New York City has long enjoyed the creations of its native Brooklyn Brewery, and many hobbyists here experiment with making wine, beer and mead at home. But once you get into higher proof fare, things get more complicated. While making non-distilled beverages is legal and relatively easy for even the home hobbyist, distillation is mired in bureaucratic red tape and the problem of major equipment costs; licences are a pain to come by, and it's no small expense to buy a proper copper pot still from Europe. But in spite of the difficulties associated with making harder libations in smaller quantities, in the last few years, a few enterprising New Yorkers have successfully established incredible microdistilleries. These guys are creating some fascinating local products, and we couldn't be prouder of our borough's native spirits.
Breuckelen Distilling Company - Breuckelen Gin
This distillery is our nearby neighbor, located on an unpretentious block of 19th Street in South Slope. The distillery is set up in a space that looks like a car showroom, tricked out with big glass doors that make the alchemy inside visible from the street. This was a project born, oddly, of the recession and in-flight magazines; back in 2008, founder Brad Estabrooke had lost his finance job, and happened upon an article on micro-distilling while in the air. Though he had no background in distilling, he did have an interest in fine food and drink. Though half-expecting to encounter roadblocks at every turn, he was nonetheless inspired to dramatically change careers and found a rather risky business.
If nothing else positive came from the last few years' financial woes, at the very least, we got one of our favorite gins. Everything Estabrooke creates here is made from scratch, starting with New York State wheat that's ground into flour right before use and fermented into a mash. After fermentation, it is pot-distilled into a stunningly delicious base spirit - if you stop by the distillery, he might just let you try it - then re-distilled with botanicals to create the final product. He's working on a few other products, including a whiskey, so keep an eye out for even more exciting stuff soon.
Kings County Distillery - Kings County Moonshine
Boasting that it's "New York's Oldest Whiskey Distillery", Kings County Distillery was founded in 2010 and is the first whiskey producer here since Prohibition. This Williamsburg-based producer is set up in a single room on an industrial block near McCarren Park, and fittingly for such a truly micro-distillery, they only offer their products in speakeasy-friendly small bottles. Each comes labeled with a simple strip of white paper printed in a distressed typewriter font, reminding that this is indeed a small handmade product. Both founders feel an affinity for moonshiners - Colin Spoelman coming from a dry county in Kentucky and David Haskell having basement bourbon-making great grandfather - and indeed, this operation supposedly started as a clandestine hobby.
Starting with a bold moonshine, they've started making Brooklyn's very own bourbon that should be available in the next several months.
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!