What are your weekend plans? If it involves consumption of grown-up beverages, don’t just drink the hard stuff–see how it’s made. These six distilleries offer tours that will take you into the nuts, bolts, and guts of making booze in New York City. And, yes, in most cases there will be free samples. By Jessica Allen.
Although Kings County Distillery has only been around since 2010, it is New York’s oldest functioning whiskey distillery. (The New York Farm Distillery law, which legalized distilleries after decades of prohibition, was passed in 2007.) It may yet be a toddler, but its bourbon and moonshine have already won medals in national competitions, and the tour shows why: this stuff is painstakingly crafted in very small batches by people deeply committed to what they’re doing. The tours run every Saturday and conclude with tasty (and strong) free samples.
Industry City Distillery is upstairs from The City Foundry, a research group that melds science and art to make things, and make things better. (“If you like bearded men with machines, flames, sparks, and smoke, and seeing how things are made,” you will love TCF, says the website.) Now on its fourth batch of sugar beet vodka, this Sunset Park distillery trumpets the joys of fermentation in custom-built glass bioreactors. Tours and tastings take place on Sunday afternoons; email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
In 1919, lawmakers rolled out what President Herbert Hoover dubbed “the Noble Experiment.” Regardless of how much you remember from 10th grade history class, you no doubt recall how that turned out. Happily, this experiment is turning out much, much better. Owned and operated by former financial analyst Bridget Firtle, this Brooklyn distillery specializes in molasses-based, dry white rum, with the occasional batch of whisky as well. Tours, with tastings, cost $10, and run twice on Saturdays.
New York Distilling Company was founded by the former head of Brooklyn Brewery and a food and drink expert who has hosted a weekly show on Martha Stewart’s radio channel. Not content to simply make the stuff, New York Distilling Company opened the Shanty, a full-service bar, directly next door to its stills. The Shanty offers the gin and rye made just a few feet away, as well as beer, cocktails, and spirits from other producers. From 3 to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, you can tour the distillery for free, with live music on Saturdays.
Dr. Renee Hernandez, the owner of Tirado Distillery, practices internal medicine and distills corn whisky, sweet whisky, and rum, presumably not at the same time. He also makes a delicious fermented diluted maple syrup called Tirado Maple Delight. Eighty percent of Tirado ingredients come from New York farms, all workers live in the area, and spent corn is used in local composting efforts or as animal feed, making this distillery—the first in the Bronx since prohibition—a genuine community endeavor. Do your part at a tasting on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Once upon a time, Red Hook bustled with breweries and distilleries. Today Van Brunt Stillhouse keeps that tradition alive, handcrafting small batches of rum, moonshine, whisky, grappa, and some other seasonal alcohol in a building near the bay. Here you can witness the transformation of grains into spirits, or grape skins into grappa, during a tour on the second Sunday of the month. But you can taste the transformation any time at several area restaurants, bars, and liquor stores.