EVENING TRIP TO BETTER DAYS

Let’s take an evening trip to the Better Days Distillery in Tilton, Vermilion County’s first and only distillery, located at 8 Hodge St., Tilton. It is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m.

LET’S GET ON THE ROAD

I grabbed my friend, Brenda Jamieson, and we trekked out to the distillery.

Now, since we’re going to a distillery, make sure you either plan to purchase bottles to take home with you to drink later, or have a designated driver. This is important. I drove. I was the DD.

Take Intertate-74 and head east towards Danville. Get off I-74 via Exit 215A. Merge onto Georgetown Road. Then turn left at Southgate Drive. Finally, take the first left onto Hodge Drive. Better Days Distillery is on the left.

We went for their Fall Fling. It was a blast, too. They had a shindig earlier in the year, as well. Both had food, drinks and music. The staff at Better Days said they had upwards of 700 people in attendance for the first party and a little less for the second one. They also have great ideas and room for medium-sized gatherings like bachelor/bachelorette parties, birthday parties, surprise events, party-bus destination parties, engagements and other special occasions.

Brenda and I didn’t know what to expect. I kept conjuring up images of Kentucky relations of old and the stills that folks in those parts were reputed to have in their possession. What I found was a customer-service-oriented business that takes pride in celebrating their patrons. The excitement of the staff was heartwarming, and I didn’t even consume any alcohol! (I did purchase some for later, though: a sample pack with a variety of 14 flavors.)

We had a stellar time with the staff and customers. We stayed for the entire evening. This place is a gem. If you are a connoisseur of fine spirits, you would enjoy a trip to Better Days Distillery. The drive is pleasant, too.

A LITTLE HISTORY

Their story is interesting. It all began when Ernie Trinkle — one of the owners — would chew the fat with a neighbor about distilling their own liquor.

“He just kept talking about it. I wanted to do it,” Trinkle said.

It’s illegal to own a still, said Trinkle. He said that anyone can brew their own craft beer or make their own wine for their own personal consumption.

“Not so for distilled liquor. You have to have a federal permit to have a still.” He said.

Well, that neighbor never did get the still going, but Trinkle did with the help of his friend, Tyler Langston. They literally started out of one their garages, just like Amazon, Google, Disney and Harley-Davidson.

“We’re gutsy anyway. Let’s just do it,” Langston said.

“We’ve had to fight for all of this, the permits and all of the loopholes,” Trinkle said.

“They’ve only been around for a few years and they are working on a third expansion? Sounds like a gold mine to me,” Brenda said to me as we looked around the soon-to-be courtyard.

“I know, right? Wow,” I said.

Trinkle owns Trinkle Siding, and Langston owns T~Z General Contracting. That’s convenient, too, because Langston and Trinkle do all their own renovation work. In the four years since they started distilling, they’re so popular, and the business is expanding at such a great rate, that it makes sense to expand.

“We’re adding 32 more feet to the building, and we just put in a great deal of landscaping for our courtyard,” Langston said.

IT’S A FAMILY THING

Tyler Langston’s wife, Heather Langston, is the bar manager. She has an extensive and impressive customer service background. She was once a corporate trainer. She is also a trained mixologist — a person who creates drinks that are more like pieces of art than just adult beverages.

“We have created signature drinks for customers. I have created some recipes for your readers to try, too,” she said.

She doesn’t mind giving out her special recipes, either. She’s not concerned about copycats.

“I give out my recipes, because our alcohol is so unique that it will not be the same high quality unless they use our product,” she said.

Better Days has 18-plus liquors with names like Buck & A Quarter, Rumshine 8 and That Purple Stuff, which is a cinnamon-flavored spirit. They have created more than 50 specialty cocktails like Hot Shock-A Lot, a cinnamon-flavored hot chocolate digestif, and Devil’s Advocate, a short-glass cocktail that feature their spirits Laid~Back Lemonade and Buck & A Quarter.

“My sister, Tammy Wagner, designed three labels for our products,” Tyler Langston said of his artist sibling.

And if you can’t get out to Tilton right away, you can purchase Better Days’ liquors at many stores and drinking establishments in the area.

“We’re in Friar Tucks, Binny’s, Sunsinger, Brazas, Three Ravens and TJ Walker’s. There’s many more, too,” Trinkle said.

Trinkle’s life partner, Karen McKown, is also Better Days’ web designer. She also takes care of the company books and paperwork.

“When we go to an event, we are the most popular. We’re the biggest draw,” Heather Langston said.

With signature cocktails all under $5 and high-end liquors reasonably priced, we are not surprised.

“Come on out to Better Days! The drinks are good, and the friendships are free,” she said.

For more information on Better Days Distillery, go to betterdaysdistilling.com, visit: Better Days Distillery & Cocktail Bar on Facebook or call them at 217-260-0000.

EXPANDED LIST OF FEATURE DRINKS

VALENTINE'S DAY LOVE POTION:

2 ounces Peach Mango

3/4 ounce Buck & A Quarter

4 ounces red cranberry juice Ice

Fill cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add spirits and juice. Shake well and strain into martini glass. Garnish with strawberry hearts.

PERFECT KISS:

2 ounces Peach Mango

3/4 ounce Buck & A Quarter

1 1/2 teaspoons strawberry syrup

Scoop ice Lemon-lime soda

Combine first four ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour entire contents into tall glass. Fill with soda. Garnish with strawberries.

SPRINGTIME IS IN THE AIR

VIOLETS IN BLOOM:

1 ounce Laid Back Lemonade

1 ounce Peach Mango

1 ounce Buck & A Quarter

Lemon-lime soda

1 ounce blackberry simple syrup OR 4 fresh blackberries muddled with 3/4 ounce of simple syrup

Fill tall glass with ice layer ingredients in order listed, filling with soda, but leaving room to float blackberry on top of glass.

PINK PRINCESS:

1 ounce Buck & A Quarter

1 ounce strawberry syrup

5 ounces ginger ale crushed ice

Combine all ingredients in rocks glass. Stir gently. Garnish with strawberry.

PLANTER'S PUNCH:

1 1/2 ounces Buck & A Quarter

3/4 ounce lemon juice

2 ounces orange juice

1/2 ounce grenadine

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour entire contents into rocks glass. Garnish with Drunken Cherry or Cherry Bomb.

OTHER BETTER DAYS DISTILLERY FAVORITES

GUNFIRE:

1 ounce Buck & A Quarter

6 ounces strong black tea

1/2 ounce simple syrup

Combine in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Pour into rocks glass. Garnish with cherry bomb* to complete the drink.

CHERRY BOMB: "Cherry Bombs are: one quart of maraschino cherries, drained well. Then add 500 ml of Buck & A Quarter, soak at least 48 hrs before serving," Heather Langston said.

AMARETTO STONE SOUR:

2 ounces Amaretto

2 ounces sweet & sour

2 ounces orange juice

Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake until shaker is frosty, and pour all contents into tall glass. Garnish with a cherry bomb.

AMARETTO COFFEE:

2 ounces Amaretto

4 ounces hot coffee

Canned whipped cream

Add Amaretto to glass first. Add coffee, leaving room for whipped topping. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately.

CREAMY CARAMEL APPLETINI:

1 scoop vanilla ice cream

1 scoop ice

2 ounces Apple Strudel

1 ounce Amaretto

Caramel ice cream topping

Canned whipped cream

Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend on the "grate" setting. Drizzle caramel around top edge of martini glass and allow to run down sides. Pour contents of blender into glass. Top with small amount of whipped cream in center of drink. Drizzle additional caramel topping on whipped cream.

COTTON CANDY MARTINI:

3 ounces Cotton Candy

4 ounces white cranberry/strawberry juice

Ice

Puff of fresh cotton candy

Fill martini glass with large puff of cotton candy. In cocktail shaker, combine ice, Cotton Candy spirits and juice. Shake extremely well. Place glass in front of client, and strain contents of shaker into glass in circular motion over cotton candy puff.

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE:

2 ounces Laid~Back Lemonade

1 ounce Buck & A Quarter

3/4 ounce sweet & sour

1/4 ounce grenadine

3 ounces cranberry juice

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake well, and pour entire contents into short glass. Garnish with lemon slice.

HILLBILLY ICE TEA:

1/2 ounce Buck & A Quarter

1/2 ounce Rumshine 8

1/2 ounce Laid~Back Lemonade

1/2 ounce Tilton Tea

1/2 ounce Peach Mango

Cola

Ice

Fill tall glass with ice. Add all measure spirits and cola. Stir gently. Offer cherry bomb as garnish.

HOT SHOCK-ALOT:

1 package hot cocoa mix

2 ounces "That Purple Stuff"

Near boiling hot water

Canned whipped cream

Chocolate syrup

Combine cocoa mix, and "That Purple Stuff" in glass coffee mug. Add hot water, and stir leaving enough room at top of mug for small dollop of whipped cream, drizzled with chocolate syrup. TROPICAL SUNSET: 1 ounce Buck & A Quarter 2 ounces Peach Mango 2 ounces orange juice 2 ounces pineapple juice Splash of grenadine Mix first four ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Pour into glass and add splash of grenadine. Garnish with 125 proof cherry. 

**Enjoy and drink responsibly. Always have a designated driver.**