We had recently attended an amazing event where I had the pleasure of meeting Dakota Rudolf, the owner, and roastmaster of Valkyrie Coffee Roasters in Cheater, New York. The event was the launch of the incredible collaboration between Valkyrie Coffee Roasters and Orange County Distillery, which created the Valkyrie coffee-flavored vodka. Very impressed by the amazing taste and intrigued by the process, I wanted to learn more so I chatted with Dakota about the inspiration behind the brand and some interesting facts about coffee sourcing and roasting.
The best coffee-flavored vodka created in Hudson Valley, NY – Exploring Hudson Valley with Dino Alexander – Photography by Maxwell Alexander, Duncan Avenue Studios
Dino: I absolutely love the name of your brand Valkyrie. Where does the inspiration come from? Is there an interesting story around it?
Dakota: We started our brand with the Dala horse, which is a popular art symbol in Swedish culture. I always loved minimalism and symbolic design, and we wanted to build our company around my heritage. We added the wing because we initially planned to be a coffee truck using a vintage Shasta camper (like the wing in our logo), but then got stuck on what name to go with. While watching Thor: Ragnarok with my wife, there was a scene where a character named Valkyrie rode down on a Pegasus and we looked at each other and exclaimed “Valkyrie!!”. It made so much sense that we would have Norse mythology tied into our Scandinavian shop, and the name really stuck.
Dino: It’s obvious that a lot of passion when into creating this experience for your customers. What was a top priority for you when you were making decisions on putting the whole thing together?
Dakota: We wanted to embrace the concept of Fika and Hygge in our shop. I’m a storyteller and love creating spaces to make people feel welcome, and we spent a lot of time designing our space to be homey and friendly to our customers. We want people to feel comfortable and at home, and even used the same paint scheme and some furniture as we had in our home to complete the look.
Dino: Coffee drinking has become such an elevated experience today. How do you keep up with the high expectations and sophisticated pallets of coffee drinkers?
Dakota: Since this shop was a dream of mine since I was ten years old, I’ve spent a ton of time developing ideas and recipes to stand out. We try to avoid trends and instead set our own, and when we do a drink that’s familiar such as a lavender latte or gingerbread latte we work to elevate it using locally sourced ingredients and put our own spin on it. The coffee beans themselves are sourced directly from the farms we work with, and we only take in the top 4% of the crops that achieve specialty-grade designations. Roasting in the house also gives us the ability to fine-tune our beans to exactly what we want to taste, every bean we sell goes through dozens of test batch roasts so that we know it’s perfect and consistent before selling to our customers.
Dino: Now let’s talk about the vodka. Where did the idea come from?
Dakota: A few months after opening our Main Street location, we befriended Orange County Distillery and began to talk about ways we could collaborate. We had already gotten barrels from John for our barrel-aged Kenyan program early on, and the idea of mixing coffee and spirits came naturally from that. OCD had intended to do a coffee vodka for some time and was waiting for a local company that they could align with. It was a natural fit!
Dino: How involved were you, aside from providing the flavorful coffee beans, in the creating of the Valkyrie Coffee Flavored Vodka?
Dakota: All the credit goes to John and Bryan at OCD. We met together to cup coffees and figure what beans would pair best with the wheat vodka base. From there, John grew and harvested the wheat and the two of them worked to distill the vodka with the coffee. The one interesting thing was that they took my guidance on coffee brewing temperatures, and found a way to actually get the still vapors to hit the beans at the same temperature that coffee brews! That created the signature sweetness in our vodka and prevented it from getting bitter and burnt tasting like most other coffee vodkas are known for.
Dino: Are there any other future collaborations in the works you can share or even just hint us about?
Dakota: We don’t want to get ahead of our collab partners, but we have a few craft beers coming in our lineup with friends all over the Hudson Valley that we’re very excited about. We also just released a limited collaboration with Audrey Louise Reynolds for a sustainable Tie Dye tee shirt made using our coffee grounds and black dirt from a local farm as the dye base.
Read the full interview in the September issue of Hudson Valley Style Magazine