New York City, particularly Brooklyn, is experiencing the first explosion in small-scale craft distilleries since Prohibition shut down the once-booming business in 1920.
Why now? State laws kept the industry quelled through the remainder of the 20th century, but a new law created in 2007 made it much more affordable for small producers to obtain a distiller’s licence, as long as they sourced 75 per cent of their raw material from within New York State.
For many of the people behind Brooklyn’s distillery boom, crafting spirits is a true labour of love, one they work on while still holding down day jobs. Here are four Brooklyn microdistilleries to check out.
Kentucky native Colin Spoelman got his start making moonshine in his apartment. In 2010, he took things to the next level by partnering with David Haskell, deputy editor at New York magazine, to found the first legal NYC whiskey distillery since Prohibition. Staying true to their home-brewing roots, Spoelman and Haskell use local, organic ingredients to produce moonshine, bourbon and chocolate whiskey in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The distillery is open for tours and tastings on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Daric Schlesselman opened Van Brunt Stillhouse in 2012 with his wife and co-founder, Sarah Ludington, and until October of this year spent his days as an editor for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Red Hook-neighbourhood distillery already boasts an impressive range of products, including several whiskeys (American, rye, bourbon and malt), moonshine, rum made from organic sugar and grappa made from grape skins sourced from local wineries. Tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and can be booked in advance.
Taking its name from the nickname for Prohibition, The Noble Experiment is the courageous experiment of one of the few female founders in the industry, Bridget Firtle. She left a plush job at a hedge fund to open the Bushwick distillery in 2012. Paying particular attention to the fermentation process, Firtle makes rum using only three ingredients: molasses, yeast and NYC water. A tour and tasting runs every Saturday at 4 p.m. (tnenyc.com)
Conceived by Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Tom Potter in partnership with his son, Bill, and spirits expert Allen Katz, this Williamsburg distillery has become known for its cocktail bar, The Shanty. Patrons sip expertly concocted drinks while gazing at the shiny stills in a low-lit, brick-walled setting, sometimes accompanied by live music. The specialty is gin—regular as well as “navy strength.” Tours and tastings are available on Saturdays and Sundays from 3 to 5 p.m.