Cedar Rapids just got a little more tipsy.
Bleu Vodka, co-founded by Cedar Rapids locals Alizabeth and Britt Jetter and Dr. Tony VandenBush, is making its debut in Iowa after almost two years of working through the state’s complicated alcoholic beverage licensing process — which includes mountains of paperwork and requires a “suitable physical address” to associate the business with. Basically, you can’t be making vodka out of your basement, VandenBush explained.
Now with a facility on the Southwest side of Cedar Rapids (not a store front) and all the paperwork completed, Bleu is beginning to filter into the corridor’s grocery stores and restaurants, including Hy-Vee, New Pioneer Co-op, the Doubletree’s 350 Frist, Need Pizza and more.
The Jetters — originally from Chicago (Alizabeth) and Flint, Michigan (Britt) — met and married in Cedar Rapids and worked for several corporations (including General Mills, Quaker Oats and Coca-Cola) in Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and California before returning to Cedar Rapids two years ago.
Although the weather was warm in California and Texas, “the people were cold,” Alizabeth said. They missed Iowa’s warm, welcoming hospitality and wanted a break from the corporate grind, an opportunity to try something new — which is exactly what they saw in post-flood Cedar Rapids.
“There’s an immense spirit here,” Alizabeth said. “Cedar Rapids is a place where whatever you want to do you can absolutely do. The community will support you, get behind you, it’s a groundswell of support, a catalytic movement all about encouragement, love and a sprinkle dust of success.”
As they began to develop business plans — some that fell through, like a “fun center” for kids and adults alike — they started to familiarize themselves with the city’s startup community. But it wasn’t until they bumped into VandenBush, a research scientist and entrepreneur, that the idea of Bleu was born.
It was August of 2014 when the three “clicked” at their first meeting. VandenBush came equipped with his family’s heirloom liquor recipes passed from generation to generation and the Jetters fell in love with the wild blueberry liquor that eventually became “Bleu Original.”
“When I tasted it, I was like ‘this is it,” Alizabeth said.
There are currently two flavors on the market — “Blue Original,” a wild blueberry liquor and “Bleu PEL,” a citrus liquor — but additional flavors are in the works.
Although the owners are careful not to release the secrets behind the distinctly blue 60 proof liquor, they admit the all natural flavor and color comes from soaking wild blueberries in alcohol, distilling it for an undisclosed amount of time and finally adding a sweetener to give it its sweet, syrupy flavor.
As Bleu picks up in popularity in Iowa, spreading even to Illinois, the owners are considering “going national.”
But in order to “go big,” they’ll need to fundraise, Alizabeth said. So before they get too ahead of themselves, they’ll concentrate on “getting Iowa right” first, she added.
The Nightlock Berry
1.5 ounces Bleu Original Vodka
4 ounce lemonade
4 zero BLEU
2 ounces Bleu Original
3 ounces Simply Limeade
Generous splash of club soda
Top with fresh blueberries and mint
BLEU PEL Cranberry Crush
1 ounce Bleu PEL
2.5 ounces Cranberry Juice Cocktail
For more, visit bleuvodka.com
Originally posted by ”The Gazette” in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States.
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