Ah, Brooklyn. It’s home to big beards, little rooftop farms and more distilleries now than anywhere else in New York State. At least 15 microdistillers have made Kings County their home, turning out gin, rum, vodka, vermouth and bourbon so good, the borough is giving Kentucky a run for its money. With so much to choose from, what to drink? We scoured the area for the best small-batch booze in a place where the craft is taken very seriously.
Kings County Distillery
Located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the five-year-old Kings County Distillery lays claim to being the first distillery in New York City since Prohibition. Known for its moonshine (un-aged whiskey) and bourbon, an award-winning 90-proof spirit with notes of molasses and baking spices, it also came up with a rich and decadent chocolate whiskey made with ground cacao-bean husks from Mast Brothers Chocolate, whose factory is within spitting distance of the distillery. Pairing chocolate with whiskey as a dessert certainly can work, but better to just combine the two into one addictive elixir and be done with it. 299 Sands St., Bldg. 121, Brooklyn, NY 11205; 347-689-4211; kingscountydistillery.com
New York Distilling Co.
Started by veteran mixologist Allen Katz and Brooklyn Brewery cofounder Tom Potter, this Williamsburg-based operation attached to a cocktail bar called the Shanty is responsible for several of the bartending brethren’s favorite spirits. First came the gins, the aromatic Dorothy Parker and Navy-strength Perry’s Tot, followed by an aged Dutch-style gin called Chief Gowanus. This summer, the long-awaited Ragtime Rye American Straight Whiskey was released. Distilled from grains grown on a family farm in the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, it shows the spice you expect from a rye, but also a rounded sweetness thanks to a nice bit of corn in the mash. 79 Richardson St., Brooklyn, NY 11211; 718-412-0874; nydistilling.com
The DeAngelo brothers, Steven and Philip, are behind this artisanal gin distillery in Greenpoint. With gin, it’s all about the botanicals. Using a technique for distilling at very low temperatures, the brothers are able to preserve the delicate botanicals in their gin. With its base of organic locally sourced wheat, Greenhook American Dry Gin is infused with floral aromatics like chamomile, elderflower and orris root, and spiced with bold Thai blue ginger and Ceylon cinnamon. The result is bright and complex, like so many Brooklynites fancy themselves nowadays. 208 Dupont St., Brooklyn, NY 11222, 646-339-3719; greenhookgin.com
What good is whiskey and gin without vermouth? Luckily, out of Red Hook comes this line of unorthodox aperitifs. Designed by Bianca Miraglia, a former sommelier who spent years working in Oregon wineries, Uncouth’s vermouths include flavors like Apple Mint, Beet Eucalyptus and Serrano Chili Lavender. They’re fiercely local and seasonal, made with house-dried herbs and plants sourced from an upstate farm when Miraglia can’t forage or cultivate them from her own 16-acre farm. The base wine for the vermouths comes from the nearby Red Hook Winery — the Brooklyn booze community likes to keep things in the family. 250 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn, NY 11231; 503-944-9433
This rather prolific Red Hook facility makes bean-to-bar single-origin chocolate and distills cacao-laced liqueurs and rums — as if sugarcane spirit couldn’t get any sweeter. Cacao Prieto also produces the Widow Jane family of whiskeys. Last year, it made news with the release of an extremely limited-edition series of heirloom grain bourbons, which is about as Brooklyn as it gets. Made with organic New York state–grown Bloody Butcher corn, Wapsie Valley corn, and organic barley and rye, the whiskeys are finished with the limestone-rich water of the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, New York. The latest in the heirloom series is the Hopi Blue corn bourbon, released last month, just in time for the distillery’s third anniversary. Happy birthday, indeed. 218 Conover St., Brooklyn, NY 11231; 347-225-0130; cacaoprieto.com
Van Brunt Stillhouse
Rounding out the Red Hook contingent of Brooklyn microdistilleries is this maker of fine whiskey, rum, grappa, and moonshine. The main collection of four whiskeys is made with locally grown grains, the rum is distilled from sugarcane raised on a family farm in the Himalayas and dried in the sun, and the extremely limited-production grappa is a collaboration with Red Hook Winery, Brooklyn Winery, and Lieb Cellars on the North Fork of Long Island. There’s also a moonshine like no other you’re likely to find: Instead of the usual corn, it’s made from 100 percent New York state–malted six-row barley. Inspired by a recent collaboration with the nearby brewery Other Half, Van Brunt is also working on getting its brewing license so it can serve beer in the tasting room. Brooklyn booze represent. 6 Bay St., Brooklyn, NY 11231; vanbruntstillhouse.com