make at the campsite. What would you whip up if you only brought vodka?
Definitely that Moscow Mule. We make ours by pouring a shot of our Three Bitches Vodka over ice, then adding a couple pumps of ginger syrup and juice from a fresh lime. Top with club soda, then (if you can squeeze it in your pack), garnish with mint and lime.

...and if you're only bringing gin?
A Tom Collins. We call our version an Odd Collins, actually. It’s made with our Odd Fellows No214 Gin, juice from a fresh lemon, sugar, and then topped with club soda (you can use the remaining lemon peel as garnish!). In the fall, we love to swap out club soda for hard apple cider and the lemon for a lime.

What about whiskey?
Room in your bag for ice, and find a quiet spot to enjoy.

Now, Just for Fun

What's your favorite thing to do outside?
Nothing makes me happier than grilling and enjoying the company of good people.

What are you currently obsessed with?
My new favorite thing is woodworking. The smell, the mental calm, the satisfaction of making something by hand.

If you could spend a weekend camping with anyone (fictional, alive, dead, you name it!), who would it be?
I would go camping with Ron Swanson, because he is both an expert outdoorsman and a lover of fine spirits. He’ll bring the scotch, and I’ll show him how real Americans drink whiskey. And we’d both be happy to let mother nature do the talking.

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