The craft beer revolution has been making major waves in the bar and restaurant world for over a decade but what about the small, craft distilleries that create fine, handcrafted spirits? We’re talking about the small batch bourbons, vodkas, mezcal and other liqueurs being made by dedicated craftsmen and craftwomen. These operations aren’t bootleggers using bathtubs or a makeshift still deep in the woods but rather expert artisans creating unique spirits…legally.
The Indie Spirits Expo, a part of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, is dedicated completely to these small batch operations. You won’t find Bacardi at this event and it’ll make you reconsider your drink choice the next time you order a cocktail. Joonbug attended the expo, held at Crimson nightclub, on Tuesday. We learned a ton about the process, ingredients, history, and some very interesting people while at the event. Below you’ll find some of our favorite spirits we sampled along with some of their cocktail recipes for your drinking pleasure.
Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure by Philadelphia Distilling
Absinthe, “the green fairy” spirit was made popular in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries due to its association with French artists and writers. Philadelphia Distilling distills their absinthe in small batches using the “holy trinity” combination of 100 percent natural grande wormwood, fennel, and green anise to create an authentic absinthe.
Vieux Carré Logical Consequence by Preston Eckman
¼ oz. Vieux Carré Absinthe
1 ½ oz. Bluecoat Gin (also by Philadelphia Distilling)
1 oz. Green Tea Honey
½ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker. Shake and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with dill sprig. *Green Tea Honey: steep 2 bags of fine green tea in 8 oz. hot water. Blend in 6 oz. honey.
Death’s Door Gin by Death’s Door Spirits
Death’s Door, named for the waterway between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, distills handcrafted spirits such as vodka, gin, and whiskey in small batch cooper stills. Their gin, winner of Wine & Spirits “Best Spirits” award in 2009, is distilled three times to eliminate any impurities and is comprised of only three botanicals: organic and wild juniper berries, organic coriander, and fennel seeds. Death’s Door works with local farmers on Wisconsin’s Washington Island to harvest all of the ingredients used in their spirits including the organic hard red wheat used in their gin.
All jokes aside, the newcomer in the world of indie spirits Balls Vodka is distilled from grain and yields a proof of 80 percent. With a name like Balls it’s a given that they have a collection of sassy cocktails that you can’t resist to make at your next cocktail party.
Balls to the Wall
2 oz. Balls Vodka
1 ½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
3 oz. club soda
1 maraschino cherry
Combine 2-3 ice cubes, vodka, lime juice and sugar in shaker. Shake vigorously for ten seconds and strain into chilled Collins glass. Add club soda and cherry.
77 Whiskey by Breukelen Distilling
(Brooklyn, New York)
This two year old distiller in Sunset Park, Brooklyn creates gin and whiskey from organically grown New York wheat. Their wheat is grown by a farmer named Thor and is then milled into flour by Breukelen Distilling in their one room distillery. 77 Whiskey is made entirely from scratch, with no added coloring or additives. Their whiskey ages in new American oak barrels from Kentucky for approximately four months before dilution with New York filtered tap water. The finished product has a bready character that reminds the master distillers of a “fresh plate of French toast.”
Oro Rum by Montanya
(Crested Butte, Colorado)
Montanya rum is an “obsessively-crafted” high mountain rum from Colorado. Montanya uses spring-fed snowmelt water to filter their rums as well as pure Hawaiian sugar cane from a family farm. Both their Oro and Platino rums are made from scratch, with only four all-natural ingredients and are aged in American Oak barrels. Their obsessive care shows in their award-winning rums winning them the most prestigious medal of honors in the spirits world.
Collins glass filled with ice & ½ turbinado sugar rim
½ squeeze lime
1-2 oz. watermelon juice
5-7 mint leaves, muddled
2 oz. Montanya Plantio Rum
3-5 cubed watermelon chunks
Top with seltzer
Reposado con Gusano by Wahaka Mezcal
(San Dionisio Octopec, Oaxaca, Mexico)
Mezcal is a tequila like spirit but with many more complexities and options than tequila even though it is made from the same type of plant, the agave. Wahaka is made by fifthe generation mezcaleros and has recently been certified USDA Organic. Farmed from an estate, the plants used grow wild in the region and Wahaka uses sustainable farming methods to create five different types of mezcal. The Reposado con Gusano Mezcal is aged up to six months in a oak barrel after the traditional fermentation process creating a smoky earthy tone. Don’t be afraid of the worm ending up in your shot glass though! It’s has a purpose. The worm acts as an organic filter and flavor enhancer.