New York Spirit: The Best Distillery Tours in the City

The number of new distilleries popping up across the city is 100 percent proof that NYC never sleeps when it comes to turning dreams into reality. You may think of distilleries as assembly lines, but creating quality gins, whiskeys, bourbon and ryes require nothing so involved. We've curated a list of some local craft distilleries making quality spirits that also  provide excellent tours and tastings for interested drinkers. While you're there, you’ll also learn about NYC's distillers of yesteryear during Prohibition as well as techniques used by today's artisans, which include both traditional and cutting-edge approaches. And your new knowledge is paired every step of the way with samples of the latest batch!!

Best Distillery Tours in NYC: Navy Yard

Kings County Distillery

Voted the Distillery of the Year in 2016 by the American Distilling Institute for their commitment to traditional and sustainable production, Kings County Distillery is also the oldest distillery in New York City. (Consider this: their whiskeys require copper stills and a 14-month aging periods.) But they also focus on history in their permanent exhibit: The Boozeum. It's located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard's Paymaster Building—the very site of the waterfront Whiskey Wars of the 1860s. You’ll get a retrospective of the Whiskey Wars and more at the Boozeum—and taste King County’s fare, of course. The tasting room is open 7 days a week, while tours are Tuesday through Sunday from 3 to 5pm and once an hour on Saturday afternoons between 1pm and 5pm. 299 Sands St., 347-689-4211,

Best Distillery Tours in NYC: Williamsburg

NY Distilling Co. is renowned as the makers of Dorothy Parker Gin, navy-strength gin, and Mr. Katz’s Rock and Rye. As a well-respected craft distillery out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, they also operate an attached bar, the Shanty, that provides a look inside the stills where the spirits are made. Complimentary tours are offered Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:30, 3:30, and 5pm. Take your tour up a notch or two with Behind the Scenes VIP tours at 1:30pm on Saturday and Sunday, which include a 200-mL flask of rye and a cocktail in the admission price. 79 Richardson St., 718-412-0874,

Best Distillery Tours in NYC: Greenpoint

Green Hook Ginsmiths

Billed as "Brooklyn's Finest," Greenhook Ginsmiths distills a profoundly complex gin in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, by employing specifically designed low-temperature copper stills. In addition to the expected base of juniper, their recipes also incorporate coriander seeds, chamomile, cinnamon sticks, and other rich botanicals to add to the flavor profile. Their hour-long tours are offered on Saturdays by appointment. 208 Dupont St., 646-339-3719,

Best Distillery Tours in NYC: Bushwick

Here, the emphasis is on variety. Wormwood, which has an Old World seafaring quality to its name, is dedicated to providing a wide assortment of spirits that rotate with the seasons. At Wormwood, you'll find gin, rye, and agave spirits—all distilled with their namesake plant, a bitter leaf usually incorporated into absinthe production. Grown on a farm upstate and brought to SW’s Bushwick facilities, their wormwood is center stage in production of their spirits. Contact Standard Wormwood for a tour; they’ll be glad to host you and give you a few sips of their products! 630 Flushing Ave.,,

Best Distillery Tours in NYC: Red Hook

Widow Jane Distillery

Infusing bourbon with malt and chocolate is the stuff of genius. And that's exactly what they do at Widow Jane, which shares distillery space with chocolatiers Cacao Prieto in Red Hook, Brooklyn. On this tour, you’ll get to sample two treats: Cacao Prieto chocolate bars and Widow Jane spirits. Both are made with innovative, artisanal processes and high-end ingredients (even the water used to make the whiskey here is imported from upstate!). You’re probably already booking a tour, but just so you know, they offer them Saturday and Sunday at 12, 2, 4, and 6pm. They are $20 per person with chocolate and spirits tastings included. 218 Conover St., 347-225-0130,

Best Distillery Tours in NYC: Red Hook

As long as you're strolling the streets of Red Hook, why not take a walk to Van Brunt Stillhouse? The company was established by a husband-and-wife team to produce small-batch whiskeys and rum, and they know their business inside and out. They source corn and grain from farms in upstate New York (to avoid the strains developed by Monsanto and Dow Chemical) to create such artisinal varieties of whiskey as their fruity rye moonshine and velvet-smooth bourbon. The bar is worth a stop too, with craft cocktails and beer, plus Happy Hour every Sunday. Tour their distillery, tasting four spirits along the way, and enjoy $10 off the bottle of your choice. Come Saturdays 3-7pm and Sundays 2-4pm to check out the facilities. 6 Bay St., 718-887-6012,

Best Distillery Tours in NYC: Manhattan

Our New York Vodka

The first distillery to open in Manhattan since Prohibition, Chelsea-based Our/New York Vodka is busy creating batches of 80 proof vodka, all of which employs NYC's award-winning tap water. That's right: the same source that gives NYC bagels and pizza their distinctive flavors. They'll be giving a workshop on September 15th that will include a welcome Martini, a tour of the distillery, and a guide to making and infusing your own take-home bottle of Our/New York Vodka—using their bounty of seasonal fruits, herbs, botanicals, and vegetables. Afterwards, enjoy a celebratory Excelsior cocktail, plus a bottle to take home. Distillery tours given regularly. 151 W. 26th St., 646-753-5556,

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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