We sat down *virtually* with the creator behind Vers-eau, a new zero-proof aperitif, Stanton McConnell to discuss The Great Lakes, the importance of flavor, and shifting the senses without dulling them.
Tell us a little bit about yourself! What do you love to do?
My name is Stanton and I’m a songwriter, swimmer, and a forever-taster. After spending most of my life in Illinois, I recently moved to Southwest Michigan to be closer to the water. I love good lighting, etymology, and learning languages. Above all else, I’m passionate about hospitality. I love to set the mood; songs and well-crafted drinks are my favorite mechanisms to do so… especially when mixed together.
How did you come to create Vers-eau!
When the pandemic hit, I was pursuing my sommelier education in hopes of making my own wine one day in Southwest Michigan. After a bit too much “studying”, I became fatigued with alcohol and started to crave a way to shift the senses without dulling them. At the same time, I wanted to highlight the unique energy and bounty of the Lake Michigan coast. With my history in hospitality and my passion for flavor, I knew I could create a really special flavor that could set the mood and make people feel happy.
Can you say more about it being a Great Lakes Aperitif? How did you source your ingredients?
“Vers-eau” means Aquarius in French, or “towards the water” roughly. The flavor itself is a love letter to the Great Lakes. It’s led by the 2021 harvest of Seyval Blanc grapes from Southwest Michigan, which we sourced from one of the oldest vineyards in the region. We also feature the regional staples elderberry and cherry, as well as a host of complementary botanicals like rhubarb and dandelion root–little homages to Mom’s overgrown garden. Like the Great Lakes, it’s versatile and beautiful in all seasons. It has a big juicy body, but remains earthy, herbal, and complex.
What's your favorite way to use Vers-eau?
Vers-eau was designed to be versatile, but I keep going back to our first “flagship” creation, which is simply the apéritif mixed with soda, or the ‘Seau & So’ as I call it. I eyeball about 1 part chilled Vers-eau to 2 parts sparkling mineral water (lately I’ve really been into Rambler from Texas). I’ll garnish with a lime if I have time or a large ice cube if they’re available.
If you could have tea or take a Boketto moment (a moment of daydreaming and of rest) with any person, dead or alive, who would it be? What kind of tea would you have?
I would enjoy an iced tulsi tea with my hero Devendra Obi Banhart. I am always inspired by their constant outpour of visual and sonic wit.
What does a moment of rest, recharging, or nourishment look like for you?
We live near a state park where I can walk over forested sand dunes and end it with a freshwater dip in Lake Michigan. Nothing gets my head right like that. If I have less time, I practice sun salutations and I’ll pop a little dark chocolate.