Philly’s Small Batch Spirits
create craft cocktails at home with local spirits
I am looking for some pretty bottles to display for my future bar cart. I thought to myself let me see if I can find some made in Philly. First, I had no idea Philly made so many quality spirits. Second, the bottles are all so good looking they are totally worthy of a spot front & center on the bar cart. Check ’em out!
philadelphia distilling — created and made right here in philly
Back in 2005 Pennsylvania’s first micro distillery since Prohibition opened up in the Northeast to produce their first spirit Bluecoat Gin. Since introducing Bluecoat, Philadelphia Distilling has added four new spirits to their repertoire. Click on the name of the liquor for more information & cocktail recipes straight from the makers.
Clever name…as in the blue coats defeated the red coats during the Revolutionary War & the aim is to defeat the Brits again by distilling the most delicious gin; in the birthplace of America no less. Victory belonged to blue again when P.D. won “Best Gin” in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition as well as “Best Gin” in the International Wine & Spirits Competition amongst a slew of other accolades. P.D. crafts Bluecoat uses only the finest botanicals including organic juniper berries (which ensures this gin doesn’t taste like a pine tree) & is distilled five times in a hand hammered copper pot.
Not to get stuck in a gin niche P.D. started producing vodka & absinthe (one of my very favorite special occasion spirits) in 2008. Another clever name…1681 is the year that King George II granted William Penn the land that would become the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To really bring it full circle, the original master distiller’s family has been in Pennsylvania for a very long time….long enough to have bought a tract of land from William Penn. A truly indigenous spirit, Penn 1681 Vodka uses of one of Pennsylvania’s original cash crops, rye, as opposed to the usual wheat or potatoes. The rye is farmed organically & grown locally in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. A four column continuous still produces an exceptionally pure & smooth vodka at a really great price point.
Vieux Carré is named after the local nomenclature for Louisiana’s French Quarter where absinthe was extremely popular stateside. Absinthe, also known as the green fairy, originated in Switzerland but became extremely popular in France. This was the notorious drink of the Parisian bohemian at the turn of the 20th century before conservatives & prohibitionists declared that it drove people mad. By 1915 absinthe was banned in the U.S. as well as most parts of Europe for being dangerous & addictive. I think these people had more issue with the bohemian culture surrounding absinthe than absinthe itself. This is the first (legal) absinthe distilled, bottled & sold on the east coast in a hundred years. The first time I drank this was at Sassafras in Old City…they serve it the old school way…absinthe dripper and all.
In 2011, the XXX Shine line was added to P.D.’s repertoire. XXX Shine is a white whiskey (aka moonshine) made from corn & triple distilled. For me, the South & moonshine go hand in hand but I am wrong. According to a blurb from the book “Chasing the White Dog” by Max Watman on the P.D. website Philadelphia was the capitol of moonshine consumption during Prohibition. There is also XXX Shine Libertea made from corn whiskey, tea & honey as well as XXX Shine Salted Caramel which has a buttery caramel flavor accented with sea salt.
Introduced in 2013 this is a four times distilled vodka flavored with traditional Chesapeake Bay seasonings & sea salt. Your next Bloody Mary just got that much better.
created in philly
These spirits are the brainchild of Philly creative, Steven Grasse, but are distilled elsewhere.
Hendrick’s Gin was created by Steven Grasse’s firm Quaker City Mercantile in 1998 when they were hired by William Grant & Sons. Hendrick’s Gin distinct flavor comes from the addition of cucumber & rose. The gin is distilled in Scotland but the brand is still managed by Quaker City.
Sailor Jerry Rum came to be when Quaker City Mercantile acquired the estate of the legendary tattoo artist Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins in 1999. Sailor Jerry spent half his life as a sailor so a spiced rum seemed a natural progression for the brand. William Grant & Sons bought the brand from Quaker City in 2008. The rum is distilled in the Caribbean but Quaker City still manages the Sailor Jerry brand.
Founded by Steven Grasse, brainchild of both Hendrick’s Gin & Sailor Jerry rum, in 2009. Art in the Age spirits utilize organic ingredients & natural flavors to create liquors with an old fashioned & hyper local sensibility. They have a storefront on North 3rd Street in Old City where you can sample the liquors during First Friday or peruse their boutique which feels more like a gallery. These spirits are distilled in L.A. & New Hampshire.
- Root – called root tea in the 1700’s this was a Native American blend passed on to the first settlers & made abundantly in Pennsylvania. During Prohibition the alcohol was removed & the drink rechristened root beer.
- Snap – flavor profile inspired by the Pennsylvania Dutch Lebkuchen or ginger snap cookie.
- Rhubarb – one Mr. Benjamin Franklin brought the first rhubarb seeds from Europe as a gift to one Mr. John Bartram of Bartram’s Gardens. Mr. Bartram was quite taken with rhubarb & made a rhubarb tea in which to showcase his latest botanical interest. This is Bartram’s rhubarb tea reimagined as an alcoholic beverage.
- Sage – a garden gin that uses some of the botanicals from the writings of Bernard McMahon who emigrated to Philadelphia in 1796 & became Thomas Jefferson’s botanical advisor. McMahon documented the plants Lewis & Clark found during their expedition through the New World in the book “Flora Americae”. These plants were grown by Jefferson at Monticello & became the guideline for gardeners interested in growing the New World’s native flora.