So far, the whiskey posts have been mostly about big name brands, some of which are from far-flung places like Ireland and Scotland. But did you know that there are distilleries right in your backyard?
Brooklyn is no stranger to distilling. Records indicate that one of first distilleries was founded in 1810, with many more to follow. As the gallons of whiskey began to flow in Brooklyn, it seems that more and more distilleries “forgot” to pay their taxes. “Forgot” to the tune of about $1.2M. And that’s in late 1860s dollars, too. As you can guess, the government soon showed up in force, seizing distilleries and the illegal barrels of hooch they made. Things turned ugly in 1869, when 1500 troops were sent into what’s now the Vinegar Hill neighborhood to shut down and destroy the illicit stills. Nothing like a little “Whiskey War” to keep things interesting, right? Combined with industrial accidents that were a common occurrence, Brooklyn was definitely an adventure in distilling in the late 1800s.
Fast forward 150 years or so. Brooklyn is once again home to quite a crew of distillers. Even though I’m not in Brooklyn, I’ve had the pleasure of trying many things on this list, as well as meeting the folks behind the still. But having these places within walking distance – I’m pretty sure I’m jealous. But I’ll feel better if you go check out these out – take a tour, have a taste, buy a bottle. You won’t regret it!
Breuckekelen Distilling – 77 19th Street – Breuckelen makes two kinds of whiskey (one wheat, the other 85% rye) and gin. While they’re looking for a new location, they aren’t hosting tours, but their products are available on shelves around the city (and if you don’t see it at your favorite place, make sure to ask).
Kings County Distillery – Brooklyn Navy Yard – Kings County makes some of the best whiskey around and has the cult following to prove it. Even other distillers I’ve talked to rave about Kings County. They do tours every Saturday: what are you waiting for, go!
Van Brunt Stillhouse – 6 Bay Street – 1st Floor – Van Brunt makes more than just whiskey: rum, moonshine and grappa are all also being made at the Stillhouse. Grappa is made from the grape skins after they’re pressed for wine. They’ll gladly take you on a tour, but give ’em a ring first at 718.852.6405 to guarantee your spot.
Widow Jane – 218 Conover Street – What’s better than whiskey? Chocolate AND whiskey! Widow Jane whiskey is part of the Cacao Prieto family, who makes chocolate bars from 100% organic cacao from the Dominican Republic. Widow Jane is made with water from the Widow Jane mine, hence its name. Water’s an important part of the taste of any whiskey, and Widow Jane proves that point exceptionally well.
Greenhook Ginsmiths – 208 DuPont Street – Greenhook adds an extra bit of nerdy science to their distillation process, by vacuum distilling their gin. By removing air pressure from the still, the gin is distilled at lower temperatures, preserving more of the flavor of the botanicals. Their Beach Plum Gin Liqueur is really tasty, too. Find them in stores all over Brooklyn.
New York Distilling Company – 79 Richardson Street (Williamsburg) – NY Distilling is the only spot on this list that comes with its own cocktail bar, The Shanty. Not only do they serve up tasty cocktails made with their gin, but they have the full range of spirits. Saturdays they have live music, too. Need I say more?
The Noble Experiment – 23 Meadow Street – TNENYC makes Owney’s silver rum, named after an infamous rum runner during The Noble Experiment, i.e., Prohibition. Check out my interview with Owney’s maker, Bridget Firtle. Tours are Saturdays at 4pm.
Industry City Distillery – 33 35th St, 6th Floor – Wh at is beet sugar, you say? Ok, even if you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you. It’s sugar made from sugar beets . Not only does Industry City make their own vodka, they make the machines that make the vodka. How cool is that? Take a tour of the distillery or one of the machine shop side – or both!
Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur – Brooklyn – Barrow’s didn’t put Intense in the name to be cute, they really mean it. Made from a ton of fresh ginger, Barrow’s really is that good. Pair it up with your favorite whiskey, cook with it – anywhere you want the fresh taste of ginger, grab some Barrow’s.
Sorel -Red Hook – Sorel is a tasty hibiscus liqueur that mixes well with anything this list, or sip it straight over ice, the traditional way. Check out my interview with Jack From Brooklyn, the guy behind this yummy libation. Find it in stores and restaurants all over NYC.
Uncouth Vermouth – Brooklyn – With flavors like Butternut Squash and Pear Ginger, Uncouth makes vermouth in tiny batches, from foraged ingredients, or from farms that don’t grow GMOs. Vermouth is an ingredient in many different cocktail recipes, and with these kinds of flavors, will be a great addition to your bar. Get on the mailing list to find out where you can get a bottle before they’re gone.
Stay tuned for the next round of NY/NJ distillers that can be found on the shelves of your favorite shops. Cheers!
Article by: Jeanne Runkle