On a recent bitterly cold Sunday afternoon, I forced myself out of my toasty apartment, dressed my hound in his finest sweater and headed to New York Distilling Company in Williamsburg (79 Richardson St.), where they open their doors not only to people but to the dogs of North Brooklyn for an afternoon of spirits and fun. Fittingly enough, the distillery opened in 2011 on the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. We sure are grateful that we don’t have to hide our booze anymore and can openly imbibe in the comfort of their intimate attached bar, The Shanty.
Coziness is the ideal against which I tend to judge all establishments, and this bar definitely met my expectations. The dark wood is complimented by the glow of soft lighting, a wall of liquor bottles reflecting back the warmth. Although I didn’t receive a particularly warm greeting from the bartender, he did treat each cocktail with care. With hands still half-frozen from the early arrival of winter in New York, I was delighted to see a hot toddy on the menu. It was subtly satisfying, if lacking a bit in the honey department, and presented with star anise, just like I make it for guests. The Shanty boasts a full bar with reasonably priced cocktails, and are kind enough to include several craft beer options for the beer enthusiasts among us. There are plenty of comfortable seating options, all complete with a view into the distillery where the magic happens.
After enjoying the warmth of the toddies and taking in the pleasant background music—from a genre I would label Southern Speakeasy—we headed into the back room where the distilling takes place. Although not heated, there were plenty of people bundled up, warming themselves with cocktails and laughter while a spunky dog ran around the open space with glee. An employee quickly greeted us and invited us to sample the spirits made in that very room. We started with their Dorothy Parker American Gin, fittingly named after the beloved, quick-witted satirist who once said, “I’m not a writer with a drinking problem, I’m a drinker with a writing problem.” This is a uniquely sippable gin, citrusy and herbaceous on the palate, and thankfully devoid of any liquor burn. It’s easy to see why Dorothy Parker is the top-selling gin distilled in New York. Their next gin, Perry’s Tot, was described to us as “navy-strength.” I balked a bit at that description on a Sunday afternoon but was pleased to discover that although the burn was there from the 57% ABV, it also is quite flavorful with warm notes of baking spices layered atop the juniper.
We then moved on to an interesting concoction, the Chief Gowanus, which is an up-and-coming spirit (attention, hipsters!): aged gin. The Chief Gowanus is made from a rye distillate with juniper and cluster hops before being aged in oak barrels for 3-6 months. The recipe dates back to 1809 and has been brilliantly adapted by the team behind New York Distilling Co. It should work equally well in cocktails that are traditionally made with either gin or rye. After a breather to play with the pups running around, we finished off our tasting with a sample of Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, a 4-year-old rye whiskey. Our guide was very excited to introduce this to us—just think, they’ve been waiting four years to share this with their public! This fairly young rye is finished with rock candy sugar and bing cherries. While I personally can’t handle the slightest hint of cherry in my liquor, the taste of cough syrup haunting my childhood, everyone else loved this spirit and I ended up buying one as a gift. It certainly has a unique, sweet flavor and is exceptionally approachable. Best of all, it was made right here in our beloved backyard.
The back room at the distillery is a fantastic place to hang out with picnic tables and a festive vibe, right by the action. The entire distilling process takes place right here, from distillation to barrel-aging to bottling. They offer tours on Saturdays at 2:30, 3:30, and 5pm. Bring your dog and enjoy an indoor picnic surrounded by oak barrels and expectation. They’ve created a friendly community in which you can hang out with old friends, make some new friends, and play Jenga. What more could you ask for? If it gets too cold, The Shanty provides a warm respite, complete with knowledgeable bartenders who are ready to whip up something tasty for you and pour a water for your dog. We think this is a pretty spectacular addition to the neighborhood, don’t you?
The Shanty is located at 79 Richardson Street (between Leonard & Lorimer) They are open Monday 6pm-12am, Tuesday to Thursday 6pm-2am, Friday 5pm-2am, and Saturday and Sunday 2pm-12am.
New York Distilling Company tours are Saturdays 2:30, 3:30, and 5:00pm, with Dog Day being on Sundays 2-6pm.