From bootlegging in the Prohibition era to the recent craft beverage resurgence, the Hudson Valley has a reputation for serving up inventive booze. It remains the country’s oldest winemaking region, and area breweries have taken advantage of ideal hop-growing conditions and other local ingredients for beers with unparalleled flavor. However, few Valley specialties pack more of a punch than its liquor.
Generations of talented distillers – equal parts artists, farmers, and chemists – have honed their skills and become masters of their craft without losing the creative “gonzo” energy of their forefathers. The industry is ever-expanding, and new voices are constantly putting new spins on old trades.
In the Hudson Valley, farm-to-table doesn’t stop at restaurants. The grain-to-glass movement is in full swing, with farm distillery-licensed makers boasting products made entirely from New York ingredients. Of course, there is a special connection between place and produce. And, as a liquid terroir develops, the story of the Hudson Valley is painted just as vividly as any of the works from the Hudson River School.
Cocktail chemists and liquor enthusiasts rejoice! Whether you have the refined palette of an elderly Scotsman or are just getting into spirits, the Hudson Valley is a wonderland for craft beverages.
An entire range of styles and distilling philosophies creates a diverse beverage trail – just make sure you have a designated driver! Vodkas and gins make for amazing summer cocktails, while local bourbons rival anything from Kentucky.
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In Schoharie Valley, the six-generation Barber family farm is one of the only American distilleries growing its own potatoes and using its own spring water to create fine vodka. “We’re lucky to be in one of the most fertile valleys. I can throw a stone from the distillery to the potato field—all of our ingredients come from our estate,” says head distiller Elias Barber, who creates sipping vodkas that can truly stand on their own. 1857 Spirits’ spring water lends a slight sweetness and creamy mouthfeel, and their potatoes grown in rich, alluvial soils lead to new and interesting flavors.
Barber’s Farm Road Stand houses a quaint tasting room (open on weekends, seasonally), where samples of flagship vodkas—like its Estate Potato—are poured on the rocks, or served with a few splashes of tonic. The signature vodka is Eastern European-style, so it perfectly matches with flavors like caramel and vanilla. There are limited seasonal releases as well, including vodkas made from red and blue potatoes. If Middleburgh is too long of a drive from your home, you can find 1857 Spirits at many Valley-based wine and spirits shops, and the occasional farmers market.
Sip this: 1857’s “barreled” vodka (with heavy notes of nougat and nutmeg) rests in Virgin American white oak barrels, essentially becoming an alternative to whiskey.
A small operation downtown, Albany Distilling Co. expertly crafts one batch at a time. Experimentation runs wild here, and several concoctions only hit bottles one time. You’ll never have the same thing twice here, and the expansive imagination for cocktails can kick off a stellar weekend in Albany.
Sip this: Awakened Spirit vodka with coffee features bold flavors from Death Wish Coffee java.
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Roses for this liqueur have been passed down and grown by generations of women in our family and are used to give this liqueur it’s intoxicating scent, taste, and pink color. In addition to our heirloom roses, we are working with another woman-owned business @cedarfarmwholesale to source organically grown roses. In tradition with Italian Rosolio (which translates to “dew of the sun”) we pick the flowers during the hottest days of summer and pluck each petal from the rose to infuse flavor into this spirit. This beverage is traditionally served as a symbol of good luck at weddings and other important life events. It makes for a very special champagne toast with strong notes of romance and dewy pink petals. Shop: www.oldeyorkfarm.com (link in profile).
Women-owned and family-operated, Olde York Farm is dedicated to handcrafting unique distills, literally. Each barrel is made by hand, imparting charred smokiness and other deep flavors. The site once held a distillery and cooperage owned by Jacob Rutsen van Rensselaer (circa 1805.) Certainly, the Newsome family works hard to continue that legacy. Tons of wild flavors like Mulled Peach Whiskey, Cacao Maple Vodka, and Black Walnut Bourbon make Olde York Farm a must-visit.
Sip this: Cooper’s Daughter Rhubarb and Honey Vodka is a pleasant array of early-summer flavors, perfectly representative of a true farm distillery.
Golden Harvest Farms was established in 1957, but the land has been used to grow apples since the late 1800s. Harvest Spirits Distillery stands in between the verdant orchards and road stand. Head for the comfy, dog-friendly tasting room to sip John Henry Single Malt Whiskey, or opt for a creative cocktail with apple-distilled gin, vodka, or brandy.
Sipe this: The John Henry Single Malt Whiskey—with its signature notes of marzipan, toasted oak, and cacao nibs—is well worth the trip to this 250-acre farm for any whiskey fan. It’s aged in new char American oak barrels for at least two years. After that, it’s finished in applejack barrels for another two to three years.
Everything about the Hillrock Estate Distillery is premier, from the branding to the views to the product. An 1806 Georgian estate house built by a Revolutionary War captain adorns a hill overlooking Hillrock’s rolling barley fields. These fields contribute to three award-winning spirits: a single malt whiskey, a double cask rye, and a Solera Aged Bourbon. Copper stills and floor malt techniques craft some of the finest additions to New York terroir.
Sip this: The Solera method has been around for centuries, producing fine ports, sherries, and cognacs. Hillrock’s Solera Aged Bourbon is complex with layers of fig, toasted walnut, and dried fruit. No barrel is fully emptied, adding depth over time.
Nestled on 11 acres of verdant land, this hyper-local distillery strives to create spirits with broad appeal. “We’re a ‘farm distillery,’ which means at least 75 percent of our ingredients must be from New York, and we surpass that,” owner Chris Moyer says. Their corn and grains are from Stone House Grain in Hudson; Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli provides the apples for their spirits. In addition to their signature Applejack and Bourbon Whiskey, HVD offers ready-to-drink bottled cocktails. For instance, try gin-based Basil Crush, vodka-based Lemon Drop, and their Jacked Up Sidecar, featuring Applejack.
The apple-whiskey cinnamon-spiked spirit—Moyer’s tribute to colonial New Yorkers, the earliest distillers in the Hudson Valley—is an ideal winter warmer. Limited tasting room weekends (posted on their social pages) often feature food truck bites (like cheesy quesadillas from Flores and juicy BBQ pork from Capital Q), fire pit jam sessions, and even trivia nights.
Sip this: Applejack is uniquely American and Hudson Valley-enhanced. Local apples fuel the regional twist on Irish whiskey.
What can’t Beacon do? Denning’s Point Distillery utilizes the literal fruits of local farmers’ labor, sourcing every grain and bit of fruit from within the Hudson Valley. Located in a former auto garage just off Main Street, the Denning’s Point team produces gin, apple brandy, and its award-winning Beacon Bourbon, among other spirits. Stop by for tasting flight and a glimpse of the city’s most iconic murals just outside.
Sip this: Maid of the Meadow is infused with honey, taking on a golden hue unlike any vodka you’ve ever tried.
Pine Plains, 518.398.1022
In 1932, during Prohibition, the FBI raided Dutch Schultz’s home and confiscated two 2,000-gallon stills, over 10,000 pounds of sugar, and 1,000 gallons of moonshine from his secret, underground bunkers. Nearly 90 years later, Valleyites can tour the historic former home of this legendary bootlegger and purchase excellent moonshine. Brendan McAlpine is one of the minds behind Dutch’s Spirits; he’s made his mark in the Valley already—his family opened Beacon’s Roundhouse in 2010. Beyond the vintage bunkers on the property, spirit lovers can sip Dutch’s signature Sugar Wash moonshine. It’s a modern version of one of Dutch’s original recipes. The 80-proof spirit is surprisingly smooth and is enjoyable on its own as well as in light rum and vodka cocktails.
Visitors can experiment with and purchase Dutch’s American-Era cocktail bitters: Boomtown, with sarsaparilla and wintergreen; Colonial, jam-packed with Hungarian angelica seed, red rose petals, sandalwood, lavender, orange peel, chamomile, juniper, and Mexican allspice; and Prohibitters, comprised of licorice, hibiscus, ginger root, and coriander. Soon, McAlpine plans to release a New York Empire Rye, along with a line of ready-to-drink cocktails. Stop by for lunch—Dutch’s on-site food truck serves up hearty comfort food such as smash burgers, jumbo wings, and steak and cheese hoagies.
Sip this: Sugar Wash Shine is not what you’d expect from moonshine. This hooch is exceptionally smooth and sweet from turbinado sugar, and is beyond sippable.
If you’re a fan of the brown stuff, Taconic Distillery is a must. Specializing in bourbons and rye whiskeys, this purveyor of fine craft spirits utilizes natural spring water from its own 115-acre farm. The team is passionate about hunting and fishing and draws inspiration from the region’s unique natural offerings. Another charming red barn alert! Taconic Distillery’s cozy tasting room serves bourbon and rye whiskeys every Saturday. Certainly, views from the patio are stunning. In addition, there are several fire pits to keep you warm.
The distillery released their first bourbon whiskey in 2013 and have since grown to produce a repertoire of high-proof, barrel-strength releases. Owners Paul and Carol Ann Coughlin create cocktails to compliment specific tasting notes. Try the old-fashioned— the maple syrup and Luxardo cherries highlight notes of butterscotch and caramel in their Dutchess Reserve Straight Bourbon. Enjoy these drinks neat or use them to elevate classic cocktails.
Sip this: Founder’s Rye is exceptionally smooth and serves as Taconic Distillery’s demonstration of Hudson Valley terroir.
One of the newest additions to the distillery scene is Tenmile, thanks to Millbrook Winery founder John Dyson who wanted to pay homage to his mother’s Scottish heritage. Inside a repurposed dairy, the distillery crafts Listening Rock Gin and Sinpatch Vodka (while their single malt whiskey finishes its three-year aging cycle) utilizing Germantown-grown wheat. In fact, several of the botanicals in Listening Rock, including mint and lemon balm, are sourced from Tenmile’s own garden (the juniper will soon be cultivated onsite as well). To get a taste of their distillery, make a reservation for cocktails on the patio (weather permitting) or book a tour for a peek at the whiskey-making process. Be on the lookout for their single malt whiskey, arriving in March 2023.
Sip this: As opposed to London Dry styles, Listening Rock Gin is citrus-heavy and punchy, a perfect complement to your favorite tonic—or sipped on its own.
It all started at Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, where Black Dirt Bourbon first debuted. Aged for a minimum of four years, this spirit utilizes corn grown in the Drowned Lands, a wetland complex formed on the floodplains of the Wallkill River. The distillery’s bourbon and Apple Jack was so popular, that owners Joseph and Katherine Grizzanti opened a 4,000-sq-ft distillery in Pine Island in 2013 to meet demand. They also produce a 100 percent New York rye and a line of single barrel spirits. Try these terroir-driven drinks at Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery’s tasting room.
Sip this: Potentially the only bourbon in the world produced from black dirt grain, Black Dirt Bourbon is a must-try for whiskey aficionados.
New Hampton, 845.374.2011
If you’re looking for a gorgeous country-chic environment, Orange County Distillery’s tasting room at Brown Barn is the spot. Barreled gins, corn whiskeys, and polka-themed vodkas equally delight on their own or in inventive cocktails, many of which are made with Hudson Valley produce. Burgers, hot dogs, onion rings, and other warm alcohol accoutrements can be enjoyed year-round. Warwick native and 18-time Grammy-winning polka artist Jimmy Sturr has his own vodka at OCD: “Shaken Not Sturr’d.” Pour a healthy serving of this stuff in a copper mug with some ginger beer, and you’ll be dancing to accordion music all night long.
Sip this: One of OCD’s flagship specialties, Sugar Beet Vodka is made with white beets and exhibits flavors of banana peel and strawberry leaf – perfect for springtime.
Directly across from George Washington’s Revolutionary War headquarters in Newburgh, Spirits Lab Distilling turns out a line of top-tier liquors that we bet the Founding Fathers would rave about, including a triple-filtered vodka, a London Dry-style gin, a bourbon, and a rye whiskey. The East End gin (named after Spirits Lab’s location in Newburgh’s east end) includes both traditional botanicals and plants native to the Hudson Valley. “We were able to source local ingredients including chamomile, elderberry, and lemongrass that are amazing complements to the juniper we import from Italy,” says managing partner Matt Frohman.
The Spirits Lab Cocktail Collection follows the same philosophy, adding unique twists to classic drinks. The 800-sq-ft tasting room and cocktail bar is the perfect place to discover new flavor combinations, such as a Sicilian Negroni, tart cherry Manhattan or rosé vodka lemonade. For those seeking something truly different, consider ordering the Cuca Fresca Cachaça, a Brazilian spirit made from organic sugarcane. The tasting room and distillery also host fun events, like live music, food trucks, book signings, and a few seasonal festivals including Fall Fest and Friendsgiving.
Sip this: Spirits Lab vodka is ultra-clean and extremely smooth. If you’re a sipping vodka skeptic, try this one on the rocks and prepare to be wowed.
New Paltz, 845.444.1044
The Coppersea philosophy revolves around what the team calls “heritage methods.” Chief Distiller Christopher Briar Williams runs a true “grain-to-glass” operation, utilizing barley, corn, and rye from the 75-acre farm. This team was the first in the state to “floor-malt” its own grain, contributing to a 100-percent Hudson Valley terroir. A trip to Coppersea will demonstrate other unique processes, like open-top fermentation and direct-fire distillation. We’re excited about the prospects of Coppersea’s Bonticou Crag Rye in a simple Manhattan. Notes of cinnamon, raw honey, and pepper play nicely with fine vermouth and aromatic bitters.
Sip this: Excelsior Straight Bourbon is imbued with the flavors of charred Hudson Valley oak barrels.
West Park, 845.834.6007
Hospitality and craft spirits vets Paul Seres and Charles Ferri turned an 1850s Italian revival manor (and former monastery) into an impressive destination distillery. The first phase of development includes an elegant bar and tasting rooms, an expansive four-season deck overlooking the Hudson River’s eastern shores, and a beautiful bridal suite. Eventually, Hudson House and Distillery will debut a 25-room hotel, indoor and outdoor event spaces, and more on its 27 acres. “Part of our job is telling the story of this place. We want people to come here for the experience, and to form new memories through our storytelling,” Seres says.
Hudson House’s first releases were exclusively bourbon and rye whiskey—a true Empire Rye, made from 100- percent New York ingredients. This winter, they released Altair Vodka: a 12-time distilled spirit infused with naturally soft “sweet water” from an onsite artisan well that’s tapped into a Catskill aquifer. Altair means “eagle,” a nod to the area’s native wildlife. Southern-inspired small plates such as short ribs, beer-infused mac ’n ’ cheese, and pulled pork sliders draw crowds on the weekends.
Sip this: Catskill Mountain water brings out the best of Hudson House rye whiskey, excellent on the rocks or in a Manhattan.
Old-world spirits with new-age presentation is the theme at Stoutridge Winery and Distillery. Tour its Italian-style, scenic property—nestled in a limestone ridge by the Hudson—and explore ultra-clean vodkas, Genever-style gins, brandies, and more via expert-guided tastings. But that’s not all: Stoutridge is becoming a player in the absinthe and specialty liqueur game. “I’ve got a sensitive palate and I’ve been making natural wines for 40 years. Absinthe is one of the few spirits to equal natural wine in complexity,” says owner Steve Osborn.
Two must-try absinthes include Scherzo, which has a stunning green (“verte”) hue and Prelude, a blanche style. Joining familiar liqueurs like blue curaçao and amaro, Stoutridge also crafts Lemon of Izmir, a Greek twist on limoncello; Kirschka, a cherry brandy-vodka blend; and Café Moroc, an Arabian style coffee liqueur. On Saturdays (weather permitting), pair your absinthe or amaro with plates from food trucks including lobster rolls from Cousins Maine Lobster, Max’s Melts’ grilled cheese sandwiches, and savory garlic knots from Hold My Knots.
Sip this: Vashudda, a spin-off of Prelude named after the throat chakra, features soothing chamomile and mint.
When Ralph Erenzo and his late son Gable first opened Tuthilltown Spirits, they helped start a restoration of New York’s craft distilling scene. Today, visitors can explore five of Hudson Whiskey’s spirits via $12 self-guided tasting flights. After sipping Do the Rye Thing Sazeracs or whiskey sours featuring Bright Lights, Big Bourbon, take a tour of the 1788 gristmill or sign up for a cocktail workshop. Five whiskeys are currently available. These include Short Stack, a rye whiskey finished in maple syrup barrels, and Four Port Harmony, a four-grain bourbon aged for seven years. Stay tuned for The xSeries, a line of limited batch experimental whiskeys. Tuthilltown Spirits is distinctly New York in attitude, from its ingredients to its MTA-style logos; even the bottles scream New York.
Sip this: Tuthilltown’s Short Stack rye whiskey finishes its distillation in maple syrup barrels, giving it a gorgeous dark hue and unparalleled smoothness.
We were fascinated to find out that Claire M. Marin, founder and head distiller of Catskill Provisions, tends to hundreds of beehives in the Catskill Mountains and then infuses the wildflower honey into her grain-to-glass vodkas, gins, and whiskeys. The gastro-distillery produces Pollinator Gin and Pollinator Vodka from local organic corn, handcrafted honey, and Catskill Mountain spring water, for an unusual flavor profile. For her Beespoke Gin, Marin uses white wine grapes harvested in the Finger Lakes. In addition, the spirit features cardamom, orange peel, rose hips, and other bold botanicals.
Recently, Marin and her partner Cathy Leidersdorff started a line of amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur) made from black walnuts grown on their property. While sipping in the farmhouse-chic tasting room you can graze on gorgeous cheese boards or fill up on smoked spareribs, chicken sliders, and roasted cauliflower salads. A lineup of classic, small-batch cocktails shines during Sunday brunch, from Negronis and Cosmos to hibiscus gin and tonics.
Sip this: Pollinator Gin features interesting botanicals like verbena, chamomile, and angelica. Catskill Mountain spring water, local wildflower honey, and other Hudson Valley ingredients make this spirit a real winner.
This distillery in historic Roscoe has been racking up awards since founder Brian Facquet began making Bootlegger New York Craft Vodka in 2008. Multiple gold medals for vodka and gin–including a top trophy at the New York International Spirits Competition—plus being named to Travel and Leisure’s top seven global craft vodkas list are just a few of Do Good’s accolades.
Over 10 years later, the distillery now makes two gins, a bourbon, and liqueurs out of a century-old, 8,000-sq-ft brick firehouse. Smoothness is the defining characteristic across the repertoire of spirits. Using charcoal filtration, Facquet removes components that can lead to a harsh aroma in vodka. Lemon verbena, orris root, and orange peel mellow out the sting of juniper in Bootlegger Gin. The Bootlegger Gin rests in empty, leftover bourbon barrels which create a hybrid spirit filled with caramelized sugar, vanilla, and clove notes. Visits are fun during warmer months when tables line the street and musicians perform live from a stage opposite the distillery.
Sip this: For the Beaverkill Bourbon Cream, Facquet combines Western New York dairy, Crown Maple syrup, and his own bourbon.
Long Eddy, 845.887.4184
Over five generations ago, notable fur trapper and brewer Will Milk made spirits from honey, blackberries, and other ingredients sourced from his Callicoon farm. Five generations later, husband and wife Jim and Terry Milk run Rock Valley Spirits. One of the few gins in the world to use juniper foraged from the Catskills, their Sullivan County farm also yields raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and elderberries that make their way into flavored vodkas and liqueurs. Celebrating hyper-local terroir is at the forefront: the Milks use wooden, open-top fermenters, exposing spirits to the environment and allowing their home-grown flora to interact with the spirits; their water comes from a deep well below the farm.
“Solid rock all the way down means the well water doesn’t require casing. It’s separate from surface water, so it’s not impacted by acid rain or drought. It’s a very soft, mineral-free water, similar to Scottish water found in Speyside whiskeys,” says Terry. This is key, especially for the single malt whiskey (which dropped in December 2021); the rye is next on the horizon. For now, visitors can enjoy raspberry gimlets and other cocktails in the taproom (housed in a red barn.) Conversely, they can sip on the bluestone patio with views of the Catskill Mountains.
Sip this: After much anticipation, Rock Valley Spirits single malt whiskey hit shelves. Most importantly, it features 100-percent New York malted barley.