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A Father-Daughter Duo Brings Good Spirits to the Hudson Valley

Sophie + Rory

Sophie Newsom is the owner and flavor developer of Cooper’s Daughter Spirits, a distillery and cooperage in Claverack, New York, that she co-founded alongside her father, Stuart Newsome. The pair combined their interests in the farm-to-table movement and historic restoration, and the end result is a women-owned and family operated distillery located in the Hudson Valley.

We spoke with Sophie to learn more about the origins of Cooper’s Daughter Spirits, how she came to operate the distillery with her father and how she sources inspiration for new flavors.

sophie newsom

How did your passion for the farm-to-table movement draw you to found Cooper’s Daughter?
My dad had a hobby of fermentation and distillation, and I was always telling him that he should change careers since he was so passionate about it. So when I learned about the Farm Distillery Act, I realized that I also wanted in on this potential new endeavor. I loved the idea of utilizing local farm products to make delicious distillates.

When did the concept take flight?
We established Cooper’s Daughter Spirits in 2015. We are coming up on five years in October of being open for visitation at the distillery. One year prior to opening the tasting room (now known as the Cocktail Garden), we were out at festivals selling spirits by the bottle and marking our brand.

How did your father’s background in historic restoration lead to the decision to be a cooper?
It takes a very long time to open a distillery. So, during our two and a half year process of opening the doors, Stuart was thinking creatively about other revenue streams that were still related to our final mission of opening this business. Coopering never became a money making venture, but it was an extremely valuable skill once we started the distillery, and it also allowed us to open up conversations with other distilleries more easily and learn a lot more about the industry. I often joke that the barrels became our Trojan Horse, although we were always upfront with people that we were also hoping to open a distillery one day.

When did you decide to partner with your father in the business?
We started exploring the idea shortly after I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2013.

bottle of smoked maple bourbon

How do you come up with the flavors you create?
I find inspiration from our local farmers. I love looking at what they are growing and experimenting with the different botanicals, fruits and other amazing ingredients available here in the Hudson Valley.

What is your process for developing new flavors?
Once I have an ingredient in mind, it’s just about experimenting from there. Some experiments work out on the first try and some never end up working at all.

Do you have a favorite flavor? Does your father?
It’s pretty much impossible for me to pick one since I develop all of the flavors, but right now it’s Thai Basil Liqueur season, so I am enjoying it mixed with our Smoked Maple Bourbon and slices of cucumber – or as a “Bojito” with mint, our Diamond Srt Vodka and sparkling water. My dad tends to love bourbons and whiskies (Black Walnut Bourbon, Smoked Maple Bourbon and Mulled Peach Whiskey), and he also loves the Buddha’s Hand Vodka, which he enjoys in a dry, English style cider.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs interested in participating in the farm-to-table movement?
Foster direct relationships with your local farmers.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about Cooper’s Daughter?
We just purchased a 16 acre orchard in Red Hook, New York to grow apples for producing our vodkas. We will still work with local farms as well to process the apples into juice.


Nina Derwin

Nina Derwin is a Brooklyn-based writer with a passion for the art of storytelling. In addition to writing for various clients and publications, Nina has written several episodes of scripted television for networks including Starz and Fox.


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