In the 1800’s, Brooklyn was teeming with distilleries. Like much of the country, it was full-on hooch heaven. And the Red Hook neighborhood was its stairway to it. Gin, rum and whiskey stills lined the waterfront for years…that is, until prohibition. Well, legally, at least. Al Capone DID start his mob career here. But with the influx of all the micro-distilleries popping up in the area, it looks like we may finally be on our way back to that boozy boom.
Van Brunt Stillhouse is one of these pioneering distilleries part of this revival, and a stand out one at that. Specializing in small batch, quality spirits, they’ve only been open for about a year and a half – their first products hit the shelves in April of last year – and they’re already producing three fairly distinct spirits: an organic rum (the first coming out of New York since prohibition!) a grappa made from grapes from the North Fork of Long Island and the Fingerlakes region, and a lovely whiskey that I was lucky enough to get familiar with last Friday night when I made a Coffee Sazerac.
Van Brunt Stillhouse American Whiskey is made mostly from malted barley and wheat. It has a little bit of corn and a touch of rye and spends about five months in American oak barrels. And it worked beautifully in this cocktail. I love a well made Sazerac and the addition of coffee syrup united the absinthe and whiskey wonderfully without marring the classic flavors that are usually present.
During the tasting at Atlantic Cellars last week, I also got the chance to hang out with the creator and distiller behind these spirits, Daric Schlesselman. Although he has led a successful career as a television and film editor, his passion for distilling clearly has driven him to embark on the insane side career as distiller to multiple spirits and to create Van Brunt Stillhouse out of mere enthusiasm. And it continues to excite him. His devotion to creating quality products borders on obsession. He’s probably an excellent editor!
Try all three of these spirits. And try the American Whiskey in a Coffee Sazerac. AND keep your eye out for Van Brunt Stillhouse. After spending some time with Daric, I have no doubt there will be MUCH more to come from this distillery.