Sex and the City, Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men have something in common…They have helped to reintroduce the world to the glitz and glam of classic cocktails, bringing almost extinct spirits like Rye back in vogue and re-popularizing libations our parents, and sometimes more appropriately, our grandparents used to enjoy. Who can forget how every girl’s night out on Sex and the City started with Carrie and the girls drinking a sexy looking Cosmopolitan? Or, in Mad Men where sex, power and money seem to include an amazing looking Vodka Gimlet, Martini or Old Fashioned? TV helped to kick off a trend, but what has fueled the current cocktail/spirits craze has been an explosion of micro distillers who are taking the craft of spirit distillation to a new level.
In 2000, there were only about a dozen micro-distillers in the country, that is to say, distilleries, producing 40,000 cases of spirits a year or less. Today, there are about 200 craft distillers countrywide with more producers popping up all the time. Happily, for us tipplers, this means a whole array of spirits now available made from small producers who take their craft seriously, distilling their spirits with love, sweat and tears. Only a little over a decade into the micro-distilling movement and we see new categories of spirits appearing, such as an “American” single malt “Scotch” style whiskey from St. George of Northern California, and vodka made from Maple Syrup from Vermont Spirits. Cordials, gins, vodkas, bourbons and agave spirits that did not exist before now are available for our consumption.
This artisanal, locally oriented micro-distilling movement is simply the continuation of a food and beverage renaissance that started in the early 80s. Almost out of nowhere high quality, handcrafted, and locally produced food and beverages started showing up in supermarkets and specialty shops alike. These early pioneers fought for quality and flavor and did not accept the premise that domestically produced libations and noshes needed to taste boring or insipid. On the beverage front, they refused to accept that only great quality coffee, beer and wine had to come from Europe. So, came the advent of craft beer makers like Magic Hat, Sam Adams, Rogue and Sierra Nevada to name a few, not to mention the rise of Starbucks, the now international coffee chain who introduced America to quality coffee products on a large-scale. This all brings to mind just how far we have come in just 30 short years on the food and beverage scene, and it is exciting to think about where we will be, even in the next 10 years!
To celebrate the advent of micro-distilling, the newest phase of the locally produced, high quality beverage movement, Elixrr will be featuring interviews with some of the coolest artisanal distillers. Stay tuned.