Grist For The Mill: Winter 2014

They say alcohol is a truth serum and I can’t lie: Editing our annual drinks issue is great fun.

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They say alcohol is a truth serum and I can’t lie: Editing our annual drinks issue is great fun. That’s not because I toss many back—our writers handle the research and my role involves much more typing than tippling. Instead, it’s a pleasure to work on booze stories because Brooklyn bubbles over with them.

But it hasn’t been this way for long.

When I edited Edible Brooklyn’s launch issue in 2005, not a single one of the bottles profiled in these pages existed. Most weren’t even dreamed of yet.

What a difference a decade makes. In the past three years alone, a staggering 11 distilleries have opened. Today Brooklyn is a distillation destination, with so many craft whiskies bearing BK branding I need a cold shower to keep them straight. Not to mention entrepreneurs making artisan gin, beer, bitters, liqueurs and cider. Is there something in the water? What’s driving this small-batch booze boom?

Sure, there’s demand. The Greenmarket shopper who insists on grass-fed lamb and equitrade chocolate also sees a commodity bottle as half empty. The better booze movement—syrups and hard cider from small orchards, spirits that began life as organic upstate wheat—wouldn’t exist without the support of our famously conscientious consumers. There’s a benefit to putting your money where your mouth is.

But beyond demand, a culture of intoxicating inspiration also fosters alcohol entrepreneurs, and we tell many eureka stories in these pages. Like Lauren and Joe Grimm, who made beer with cherry bark and elderflowers but, unable to land a loan, found a legal way to brew without a brewery. Or Brad Estabrooke, who was galvanized by an article in an in-flight magazine; today his Breuckelen Distilling makes famously flavorful gin around the clock in Gowanus. Or Josh Morton, who poured a gingery riff on limoncello at a dinner party and, at his friends’ urging, set up shop in Sunset Park. Or John Belliveau-Flores, who was riding a rickshaw in Cambodia when he decided to import funky Spanish hard cider to New York. Or Krystof Zizka and Joshua Boissy, who had visions of an absinthe bar while drinking the stuff in Paris. Or Colin Spoelman, who brought a gallon of bootleg moonshine here from his native Kentucky and, when it ran out, uttered the very thought so many have echoed since: Why don’t we try to make it ourselves?

But before I raise a glass to these inspired creators and their enlightened patrons, that truth serum requires me to admit that there’s another reason we’re living through a craft booze boom. Without this force, not one of Brooklyn’s 11 distilleries would exist today. Don’t know what it is? Watch for a message in a bottle: In our spring issue, I will tell you all about it.

Gabrielle Langholtz, Editor
[email protected]

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Gabrielle Langholtz is the former editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan.