Most often the combination of small boat cruises and an endless supply of libations are coined “booze cruise,” but in the case of the Village Voice Holiday Spirits Tasting Event, it was pure class and gleeful sips of spirits.
This 2nd Annual Village Voice Holiday Spirits tasting took place November 20 aboard the elegant Hornblower Infinity Cruise Ship and departed from Pier 40. When I heard the event was to feature an array of 30 distilleries, wineries & more from New York City and beyond, I was sold!
The boat was abuzz when we boarded and we were immediately swept into our sipping journey. DJ Tim Martell played some sweet beats on the main and mid deck while a live jazz quartet, Blue Vipers of Brooklyn performed in the Slow & Low Lounge on the top deck.
I invited my best drinking buddy to attend as I knew she would give her honest opinion about the beverages we sampled throughout the evening.
Brooklyn Gin is a craft spirit made in Gowanus, New York with fresh citrus peels and hand-cracked juniper. The gin is fresh, complex, and flavorful and perfect to drink on the rocks or mixed. The company has a very “prohibition” feel and in kinship with the craftsmen who embody the Brooklyn spirit, they make small-batches of the American gin by hand. They distill Brooklyn Gin using locally purchased fruit and 100% corn grown in upstate New York. The signature drink of the evening was simple and delicious – fresh squeezed lemon, Brooklyn gin, honey, lemon and sparkling wine.
Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur
Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur was serving a mixed drink dubbed “Intensely Warming Apple Toddy” made with the Ginger Liqueur, DonQRum, Fresh Apple Cider, and Sprinkled with Nutmeg. Needless to say this drink would be ideal for sitting by the fire reading a book or gossip magazine. The products from this Brooklyn based mom and pop “shop” and not only good for drinking, it apparently can be a mean addition for cooking.
Asahi Beers USA
I’m not a huge beer fan so when it came to the Asahi Beer USA (50% total beer market in Japan,) I was skeptical. Yet, I had already indulged in a few beverages so I decided to give it a go and boy was a surprised. The Asahi Beer is a Japanese brand and means “to be alive.” I sampled both the Super Dry and Black beer, finding the first refreshingly crisp and the latter rich with bold flavors (could be compared to Guinness.) What made the drinking experience even better were the brand representatives, as they really embodied the motto and showed excitement and joy for the beer. Plus we got some sweet swag in the form of sunglasses!
Greenhook Ginsmiths is based out of Greenpoint in Brooklyn and after years of planning, experimenting and building a distillery, they released their American Dry Gin in 2012. Founded by two brothers, the bold, small batch distilled American Gin is certainly noteworthy. Their American Dry gin is made from organic, New York State Grown Wheat, Tuscan Juniper, Coriander, Chamomile, Elderflower, Citrus, Thai Blue Ginger, Cylon Cinnamon, Orris Root and Elderberry (that’s a mouthful.) You can feel the passion from the brothers and I’m excited to go check out their distillery in Brooklyn!
Rums of Puerto Rico
Rums of Puerto Rico offered a variety of alcohol choices including Bacardi, DonQ, Ron del Barrilito, and Trigo Reserva Añeja. I indulged in the Sparkling DonQ White Sangria and it was mouthwatering. I’m a HUGE Sangria fan and DonQ Rum was on point as the liquor of choice. The ingredients were Don Q Cristal, Don Q Passion, White Welch White Grape Juice, Orange Juice and Pineapple Juice. Best of all – it was served by an equally delicious looking bartender!
Caledonia Spirits passed the test of my gin-hating friend. The drink served was the “Opaka Raka” and featured their Barr Hill Honey Gin, Grapefruit, Cinnamon, Lime and Tiki Bitters. Man was it a smooth drink and quite the treat. The honey flavor was incredible, as it should be. The owner of the brand started out as a beekeeper for over 47 years which then inspired him on this spirits journey. Each batch of gin has 5lbs of raw honey – now that’s buzz worthy!
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Tito’s Handmade Vodka has found its way to many of the parties I’ve attended in the past year so I was quite excited to learn more about the brand. The signature drink of the evening from the Austin based brand was The Go To – Tito’s Vodka, Ginger Beer, Lime Juice, Elderflower Liqeur and once again the craft vodka didn’t disappoint. Tito’s is made in small batches in an old fashioned pot still by Tito Beveridge, a 50-something geologist, and distilled six times. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is designed to be savored by spirit connoisseurs and everyday drinkers alike (that’s me!).
Two words – NO HANGOVER. That’s the promised morning result of the pure Blat Vodka from Spain. I can’t tell you if it’s true because I drank other cocktails that evening, but I can tell you the signature drink from the brand was strong and fresh. It was a mix of their Wheat Vodka, lychee, kiwi and splash of tonic. By being 100% free of impurities, the Blat Vodka offers better taste straight or on the rocks, reduces negative effects (nasty headaches,) and a smoother taste.
Catskills Distilling Co.
Catskills Distilling Co. is owned by a colorful couple and has quite the history. Owner and distiller Monte Sachs, first encountered the art of distilling while attending veterinary school in Italy at the University of Pisa. There, while traveling through Italy, he learned the art of distilling traditional grappa from an 80-year-old farmworker named Bernardini. Monte and his wife opened the micro distillery in Bethel, NY, scarcely a stone’s throw from the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival. The Woodstock legacy of the area is reflected in the names of our spirits, from Peace Vodka to Most Righteous Bourbon. My personal favorite was the Wicked White Whiskey – a devilishly different, six-grain spirit, and an un-aged whiskey that is unusually smooth and full of local grain flavor.
Barefoot Wine & Bubbly
It’s near impossible to enter a wine & spirits store and miss the bright colors and adorbs footprint that adorns the Barefoot Wine & Bubbly bottles. The branding really works! If I am running into grab wine and can’t decide, I’ll often go for Barefoot as it makes me want to go drink wine in the park or beach. The standouts at this tasting table were the new Fusion variety from the brand – Berry, Citrus, Peach, and Tropical. Each of these sparkling wines contains natural fruits and is perfect for a Friday night Happy Hour or Sunday brunch. I’d say my favorite was the Peach Fusion which features juicy Georgia Peach with hints of honeysuckle and a fresh nectar finish.
I grew up playing baseball and my dad still plays in an old dude league (65+, Shhhh don’t tell him I wrote that,) so anything baseball related catches my eye. It was no different when I came across the Abner Doubleday Double Play “vodka in a baseball” from Cooperstown Distillery based out of – you guessed it – Cooperstown, NY. This is Cooperstown’s first microdistillery and offers small-batch, hand-crafted spirits, sourcing and utilizing over 51% of New York State agricultural products in its commitment to being a farm distillery. The unique glass decanter from the distillery comes packaged in a period, nostalgic box individually wrapped in tissue just like the old time “hardballs” were once wrapped. Each hand blown bottle is designed in the shape of an actual baseball right down to the 108 stitches on the “ball.”
Below is the full list of those brands who participated in the event – I wouldn’t have been able to function the following morning if I tried all of them. I’ll certainly look out for them when I buy bottles and order drinks at the bar!
- Art in the Age Craft Sprits
- Atsby Vermouth
- Breucklelen Distilling
- Brooklyn Winery
- Death’s Door Spirits
- Dulce Vida Organic Tequila
- Dutch’s Spirits
- Owney’s Rum
- OYO Vodka
- Scorpion Mezcal
- Slow & Low Rock and Rye
- Sorel Artisanal Liqueur
- Suerte Tequila
- Tanteo Tequila
- Tuthilltown Spirits
- Van Brunt Stillhouse
- White Pike Whiskey
- Widow Jane
- Woody Creek Distillers
Be sure to also check out the Holiday Spirit’s charitable partner, Lifebeat. They are the leading national nonprofit dedicated to educating America’s youth about HIV/AIDS prevention. They mobilize the talents and resources of the music industry to deliver awareness messages. They also gave out pretty cool condoms as a party favor – and that was a wrap!
Photos by Nathalie Zaro via Village Voice and by Socially Superlative