The borough of Brooklyn has a tangled history with distilled spirits.
By the mid-19th century, distilleries were thriving, churning out rum, gin and whiskey to thirsty New Yorkers. These distilleries lined the Brooklyn waterfront, and though making liquor was legal, it was taxed heavily by the federal government during the Civil War. A telling precursor to the repercussions of Prohibition, the high taxes on alcohol resulted in a boom of illicit stills and underground activity and—eventually—the devastating Whiskey Wars in Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill neighborhood. These government-enforced raids of illegal distilleries were violent, resulting in riots and massive amounts of destroyed property. The event portended the end of an era. Compounded by Prohibition and the closure of the state’s last legal distilleries in 1920, Brooklyn’s formerly abundant distilling trade finally ran dry.
That drought came to an end in 2002 with the passing of a bill that allowed small producers in New York State to buy reasonably priced distillery licenses. Craft distilling was further encouraged in 2007 when the governor introduced a new license allowing manufacturers who used local grain to distill alcohol and sell it. This kindling set ablaze a soon-to-be-revitalized craft distilling tradition in the state, one that proved especially fruitful in Brooklyn.
Small-scale operations like Kings County Distillery and Breuckelen Distilling opened their doors as early as 2010, setting off a chain reaction across the borough. The nine distilleries (plus one brewery and one winery) that dot the coastline from Greenpoint to Red Hook now form the unofficial Brooklyn Booze Trail, devised by Cacao Prieto, one of the larger distilleries, to showcase the borough’s diverse offerings. There’s no official starting point to this self-guided tour. Ramble along at your leisure, sampling everything from whiskey and rum to grappa and hibiscus liqueur.
This piece originally appeared on Liquor.com.