Craft Distilleries Are Raising Spirits in PhiladelphiaBy Nell McShane Wulfhart
Philadelphia’s been building a reputation as a beer drinker’s mecca for a decade, but while craft breweries are now a dime a dozen, until recently the harder stuff had taken a back seat. The last few years, though, have seen dedicated distilleries popping up, devoted to producing small-batch rums, gins and herbal liqueurs that can be found both at the city’s top bars and further afield.
The best part? It’s possible to visit all of these places on a tour or for a tasting. Here are five Philadelphia distilleries to know.
Housed in a former stable, New Liberty’s distillery includes a bar and tasting room where visitors can try out the company’s whiskies and sample inventive whiskey cocktails. Weekly tours are offered on Saturdays.
Working from a long tradition of Pennsylvania whiskies (the state once produced more whiskey than Kentucky), master distiller Robert Cassell crafts small batches of rye and bourbon as well as a superb aged whiskey, the Pennsylvania Dutch Malt.
Made from local barley, this roasty young whiskey has a distinctly American flavor — it’s aged in new oak barrels, which differentiates it from Scotch — and it’s starting to appear on bar shelves around the country.
A micro-distillery that recently moved into shiny new digs in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood, Philadelphia Distilling has scooped up tons of awards for its Bluecoat gin, made with organic juniper berries and citrus peels and distilled five times.
They’ve been adding more spirits to their lineup. An absinthe distilled from two kinds of wormwood, star anise and spearmint makes a fantastic base for a Sazerac cocktail, and the distillery’s Penn 1681 vodka is produced with a column still, making it extra-pure and smooth.
Stop into the distillery for a tour and tasting, or just park yourself at the cocktail bar and order a parsnip-rosemary gin and tonic.
The coffee giant that first launched in Philly is now brewing its own coffee-infused rum onsite at its stunning flagship café in Fishtown. They call Different Drum a “rum for the bourbon drinker,” thanks to its combination of cane sugar and coffee, which creates a smooth, sippable drink that we’re not against adding to an afternoon latte.
This tiny distillery on Frankford Avenue is run by master distiller Dean Browne, who makes herbal liqueurs, gins and moonshine in micro-micro-micro batches of just 100 bottles at a time.
There’s a peppery, cardamom-flavored gin, a panela-infused rum fermented with Spanish wine yeast, and other experimental spirits. Try the coffee liqueur, made from cold brew that’s brewed with locally roasted ReAnimator beans, and the Bear Trap, an anise-y herbal liqueur made from 19 different spices and herbs.
Private tours can be arranged, but tastings are always available during retail hours.
Each bottle of Pollyodd Italian liqueur is made by hand by Joan Verratti, a Philadelphian who limits her ingredients to water, sugar, pure grain alcohol and fruit or chocolate, plus cream for the cream-based brews that seem more like desserts than drinks.
The limoncello is a local favorite — an old-school Italian recipe that makes a fabulous summer tipple — but orange, chocolate, banana and mango flavors are all popular. You can sample them in her store and tasting room on the very hip East Passyunk Avenue in the old Italian neighborhood of South Philly.