Last week, the New Yorker published a piece on their website called “The Bourbon Myth.” My interest piqued, I read the article that dismisses the romantic histories many large spirit brands attach to their products. It was not big news of course that the majority of the distilling industry has followed a trend of “capitalization and consolidation” over the years. As the author concludes, this reality is as American as many spirit brands’ stories of outlaw stills and backwoods bootlegging.
All the same, the author’s description of the spirit industry felt incomplete. Most likely because 1) I work for a local food and drink publication that recently released its annual drinks issue and 2) living in Brooklyn, I was left wanting the piece to acknowledge the burgeoning small-batch distilling movement. I’m easily surrounded by over a dozen small operations from my apartment, and that’s not counting the home-distillers who might be crafting their own bathtub gin at this moment.
To be sure, I’m not naively assuming that these independent business owners haven’t started without hoping to make a buck. In fact, their recent success is evidence that customers crave what many of these small spirits brands have to offer, which includes stories that (for now at least) resonate a bit more closely with our country’s bourbon lore. Take Kings County Distillery for one example.
We published an excerpt of their Guide to Urban Moonshining book earlier this year, which both acknowledges the romance of the trade’s tradition while also telling the distilling trend like it is:
“‘Craft distillery’ has become the industry term for an independently owned, small distillery making no more than 100,000 gallons of spirit a year, though many produce far less (and some are no longer independently owned). According to Michael Kinstlick, who studied the boom in craft distilling for the American Distilling Institute, there were only six operating craft distilleries in the United States in 1990. By 2000, there were about 25. By 2012, more than 250 were operating in all but five states. That number is expected to climb to 1,000 in the next decade.”
Heck, the state of New York even has its own distillers guild these days.
So in celebration of a growing movement that we hope is here to stay, we shot one of the first in our new series of Edible Films at Kings County’s operation in the Navy Yard. Their moonshine can most certainly stand on its own, while DUMBO’s Gran Electrica showed us that it can dress up nicely as a Manhattan-inspired cocktail, too (recipe below).
Here’s to watching how craft hooch renaissance unfolds…
Gran Electrica’s Kings County White Moonshine Manhattan
Makes 1 cocktail
½ ounce dry vermouth
2 ounces King’s County moonshine
Celery shrub bitters
Sliver of grapefruit zest
Ice, for mixing
Combine vermouth, moonshine and a few dashes of bitters in a mixing glass. Cover with ice and stir with a mixing spoon for 30 to 40 revolutions. When finished, rub the grapefruit zest around the rim of a coupe glass. Place the zest in the coupe and pour in the the moonshine mixture. Voilà!
Featured photo credit: Valery Rizzo