Summer Zest

By: The Local Palate
summer zest ready to be enjoyed at the pool
Recipe from Jake MacDowell and Justin Buchanan | Photography courtesy of Zest

This drink has a history. Zest lemon drop vodka was created by Jake MacDowell and Justin Buchanan, two of the country’s youngest distillers. Following a research project at Wofford College, the former roommates-turned-business partners decided to pursue making Colonial-era rum. They later founded Red Harbor Rum, a barrel-aged rum featuring charred oak flavors and gives a nod to Charleston heritage. 

During the pandemic, the pair realized it was time to start anew. “We wanted to create something completely different–light, refreshing, and fun,” MacDowell says. After contacting industry professionals, the two discovered what bartenders and consumers were looking for: an all-natural lemon drop they’ve since named Zest.

They searched the country for the perfect lemon juice and landed on one from California lemon trees. Combined with vodka and cane sugar, Zest strays from the commonly used artificial sweeteners for a low-calorie option that transports you to summer wherever you are. With Zest having become one of South Carolina’s fastest-growing liquor brands, you’ll want to get your hands on this liquid gold soon. Mix it with club soda over ice and throw on fresh rosemary, as MacDowell suggests, for a timeless Summer Zest cocktail.

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Makes 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces Zest lemon drop vodka
  • 5 ounces club soda
  • Garnish: Lemon wheel and fresh rosemary
  1. Combine ingredients in a glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon wheel and fresh rosemary

  • Recipe by Jake MacDowell
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