Gin, bourbon flow in NY distillery revival
By Juliette Michel, AFP
March 13, 2014, 12:10 am TWN
NEW YOR -- Nearly a century after the United States imposed prohibition, small distilleries are finally making a comeback in Brooklyn and the Bronx, crafting batches of gin, rum, rye, bourbon and vodka.
The “made in New York” spirits trend is part of a boom in the popularity of locally grown food, farm-to-table dining and craft products.
Kings County Distillery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard was founded in 2010 by two friends who had been making moonshine in an apartment.
It is the first whisky distillery to be licensed in New York since prohibition, a 1920 to 1933 nationwide ban on alcohol.
When the ban was lifted the industry revived quickly, but many small players were lost as large groups consolidated and promoted national and international brands.
Now, a dozen or more small spirits-makers have been launched since Kings County blazed the trail, helped by an evolution in New York state law.
Brooklyn also drew the New York Distilling Company, which set up shop in a former textile plant in the hip Williamsburg neighborhood.
In the middle of the warehouse sit several stills holding American rye, which must be made from at least 51 percent rye, as opposed to bourbon, which is mainly corn.
The first batches should be ready to drink in around eight months.
On one side, four workers fill and label bottles. On the other, a clear liquid runs from a copper pipe into a large, gray vat.
A taste confirms, without a doubt, that it is gin — powerful and fragrant with a mix of juniper, citrus zest and spices.
New York Distilling co-founder and guru Allen Katz said the company “wanted to be making products that would have a sense in the world of cocktails.”
Another co-founder, Tom Potter, was also part of the Brooklyn Brewery in 1988, capitalizing on Americans' growing thirst for craft beers. The firm now ships beer to more than 20 countries.
While Katz insists the quality of New York Distilling rye and gin speaks for itself, he also admitted “the Brooklyn brand is selling well. It is easy for people to know where we are from.”
The boom in small-batch distilleries is not limited to the Big Apple.