Brooklyn is known as DIY paradise — to the point in which the artisanal ethos has become a hipster caricature. From handmade chocolate and cheese ageing caves to Etsy-style boutiques selling reclaimed coffee tables, the borough is known for creating small batches of just about everything. It may be a cliche, but the edible and drinkable products that have come out of this movement also taste pretty damn good (even if most of them are costly).
With changes in New York state law over the course the past decade, this movement has also paved the way for a slew of small batch liquor companies. And many are willing to let you in on their tips and tricks. Whether you want to learn how to make your own booze or just want to drink around town, here’s a guide to Brooklyn’s visitable distilleries.
Van Brunt Stillhouse (6 Bay Street, Brooklyn; 718-852-6405)
At this Red Hook distillery, proprietor (and former Daily Show editor) Daric Schlesselman uses the best ingredients he can find. For his original Due North rum, he imports organic sugar from India that has been crushed and dried in the sun. The wheat, rye, and corn in his whiskey (American, malt, bourbon, rye) and moonshine come from the state of New York. (Though the malted barley does not.) On Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 4 p.m., Schlesselman himself takes guests on tours of the still house. Each excursion ends with a tasting. There is no cost to attend.
Cacao Prieto – Widow Jane (218 Conover Street, Brooklyn; 347-225-0130)
This chocolatier/distillery combines two of the world’s greatest products — chocolate and whiskey — making it a sugar-loving-booze-fanatic’s dream. The facility started with confections in 2010 and expanded to whiskey in 2012. Now, it offers tours of the multi-use facility every Saturday and Sunday at noon, 2, 4, and 6 p.m., for $15 per person. Private weekday tours are $25 apiece. The tours start with cacao production, move through the distillery, and culminate in the retail space with education and tastings (of all of the above). Tours are offered on a first come, first serve basis.
King’s County Distillery (63 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn)
The first New York City company to start distilling after Orohibition, King’s County is the oldest of the bunch, and it’s racked up a number of awards for its small selection of moonshine, bourbon, and chocolate whiskey. The moonshine alone has won ADI Craft Spirit Awards for Best in Category 2011, gold medal 2014 (packaging), silver medal 2013, and bronze medal 2012. It offers tours every Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. (the last leaves at 3:45 p.m.) and Fridays at 3 p.m. The 45 minute tours cost $8, which includes a tasting and admission to the Boozeum.
New York Distilling Company (63 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn)
With a fascination of New York’s history of distilling and a commitment to local, sustainable ingredients, this Williamsburg operation produces a small selection of fantastic gin and rye whiskey. It was created by two bigwigs in the craft scene, Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Tom Potter, and Allen Katz, director of mixology & spirits education for Southern Wine & Sprits of New York. The facility is open for free (yes, free!) tours on Saturdays and Sundays, from 3 to 5 p.m., as demand presents itself. Tastings are always available at the on-premise bar, the Shanty.
Industry City Distillery (33 35th Street Unit 6A, Brooklyn; 917-727-5309)
Vodka lovers: Industry City is your place. Set in Sunset Park, this distillery creates vodka from beet sugar, and every Saturday at 3 p.m., it offers tours of the facility and City Foundry — where the stills and other equipment is actually made. Currently, it’s in the process of constructing its latest still, dubbed Victor, and you can watch the process first-hand. The one- to two-hour tour is $15 per person. Book through the website, drinkicd.com.
The Noble Experiment (23 Meadow Street, Brooklyn)
Former financial analyst Bridget Firtle opened this experiment in 2012 — and it’s working. The Noble Experiment produces high quality rums made from all-natural non-GMO molasses. You might recognize the house rum, a dry white rum called Owney’s NYC. Tours are provided on Saturdays at 4 p.m. and cost $10.