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New York's whiskey renaissance

Char No. 4's wall of whiskey (Talia Herman)

Char No. 4's wall of whiskey (Talia Herman) Credit: Talia Herman

Not since the days before prohibition has New York seen such a whiskey boom.

Bars all over the city are offering sophisticated whiskey cocktails and old-school shots, with some menus boasting whiskeys from around the world. And whiskey distilleries are back in business after 80 years.

Add it all up, and it's a good time to be a whiskey lover in New York City.

Made in New York
Kings County Distillery, established in April of this year, boasts that it's “New York City's oldest whiskey distillery.”

Co-founder Colin Spoelman, originally from Kentucky, had been distilling at home, but it wasn't exactly legal. He and his partner, David Haskell, saw an opportunity when they realized no one else was making whiskey within the city limits.

“New York has a great cocktail and bar culture as well as a great foodie culture, and we wanted to bring those things together,” Spoelman said.

The distillery sells its moonshine - a corn whiskey that has not been aged in new charred barrels like bourbon - to bars and liquor stores and recently sold out of their first batch of bourbon by selling it on site at their Brooklyn headquarters.

Meanwhile, new regulations have made it relatively easy to get a distillery license, and several distilleries have set-up shop.

“No one has made whiskey in New York since Prohibition,” said Ralph Erenzo of Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner, NY, where rye, corn whiskey and bourbon can be found.

Modern manhattans
“Cocktail designers have an opportunity to play with new flavors,” Spoelman said.

Williamburg's Marlow & Sons (81 Broadway, 718-384-1441) offers the White Manhattan, $12, made with Kings County's Moonshine, Dolin's Vermouth and a lemon peel.

The Boom Boom Room at the Standard (848 Washington St., 212-645-4646) uses Tuthilltown's Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, raw honey syrup and lemon in the White Gold Rush. And ABC Kitchen (35 E 18th St., 212-475-5829) has perfected the Manhattan by using McKenzie Rye Whiskey from Finger Lakes Distilling, Antica Vermouth and brandy-soaked cherries ($16).

A wall of whiskey
Interesting whiskeys from all over the world are everywhere in New York city. Whiskey Brooklyn (44 Berry St., 718-387-8444), co-owned by the brothers behind Whiskey Town and Whiskey Tavern, opened in August in Williamsburg. All three bars serve Tom Lawless, a whiskey made in Kentucky especially for the enterprise. Try a shot with a pickle juice chaser for $9.

An entire wall of whiskey greets visitors of Char No. 4 in Carroll Gardens (196 Smith St., 718-643-2106). From Jim Beam to Booker's to Suntory, a Japanese Whiskey, the bar offers something for every whiskey lover. Char No. 4 also offers a complete menu of southern cuisine.

Sip Single Malt Scotch at Hudson Bar and Books (636 Hudson St., 212-229-2642), which has offered a discerning list of spirits for New Yorkers for 30 years. The scotch list is particularly impressive.

Perfect pairing — Whiskey and cheese

Whiskey and cheese. Sound like a strange pairing? We think it sounds just right for a cold winter's day. And apparently so do a lot of New Yorkers.

Murray's Cheese offers a tasting that pairs the two. “The class does really well,” said instructor Liz Thorpe. “I would say it's an after-dinner thing. It's a very intense pairing experience."

Thorpe has found that higher fat content cheeses are better pairing partners, because they're sturdier. “We've been less successful with light goat cheeses -they get mowed over by the whiskey,” she said.

Thorpe provides some suggestions on pairings:

Tuthilltown's New York Corn Whiskey. Pairs well with: Brie styles of cheese - soft, buttery, runny cows-milk cheeses. “You're going for a buttered corn pairing,” Thorpe said.

Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve (bourbons). Pair well with: An aged gouda (2-4 years ideally). “They are denser, almost have a waxy crayon texture,” Thorpe said. “They have a very concentrated flavor profile, almost butterscotchy. The combination is not sweet, but it reminds me of a Werther's Original without the sugar.”

Single-malt scotches. Pair well with: Aged English cow's milk cheeses, like cheddar. “The English style of cheddar is a cloth-bound cheddar. It's not about sharpness, like American cheddar. It's denser and dryer. A Caerphilly, a Welsh cloth-bound cheese, is great, particularly with single malts that are not aged as long,” she said. (Lucy Cohen Blatter)

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