North Dakotans had to work hard for the booze that they needed back in the old days. There weren’t very many stores around, and even those that were couldn’t sell the stuff until 1933. Like so many other times on the frontier, people had to be handy to get what they wanted — and fairly often that was sweet, brown liquor.

This led to a renaissance of prairie moonshining. Every settler and his uncle had a recipe for strong drink. A man who learned a particularly good one could expect some fanfare wherever he arrived with a bottle under his arm. One of the precursors of the North Dakota distilling scene was Martin Weidner. He came up with the recipe for North Dakota Sweet Crude that would be passed down to his great-grandson Art Weidner.

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“My brother and I learned how to make Sweet Crude in the kitchen from our dad,” said Art. “I never really shared it with anyone until I gave a bottle to a man as thanks for letting me hunt on his land. He told me that I could come back any time so long as I brought him more. That made me realize that I have something special, and I wanted to share that with everyone.”

Art left his aerospace career in Seattle to establish Doodlebug Beverages in Fargo last year. He engaged the help of Chris Montana, president of the American Craft Spirit Association and owner of Du Nord Craft Spirits, to distill Sweet Crude in exactly the same fashion that his great-grandfather had over one century ago. This would require special equipment that even a master distiller didn’t have, but changing a family recipe is like renaming a dog — it just isn’t done, so Art had the equipment made.

The payoff is apparent with the first sip of North Dakota Sweet Crude. It’s a light bodied liqueur with a strong taste of cinnamon up front. As you let it wash over your tongue, its flavor mellows out to a citrusy ginger glow. Sweet Crude is very nearly full strength at 75 proof, but its sweetness balances the heat out so nicely that you’d swear it was much less potent.

“All of Sweet Crude’s flavors come from brewed natural ingredients,” said Art. “It’s the main ingredient that sets it apart from the others, though. We use sugar from beets harvested right here in the Red River Valley, which we caramelize ourselves. Our machine precisely and consistently turns out perfect, pure carmelized sugar. It’s so good that I’m thinking of starting a side business selling it to bakeries and pastry shops.”

The response to Sweet Crude has been phenomenal. In only one year after he started, Art got his elixir on the shelves of over 200 locations throughout the state of North Dakota, and has sold more than ten thousand bottles. Sweet Crude has even made it to Minnesota, which is good, because people who live there could use a drink. If you want a true, North Dakotan restorative, then be on the lookout for Sweet Crude around Fargo — it is sold and served at over 40 places there alone. You can see exactly where at the store locator at doodlebugbeverages.com.

 

By David Scheller

 

North Dakota Sweet Crude Recipes

Dakota Sweet Lemonade

2 oz North Dakota Sweet Crude

4 oz Lemonade

Crude Apple

1 oz North Dakota Sweet Crude

1 oz Crown Royal Regal Apple

White German

1 oz North Dakota Sweet Crude

1 oz Kahlua

1/2 shot heavy cream

Dakota Mule

2 oz North Dakota Sweet Crude

5 oz ginger beer

Twist of orange rind

Cinnamon Toast Crunch

2 oz North Dakota Sweet Crude

2 oz Rum Chatta

Served over ice

Dakota Mule Sombrero

2 oz North Dakota Sweet Crude

4 oz ginger beer

1 oz tequila

Twist of lemon