In 1987, Tom Potter co-founded Brooklyn Brewery with his Park Slope neighbor Steve Hindy, catching the craft brewery wave as it began to crest. Now, he’s got his board out again (this time with son Bill and spirits authority Alan Katz), surfing the swell of the craft distilling industry. This week, New York Distilling Company, located—where else—in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, epicenter of all crafty doings, launched its very first products: two gins, both named for distinctive New York personalities, and both, as Mr. Katz aptly put it, “purposefully different” from the classic London dry style, which has long been perfected by other brands (and doesn’t lack for imitators).
Perry’s Tot (named after Matthew Calbraith Perry, Commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1841 to 1843) is America’s only “Navy Strength” gin. It’s a category little known in these parts, but was traditionally supplied to the British Royal Navy at 57% alcohol, so that gunpowder, if accidentally soaked with the stuff, would still ignite. (Plymouth makes the original, only available in the UK market). Perry’s Tot is a beautiful homage to the style. Juniper and citrus are certainly detectable, but a compelling note of earthy, unfiltered honey sets it apart, and helps ride out the high alcoholic heat. That’s because it’s distilled with wildflower honey from upstate New York. The company futzed with the recipe for more than a year, experimenting with different varieties of honey. And the end result is an impressive, dangerously drinkable over-proof gin.
The other, named for Dorothy Parker (one of New York’s favorite dames of wit), is similarly unique, with hints of fresh cherry from the elderberries in the botanical recipe. There’s a floral uplift there in there as well, a signature of dried hibiscus petals. Sweet grain and an assertive juniper finish round out this delicious spirit—one that the lady herself would have put back without blinking.
The first batch of Dorothy Parker and Perry’s Tot reached New York City stores this week. Find them there, or online at Astor Place Wine and Spirits, for about $32. And if you‘re in the hood, pop by the distillery for its grand opening Monday December 5th (which also happens to be Repeal Day, celebrating the end of the great drought). They’ll be pouring $2 “Tot” and tonics and $5 martinis from 2pm to 2am.