Booze at the Beach 

Two new distilleries join Virginia Beach’s craft spirits market

Beach Vodka Is Born Again

Stephanie Somers and Tony Gower Jr. introduced this born-again distillery to Virginia Beach patrons on July 1. Since then, the Beach Vodka brand has immersed itself into nearly every facet of the Coastal Virginia community taking local eateries, tailgates and ABC Stores by storm. Somers and Gower, now humbled by their overnight success, explain that the road to opening wasn’t as smooth as their finished product.

The Virginia Beach natives entered into the craft spirits industry by happenstance. The former Beach Vodka had quietly closed its doors in 2019 after struggling to stay afloat in its Virginia and Florida markets. The news of Beach Vodka’s closure eventually made its way to Somers and Gower whose entrepreneurial spirits were pained to see such potential fall to the wayside. Their mission then became to revitalize the brand and release its next iteration with sleeker bottles, a higher quality product and a new, colorful space. “We decided [quite literally] to give it a shot,” Somers recalls. “We decided to rebuild the distillery and the local story around it.”

The duo studied vodka tirelessly and invested in the industry’s highest quality still to help create their top-shelf product. “We use an iStill. It’s made in the Netherlands and is the most technologically advanced stills on the market,” explains Somers. “It allows us to program our recipe so we can create a very consistent product.”

With the recipe perfected and the vodka ready to pour by November 2021, Somers and Gower were eager to share their creation with Virginia Beach. Supply chain issues hit the company hard though, ultimately delaying their bottles by nearly eight months and the space’s soft opening by nine. Somers and Gower discovered their silver lining, nonetheless. “[The delay] gave us the ability to not be rushed and to really make the space the way we wanted it to be,” says Somers.

The premium vodka crafted at the Oceana distillery is now a go-to liquor for many locals. “Our slogan is ‘from our beach to yours,’ so we hope that people will take Beach Vodka wherever they go and make their own beach party,” says Somers.

The distillery itself is a never-ending beach party. The space is bright, airy and decorated with beach-centric pieces by local artists. Perhaps the most prized artistry in the space, however, is the vodka itself. The Beach Vodka team showcases their product in a number of seasonally inspired cocktails. They recently abandoned their summer drink of choice, a strawberry lemonade spritzer, for more autumnal pours like a Fall Moscow Mule, Apple Martini and Pear Punch. Their two mainstays—Beach Crush and Croatan Bloody Mary, which features Ashburn Sauce Company—can be sipped year-round.

“We want this to be a place where people want to come relax on the weekend, drink a bloody Mary and maybe enjoy some live music,” says Somers. “We also want to encourage people to book private events for book clubs, company happy hours or birthday parties. We have a ton of different options. You can reserve a table or rent out the entire space.”

Beach Vodka is open Thursday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Stay tuned for details about the distillery’s holiday vendor fair on Saturday, December 3.

Learn more at or on social media @BeachVodka.

Waterman Spirits’ Coastal Lifestyle

What we’re creating is more than just vodka. Waterman Spirits is something that can be shared, something that can bind us together as a community, as friends and a country with the waterman spirit at heart.”

Mariah Standing has quite literally crafted one of the most spirited lines of alcoholic beverages in Coastal Virginia. The organic vodkas at Waterman Spirits aren’t just pure in taste, but in their representation of local culture too.

“I’ve spent my entire life in [Virginia], from working to raising kids to being a kid myself, so the name Waterman Spirits came from the lifestyle I grew up with and the lifestyle I instilled in my own family,” says Standing. “Being a waterman means you live by way of the water. Whether it’s as simple as living in a coastal town or living with a passion for being at sea; you have the waterman spirit inside you.”

Standing first expressed interest in a vodka line in 2015. Her husband did, after all, introduce the Orange Crush to Virginia Beach, so producing her own liquor seemed like a natural next step. For seven years, Standing has developed her master plan and is finally ready to introduce Waterman Spirits to the 757 and beyond.

Arguably the most fascinating part about Standing’s vodkas is their filtration process. “We’re the first distillery in the country (to our knowledge) that’s producing an organic, coral-filtered vodka,” says Standing. “The coral filtration process is similar to other vodka filtration processes, such as charcoal, we’ve just replaced the resource with crushed coral.”

Standing further explains that filtering with coral raises the liquid’s pH levels, thus resulting in a smoother, premium vodka. Coral, as well as Waterman Spirits’ other ingredients like organic corn and citrus fruits, is sourced with our planet and ecosystems in mind. “Organic is so important because it has a positive impact on our environment. The reduction of the use of pesticides helps prevent pollution in our air and water, organic farming conserves energy and uses less water, and it lessens the effects of pesticides on our pollinator populations,” explains the Waterman team.

While Standing is passionate about the why behind her product, she is also passionate about patrons enjoying it. The Waterman Spirits tasting room opened this fall at the Virginia Beach oceanfront and offers visitors an inclusive, upscale drinking experience. Waterman Spirits offers tastings, shooters and handcrafted cocktails featuring pours of Waterman’s four products – Organic Vodka, Organic Orange Vodka, Organic Grapefruit Vodka and Organic Orange Liqueur. Waterman Spirits vodkas are also available at over 160 ABC Stores across the state.

Learn more or on social media @WatermanSpirits.

Grace Silipigni Headshot
Grace Silipigni

Grace Silipigni is an elementary school Spanish immersion teacher based in Virginia Beach and a regular contributor to Coastal Virginia Magazine, covering a wide range of topics such as health and wellness, education and learning, food and drink, happenings and events, travel and getaways and more.

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