Michigan grandmother has started selling her cherry vodka

LANSING– For decades, Hedy Steinbart has made cherry-infused vodka out of her Lansing home for family parties and holidays.

Now Steinbart, 92, can go to the liquor store and buy a bottle of her own concoction.

Her grandson, Kyle Miller, of Chicago, contracted a distillery to mass produce Oma’s cherry-infused vodka and launched the brand this winter in Illinois. Oma’s is now distributed in Michigan and available at six stores in Greater Lansing.

“People started asking for it before we even got it,” said Rich McCarius, owner of Tom’s Party Store in East Lansing. “Once it was available, we ordered a case right away. It’s a unique vodka. It’s selling really well.”

A 750 mL bottle of the 80-proof vodka sells for $35.99.

“I was so happy to see it (in the store),” Steinbart told the Lansing State Journal.

She picked up a bottle earlier this month at Vine & Brew in Okemos. “I wanted to be the first customer.”

Miller said people love the story behind the vodka and its Midwest roots.

“Once they taste the vodka, it seals the deal,” said Miller, an Okemos native who has partnered with Chicago-based Accelerated Brands Corp to market the vodka across the Great Lakes region.

Oma’s vodka is infused with Michigan Montmorency cherries. It’s not artificially flavored.

Because of that it is smooth and lacks the burn many types of vodka have, making it a versatile drink, said Dave Perry, president of Accelerated Brands.

Steinbart learned the recipe from her parents when growing up in Hanover, Germany. She moved to the U.S. in 1952, and her vodka infusion became a staple at family gatherings.

At home, she soaks cherries in 100 proof vodka for four months. Because the alcohol content reduces over that time period, she then adds sugar and spikes it once more. The final product ends up being around 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol.

Steinbart will take a break from making it this year.