This Week in Food: Spirits of New York, Alon Shaya Pop-Up, Beyond Momos

Spirits of New York
New York Distilling Co. (79 Richardson Street, Brooklyn)
Monday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Sample New York’s best homegrown spirits at this walk-around tasting featuring artisanal producers. The fifth annual event will feature spirits served neat as well as in cocktail form. Tickets are $35 for general admission and can be purchased here.

Eat | Drink | Speak: A Series
Dean & DeLuca (560 Broadway)
Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The authors of Koreatown: A Cookbook — Matt Rodbard and chef Deuki Hong of Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong — will lead a panel discussion about the rising popularity of Korean cuisine. Moderated by Kate Krader of Food & Wine magazine, the conversation will cover the cultural elements of Korean food and drink as well as how to create simple Korean dishes at home. You’ll be able to get a taste of the cuisine at the event, too. RSVP here.

Fail Fast, Learn Fast: How to Constantly Improve Your Food Business
Brooklyn FoodWorks (630 Flushing Avenue, Suite 200, Brooklyn)
Wednesday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Focusing on each stage of building a food and hospitality brand, this free seminar will cover useful sales and marketing tactics needed by budding food industry start-ups. The seminar, led by food-business consultant Terry Frishman, will go over product placement, product packaging, and in-store demonstration techniques.

Chef Alon Shaya Pop-Up

Chefs Club by Food + Wine (275 Mulberry Street)
Wednesday and Thursday

New Orleans chef Alon Shaya will bring his fusion of Israeli and Cajun cuisines to New York for two nights. Guests can dine on a five-course tasting menu or order plates a la carte with dishes like fried-oyster hummus and matzo-ball gumbo. There will also be crabmeat tabouleh, smothered turkey necks with couscous, and a twist on the traditional bananas Foster dessert.

Beyond Momos: Himalayan Food in Jackson Heights

Sherpa Kyidug House (41-01 75th Street, Queens)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Learn about Himalayan cuisine and get a taste of some dishes from Jackson Heights’s famed restaurants. The panel includes Tashi Chodron of the Rubin Museum as well as local restaurant owners who will share their stories of how they helped foster Himalayan food culture throughout the city. Tickets are $16 for general admission. Reserve yours here.


The State of New York Whiskey Welcomes a New Era

There was a time not so long ago when the words “New York whiskey” would raise eyebrows, or even elicit laughter. That time was as recent as 2005, when there was nary a commercial producer to be found in the Empire State. My, what a difference a decade makes. Today, the New York whiskey scene is no laughing matter — it’s developed into one of the most prolific regions of production in the country, featuring solid examples of every variety of brown spirit imaginable.

“In the decade since the first Hudson whiskey flowed from the stills at Tuthilltown, New York craft whiskey has not only exploded, it’s really made a mark,” says Han Shan, Hudson Whiskey Ambassador. Establishing itself as the state’s first bourbon makers since Prohibition, his brand had to lobby Albany to help change the laws. Hudson Whiskey founder Ralph Erenzo pressed lawmakers to pass the Farm Distillery Act in 2007, which allowed farms to establish distilling operations on-site and produce up to 35,000 proof gallons for $250. Notably, the legislation also legalized direct sales to the public — as long as the spirits sold contain at least 75 percent New York agricultural product.

“The ability to sell direct to public means the ability to leverage tourism and get off the ground without having to ID and contract with distributors, an insurmountable obstacle for a lot of small craft producers.” And so the Great New York Whiskey Boom was born.

“From Brooklyn to the Hudson Valley to the Great Lakes, we’re making world-class whiskey in the Empire State. Bourbon, rye, malt whiskey —  you name it — and it just gets better every year,” Shan points out. To wit, there’s Long Island Spirits out on the North Fork, producing a wine-barrel-finished bourbon as well as a unique single malt distilled from a barleywine ale. Their double-casked Rough Rider imparts essences of berry fruit from the wine casks to go along with the hints of vanilla and caramel more familiar to a properly aged bourbon. Retailing at under $40 a bottle, it easily holds its own against any similarly priced Kentucky export.

And speaking of Kentucky exports, when Hillrock Estate Distillery, just south of the Catskills, launched their operation in 2012, they tapped a notable bluegrass veteran as their master distiller. Dave Pickerell, formerly of Maker’s Mark, applied a Solera technique to their bourbon, which uses fractional blending to ensure that every batch ready for bottling includes a portion of the eldest spirit in the system. When it launched, it became the first Solera-blended bourbon on the market. They continue that innovative approach with their very own peat-smoked single malt, due to hit the market before Christmas.

If you can’t wait that long, Hillrock’s Hudson Valley neighbors, Harvest Spirits, just launched John Henry, a two-year-aged single malt. Sourcing local, sustainably farmed grain, the scotch-style whisky is as complex as it is environmentally friendly. Bottles priced at $60 are now popping up at liquor stores across the city.

Further upstate, Brian McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling has excelled at crafting a flavorful take on a traditional Irish-style whiskey. His Pure Pot Still whiskey sells for around $45 in the five boroughs. “It’s mostly the mash bill that determines the taste profile of the Pot Still whiskey,” McKenzie points out. “The unmalted barley that dominates the recipe really creates a unique flavor. Most Irish whiskeys are triple-distilled, but we elected to double-distill our Pot Still to preserve more of the flavor.” Rich in body, with a bittersweet, tea-infused spice in the finish, it evokes the Old World while maintaining a modern edge.

In fact, all of the great whiskeys pouring out the barrels in New York today balance a respectful nod to traditions of the past while incorporating something interesting and new. As New York whiskey evolves at a rapid clip, these products are a harbinger of an unprecedented era of aged excellence in our near future.


What Is a Diamante Tequila?

Let’s talk tequila. Even casual drinkers of the agave-based spirit should be aware of its basic categories: blanco — or silver — is unaged white liquor, straight from the still; reposado rests in the barrel between two months and one year before bottling; and añejo meets oak for one to three years. While these classifications have been recognized for decades, the recent explosion in craft tequila has led to some slight modifications. It wasn’t until 2006, for example, that Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council officially qualified “extra añejo” as a certified distinction for anything aging more than three years. And what do we make of the diamante category?

In 2008, Maestro Dobel introduced its Diamante onto the market. It was the first aged tequila with a clear appearance — most have a familiar caramel hue. Today, there are several brands offering a so-called diamond-level tequila, and they’d all like to see the category officially recognized. But let’s examine the original diamante to better understand what makes it unique.

Blending reposado, añejo, and extra añejo into a single spirit, Dobel’s flagship tequila utilizes a special filtration process to remove the color. The flavor and aroma is left fully intact, however, as Diamante hints at a complexity rarely detected in its un-aged counterparts. This is the nuanced interplay between oak and agave, wood and soil. It ought to be discernible, as a portion of that liquid has spent up to five years in the barrel — a rare claim for a bottle priced at $45 per 750 milliliters.

I found it to be a superior sipping spirit, enjoyed neat — though that hasn’t stopped several high-end bar programs across the city from exploring its mixing potential. At Nobu, for example, the staff has combined the spirit with pear liqueur and cactus purée in a prickly-pear margarita. There’s a solid backbone to the cocktail that a blanco would fail to deliver.

Beyond the aesthetics, the makers of Dobel, including the eleventh-generation owner of Jose Cuervo, will have you believe their proprietary filtration imparts a certain crispness as the color is removed. It’s difficult to disprove, as you’re unable to sample Diamante prior to that process. But to me, the spirit’s true significance stems from the artful blend of different aged tequilas, arriving to the bottle in sensible harmony.

Dobel does offer a standard blanco, which packs more of a peppery spice and would be better equipped for a paloma or a margarita. The brand’s standard reposado and añejo products are also easily distinguishable thanks to more pronounced caramel notes in the finish.

But Diamante truly occupies its own space. Whether or not it’ll succeed in establishing its own official category remains to be seen. What is clear, aside from the spirit itself, is that Diamante is expanding the boundaries of the world’s fastest-growing spirit.


Is It Worth Riding the 1 Train Uptown for Craft Beer at Hogshead Tavern?

Craft beer is more commonly associated with hipster-laden pockets of the LES and Williamsburg than with the triple-digited streets of Upper Manhattan. Hogshead Tavern (126 Hamilton Place, 212-234-5411) hopes to change that perception, staking out the vastly untapped region of Hamilton Heights in the name of high-minded suds. The streamlined bar and restaurant — with warm, black-bricked, plaid-floored interior — has already charmed its way into something of a neighborhood staple. But for the faraway folks, is it worth the trek? I hopped on the 1 train to find out.

On its well-maintained website, Hogshead is quick to point out that it’s just a ten-minute ride from midtown. I found that to be wishful thinking, at best. But it is surprisingly accessible from the lower depths of the borough by way of several subway lines. Once inside, I was greeted by a slew of welcome sights, namely: twenty tap handles straddling a concise yet thoughtful platform of craft whiskeys, gins, and vodkas, all bound within a sleek, modish space.

The draft selections are sensibly displayed in large, white marker on transparent glass behind the bar. They’re impossible to miss, which is important, as the taplist frequently fluctuates, sometimes throughout the course of a single evening. Selections range from $6 to $8, mainly for sixteen-ounce pours, and include exclusive craft entities like Great Divide’s unapologetically viscous Yeti Imperial Stout, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale — a masterfully balanced American IPA. Covering regions as divergent as Newport, Oregon, and Bavaria, Germany, the menu is surprisingly light on local brews — or it was when I visited.

But as geographically and stylistically expansive as the list is, it isn’t a radical departure from many other fine watering holes in more traveled sections of the city. To set itself apart, Hogshead offers unique beer cocktails, a notable weekend brunch, and — living up to its name — an efficient food menu dominated by pork.

Of the eight dishes, built to share and priced at around $10 a plate, only the kale and artichoke dip is devoid of meat — and it could hardly be considered light fare. Although the chipotle BBQ pig wings are notable for the unique delivery of pork attached to a Buffalo wing–like riblet, the bites were somewhat lacking in flavor when compared to the spicy Moroccan meatballs and the crispy pork belly grilled cheese, the former molded from braised lamb and chorizo, the latter enhanced by a sweet onion relish and three separate varieties of melted cheese. Together they were reason enough to rationalize the subway ride.

And that was before the Hogshead Buck, a bourbon and beer cocktail that relies on ginger and blood orange to round out wooded notes of Kentucky whiskey. It’s the standout from a list of four drinks, which should soon expand to feature more beers in cocktail form. The current selections, priced between $10 and $11, are built solely upon either Crabbies Ginger Beer or Crispin Pear Cider.

Well-fed and sufficiently served, I left the Hogshead unable to stomach food or drink for the foreseeable future. I did, however, find myself with a newfound hunger to further explore Hamilton Heights. The new tavern was by no means the first to tap into this neighborhood’s unrealized potential, but by feeding an increasing demand for craft here, it certainly won’t be the last.



Why You Should Order More Craft Whiskey on the Internet With Caskers

The past decade has been marked by an explosion in the craft spirits industry. Small producers from every corner of the country now offer bold flavored booze to an expanding market of connoisseurs. Although they’ve added a diversity never before seen in the landscape, micro-producers are not without their drawbacks. Chief among those limitations is insufficient availability. Enter Caskers, a virtual outpost offering an unrivaled inventory of artisanal liquor. They’ll deliver those elusive craft labels directly to your door, anywhere — even Staten Island.

A two-year-old start-up with offices in Manhattan and San Francisco, Caskers is the brainchild of partners — and former corporate lawyers — Steven Abt and Moiz Ali. “[We launched] in 2012 after noticing that the spirits available in one part of the country were different than the spirits available in another part,” says Abt. “As craft spirits, and whiskey in particular, continued to grow in popularity, the inability to get a certain spirit depending on where you live was both frustrating to consumers and posed a real barrier to growth for craft distillers.”

That frustration was also an opportunity not only to fill a niche, but to create a site focused on promoting awareness. “With all the new spirits released each year, it’s incredibly difficult and time-consuming for consumers to learn about products and decide which they want to try, which is why we decided to curate Caskers,” says Abt.

So in addition to offering an exhaustive catalog of à la carte offerings, as can undoubtedly be found elsewhere on the Web, Caskers manufactures brand distinction through club programs, the liquor-store equivalent of a chef’s tasting menu. Starting at $149, it provides quarterly packages containing hand-selected brands adjusted according to customer preference. The client provides general guidelines (e.g., absolutely no vodka or rye, under any circumstance), and Caskers fills in the rest.

“Our goal was never to become the Amazon of spirits, but rather to introduce our members to a small number of products at a time, so they can really learn the story about the spirit and the people who make it,” Abt says.

And for the advanced drinker, enticed more by exclusivity than education, Caskers offers special releases not found elsewhere. “We work with distilleries to try various barrels that they have been aging and, when we find one we like, have the whole barrel bottled for our members,” says Abt.

Next up are two single-barrel whiskeys from Smooth Ambler: Old Scout 8 Year Old and Old Scout 9 Year Old. Bottled at cask strength, these West Virginia–born bourbons boast a significantly high rye content — which can easily be nosed long before even a drop hits the tongue.

Putting the lie to the notion that older equals better, Abt and several of his colleagues preferred the subtleties of the 8 Year Old to its slightly more aged counterpart. A neat pour of each, side by side, and I was obliged to agree. If you want to decide for yourself, you’d best act fast; I suspect neither expression will last long on the site.

Finding a way through the increasingly dense market of contemporary spirits is both wondrous and daunting. Nothing beats accumulating that knowledge empirically, but it’s always nice to have some outside guidance behind the wheel. With the vision of Steven Abt and his team at Caskers, the vast expanse of craft is that much easier to navigate.


One Bottle of Rye, One Hundred Years of History

Whiskey tastes like heaven, and it surely makes you feel like you belong there. But an often overlooked quality of the American spirit is the intimate story it can pour into every glass. In the case of Five Fathers Pure Rye Malt Whisky, a dram carries with it a legendary narrative stretching back more than a century. No wonder each sip tends to linger.

Religiously revered in Kentucky, whiskey’s history is steeped in a mystical lore that often blurs the line between fantasy and documented reality. So when the sleepy village of Maysville, nestled along the winding banks of the Ohio River, claims to be the birthplace of bourbon, it should arouse skepticism. Yet according to sources no less credible than the state legislature, this small port town is the site of Kentucky’s first whiskey distillery, opened in 1790.

Maysville eventually became home to H.E. Pogue, who produced small-batch bourbon and rye for more than 50 years until Prohibition shuttered the family-run business. The violent nature of bootlegging left such a bad taste in locals’ mouths that they drifted away from booze production for several generations after repeal.

Sensing his birthright (and an ever-growing demand for craft whiskey), John Pogue decided to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors, working with his family to establish Old Pogue, Maysville’s first working distillery in over 70 years. While they patiently wait for their bourbon to adequately age in the barrel (that will happen sometime around 2017), Old Pogue has released Five Fathers, a two-year pure rye initially only available in Kentucky and New York.

The “pure” refers to the fact that rye is the only grain present in the mash bill. This relatively young whiskey delivers a smack of spice that would shake the palate of a typical bourbon drinker. This is much more about pepper, cloves, and hickory than the vanilla and oak that define an older whiskey. Those mellower, sweeter notes can come only from prolonged exposure to oak — there is no substitute.

By comparison, Five Fathers barely gets to know the barrel before hitting the glass. But this isn’t just because Old Pogue needed to rush a product to market — the distillery already bottles an award-winning bourbon that flies off the shelf. This drink is designed to be a departure from the tamer tonalities of corn-heavy brown spirits dominating the scene. It’s the same recipe used by H.E. Pogue in the mid nineteenth century, when folks actually wanted to taste their booze.

While whiskey lore may remain contentious, good whiskey itself generates a surprising degree of consensus. You don’t have to believe that bourbon was born a stone’s throw from Old Pogue to accept that it’s making some stellar spirits there today. And with its genuine pedigree, Five Fathers offers more than just a good rye, it provides a portal into the past.

Just be prepared to pay a premium for that history lesson: 375mL bottles retail for around $40, if you’re lucky enough to find them. The limited-batch rye was last seen on shelves at Gramercy Wine Country, and online at


This Week’s Five Best Food Events – 12/8/2014

Sick of hot chocolate and yuletide cheer? Plan your escape from the North Pole with these five non-holiday-related events.

Whiskey Women with Fred Minnick, National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Learn about how some of the world’s most beloved spirits got their start. Author Fred Minnick will detail the role of women in the making of beer and bourbon throughout time, including the creation of brands like Bushmills and Maker’s Mark. Nicole Austin of Kings County Distillery, Bianca Miraglia of Uncouth Vermouth, and Bridget Firtle of Owney’s Rum will pour tastes of their own brands during the literary pre-game session. Tickets are $40.

Smoke Signals: Smoke, Peat and Malt With Allan Roth, Astor Center, 399 Lafayette Street, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Interested in learning how smoke and soil can create such a distinct whiskey? Allan Roth, beverage director of Char No. 4, will discuss this phenomenon over six tastings and be on hand to answer any questions following the class. Palate cleansers like bread and cheese will be provided, and topics include such technical insight as how distillers balance levels of peat. Tickets are $89.

Eating Delancey, Tenement Museum, 108 Orchard Street, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

At this free event, authors Aaron Rezny and Jordan Schaps share stories and recipes related to knishes, herring, and other Jewish delicacies. The duo will be joined by contributors to their book — whose intro was penned by the late Joan Rivers — including representatives from Russ & Daughters and Sammy’s Roumanian, both of whom feature prominently. You’ll be able to buy the volume, too, offered at a 15 percent discount.

What’s Nu: The State of Brooklyn’s Jewish Delis, Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Ted Merwin, a local historian with a fondness for pastrami, brings together the owners of Junior’s, Mile End, and Jay and Llloyd’s Kosher Deli for a discussion on life behind the marble counter. Tickets are $10, and $5 for Historical Society members.

Lunch & Learn: Beginner Knife Skills, Bowery Culinary Center – Whole Foods, 95 East Houston Street, Friday, noon

Though you may never compete in a chopping contest on Cutthroat Kitchen, it’s still important to have fundamental knife skills in the kitchen. Instructor Min Liao will cover all the basics of how to not cut your finger off, and students will receive a lunch composed of foods they’ve just learned how to cut correctly. Reservations are $20.



Get Your Hands on Kings County’s Rare Peated Bourbon

Upon opening in East Williamsburg in 2010, Kings County Distillery (63 Flushing Avenue) became the city’s first post-Prohibition distillery. Although co-founder and master distiller Colin Spoelman could trace his roots back to the land of bourbon, he was clearly influenced by the single-malt tradition. Copper stills were imported from Scotland, and malted barley played heavily in the mash bill of his whiskey. After four years of steady growth — and a relocation to a larger facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard — Kings County readies itself for an added infusion of scotch-like flavors to its lineup. Spoelman discussed details with the Village Voice.

Tell us a little bit about the three newest additions to the Kings County lineup. Where will we be able to find them?
We have three new limited releases, all of which are so small we are only selling them out of the tasting room at the distillery. The first is peated bourbon, which is a bourbon that conforms legally to the requirements to be called bourbon, but uses a malted barley that has been exposed to peat in the malting process, which is more common to scotch whiskey. So it’s a hybrid between a bourbon and a scotch. We also have a brandy that we made from Cabernet Franc wine made by Brooklyn Winery, and a barrel-strength rye whiskey made with New York State-grown rye. We only have 100 to 300 bottles of each, so they are very limited runs. One of the best parts of being a craft distiller is getting to experiment, and so these are some that we are especially proud of.

Peated Bourbon, what was the inspiration behind this? What do you suppose single-malt enthusiasts will make of it?
The peated bourbon will be more familiar to bourbon drinkers than scotch drinkers. The peat is quite subtle, so I would describe it as a bourbon that tastes less sweet than most bourbons, with a little more of a bold, robust flavor. Rob Easter, of Workhorse Rye, was working in the distillery two summers ago, and I have to give credit to him for this invention. We had the peat lying around because we were making some single-malt scotch-style whiskey, and it was his idea to use it to make bourbon. I’ve never seen it done before, so I think we are likely the first distillery to have tried it. I wish we made more, but we are making more now that will be ready in two to three years.

Can you describe a bit of the process that goes into peating bourbon? How exactly do you infuse that smokiness into corn, for example?
Our bourbon is made from corn and malted barley. Most Kentucky bourbons also add wheat or rye, but ours is just the malted barley — it’s a great recipe (a high-malt bourbon) and creates a point of differentiation. Most European or international whiskeys (Scotch, Irish, and Japanese) use malted barley exclusively. So our regular bourbon is already more like an international whiskey than a traditional bourbon. The peat comes with the barley. We sourced a peated malt from Thomas Fawcett, based in the U.K., and used this in our regular bourbon recipe. Peat was historically used in the malting process at some distilleries in Scotland where there wasn’t access to wood. Malting means germinating grains and then drying them midway through the process of sprouting. To do this, distilleries would heat a stone floor with a fire, and those distilleries that used peat as fuel noticed that the smoke would infuse the whiskey at this stage, and so whiskey from those distilleries, especially on the island of Islay (Laphroaig, Ardbeg), tended to have this characteristic.

Is it an expression meant to be enjoyed neat, or do you see some potential cocktail applications?
I think it’s totally open to the individual. I would drink it neat, just because it’s so unusual on its own, but could be used however anyone would like.

What are some of the specific joys of operating a distillery in Brooklyn?
We’re so small that we can do limited runs as an experiment, even down to the five-gallon size. If we like it, great. If we don’t, we can just drink it ourselves. But also the great part of being an urban distillery is that we have such a great connection to our neighbors, as customers but also as friends and colleagues. We feel very engaged with New York City: bars, restaurants, stores, chefs, whiskey aficionados, locavores, history buffs, other distillers, other booze-makers, other manufacturers. It’s kind of an amazing time to be in manufacturing after so many years of decline in the city.

What are some of the drawbacks?
I think people still have a hard time with bourbon made outside of Kentucky, but they are coming around. Nobody knows what bourbon made in Brooklyn is supposed to taste like, so we get to expand what people think about when they think about American whiskey. Also, it’s expensive to do anything in New York, and so we’re an expensive whiskey. So people have to be comfortable with that.

Do all of your barrels mature in the city? If so, what are some of the elements that this specific climate brings to aging spirits here?

They do. We have a room in the distillery and two shipping containers where our spirits mature. The climate of the city is actually a lot like the climate of Kentucky, which is actually where I grew up. We’re further north, but on the coast, so it balances out. I’m not sure climate is a major differentiator in terms of what makes our product unique, but water, climate, ingredients, method of distillation, and aging style are all different for our bourbon versus a Kentucky one, so it’s a factor.

The Brooklyn distilling scene has really picked up over the past decade…Is it becoming overly competitive? Do you think there is a saturation point to this particular market?
Well, I would say we are there already, but on the other hand, we are all trying to keep up with demand, so it seems there is more interest. I think the spirits scene around the whole country is about to get shaken up, and it’s anyone’s guess where it will fall. I do think Brooklyn distilleries have a great audience at home, and as an international city, we have a global market for people who want to visit and see what makes the city so creative and productive.

Where are some of your favorite bars in and around the city to enjoy a dram or a cocktail?
I love the bars that have a great catalog of whiskeys: Char No. 4, Brandy Library, Flatiron Room, and Noorman’s Kil are my favorite spots to drink whiskey here in the city.

Any unique whiskey pairing suggestions that you could share?
People suggest our chocolate whiskey over ice cream as a very boozy dessert. It’s a little bit of an unusual way to use whiskey, so I recommend it.

Tell us about the tasting-room experience at Kings County. Any plans for expansion?
We are expanding, trying to make sure we have enough product to supply an increasingly larger audience. But we will never be even a mid-sized craft distillery like some of the ones that are popping up in Kentucky and on the West Coast. We’re growing, but we’ll always be small. One thing is that we have signed a lease on two small buildings in the Navy Yard that will expand our visitor experience and tasting offerings, but that’s probably all I can say right now.

Can we expect to see more experimental expressions in the near future? What are y’all working on next?
Well, I alluded to our single-malt, scotch-style whiskey already, but that’s coming next year. I’m not quite sure what it will be called, but it’s a single-malt scotch made in the U.S., which makes it, I think, a “whiskey from a malt mash” by U.S. law. But it conforms to the very high standards of single-malt scotch. We also have a four-year bourbon that should be out next year, a bottled-in-bond whiskey, which at one point was one of the ways that consumers could know for sure their whiskey was made at a particular distillery. With so many sourced and private-label bulk whiskeys on the market, consumers want to know where their spirit is actually made, and bottled-in-bond is a 1906 law to protect them, and it’s every bit as important today. We make all our whiskeys in house, every drop, so this will be our way to expressing that pride.

Kings County’s tasting room is located in building 121 of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Hours of operation fluctuate, so it’s best to contact them directly before planning a visit.


Syndicate 58/6 and the Art of Solera Blended Scotch

Scotland is synonymous with single malt, a drink made with fermented barley from a single distillery. But this particular style of whisky, highly revered throughout the world, is hardly the be-all and end-all of scotch. In fact, many folks regard Johnnie Walker Blue Label — a blend — as the most elegant expression of brown spirit…and Johnnie hardly holds the monopoly on that game. Take Syndicate 58/6, a blend faithfully reconstructed from a 19th-century recipe. It has garnered critical acclaim by employing the Solera method in the maturation process. The brand’s latest premium release is now available in bars and bottle shops throughout the city.

Contemporary craft spirits constantly strive to carve out their own niche with compelling back stories, frequently printed on artfully designed back labels. Although Syndicate 58/6 maintains a modish simplicity on its bottle, this Scotch whisky holds claim to a legitimately noteworthy lineage. In 1958, a rare blend of single malt and grain whisky was discovered in an Edinburgh warehouse. The limited stock of 10 oak casks was traced back to a blend recipe created by Marshall Taplow in the early 1800s. The reserve was left to age in the barrels for 12 years, when it was initially bottled for the private use of six influential aristocrats of the day. This was the birth of the Syndicate 58/6 brand.

To preserve the legacy and consistency of that initial bottling, the master blender established a Solera system, wherein newer whiskies in the blend are continually merged with small portions of the original 1958 stock. Although that 50-year-old whisky is continually diluted with each passing year, a dram of this year’s 58/6 still contains trace amounts.

Adding even more complexity to this high-end hooch is a final marrying process, wherein the proprietary blend of 18 single malts and four single-grain whiskies age for up to two years in Oloroso sherry casks. The result is a well-rounded product of exceptional smoothness, with a touch of spice from the grain interlacing with intimations of sweet apricot from that final maturation. Complex enough to give many a single-malt snob serious pause.

The 86-proof Syndicate 58/6 Premium blended scotch retails at about $165 at fine liquor stores, such as Park Ave. Liquor Shop in midtown. It’s also available online at, currently at a discounted rate. Enjoy a dram at many fine watering holes throughout New York. I sipped on mine immersed in the old-world charm of Union Square’s Headless Horseman tavern.


$1 Empanadas and Thai New Year’s Dinner Highlight This Week’s Top Events

Is the lime shortage right before outdoor drinking season making you mad? Or did the first Game of Thrones episode leave you hurt and bitter? Whatever’s on your mind, relax a little — or a lot — at this week’s top events.

National Empanada Day, multiple locations, Tuesday

If you aren’t aware of the benefits of having empanadas in your life, head out to Favela Cubana starting at 11 a.m. The restaurant will be offering the beef-and-corn-stuffed pastry for just a dollar all day long for both in-house dining and take-out. For the morning commute, Brazilia Cafe will offer breakfast versions of the treat — bacon, egg, and onion, anyone? — as well an empanada stuffed with Brazilian sausage. Other spots worth a visit: Empanada Mama and Mama’s Empanada’s.

Enlightenment Dinner, The Farm on Adderley, 1108 Cortelyou Road
Brooklyn, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Interested in drinking wine not made from grapes? How about mead or potions? Representatives from Enlightenment Wines and Caledonia Spirits will be on hand to speak with diners about the unique drinks they produce using the land around them. Not promising anything, but you might have a chance to try dandelion wine, and vodka made from honey. The event also includes dinner prepared by the restaurant, as well as the chance to interact with some of the most interesting spirit makers working today. Tickets are $79; reservations can be made through The Farm on Adderley’s website.

A Taste of Fifth Avenue, The Grand Prospect Hall, 263 Prospect Avenue
Brooklyn, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

If you’ve been meaning to check out Park Slope restaurants all in one place, this tasting event has you covered. A few of the participating restaurants from the bustling strip include longtime avenue favorite Al Di La and newcomer Grand Central Oyster Bar Brooklyn. Wine and beer will be served throughout the evening, so expect to see a few of Brooklyn’s most famous spirits helping people dance like no one’s watching. Tickets are $45 in advance — $20 of which goes to the participating charity of your choice — and can be purchased here.

Luckyrice’s Songkran Thai New Year Celebration Dinner, James Beard House, 167 West 12th Street, Friday, 7 p.m.

To commemorate Thai New Year’s, a selection of chefs including Ngam’s Hong Thaimee will descend upon the historic James Beard house for a family style meal complete with cocktail pairings. Snacks like shrimp toast will start off the cocktail hour, which will feature a selection of gin-based libations. At 8 p.m., guests will sit down for a meal of coconut soup, spicy tomato dip, and braised beef curry with turmeric noodles…among other Thai specialties. Tickets are $130 for James Beard Foundation members and $170 for the general public; additional information regarding the complete menu and reservations can be found on the Luckyrice website.