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Straight Up New York Craft Spirits Festival: Warwick, NY


It was a beautiful day, and the idea of trying some cider and wine and gin at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery seemed like the most perfect way to spend an hour. After a great lunch at The Grange, we headed on over to the winery.

As we pulled in, there were a few parking guys who asked "Are you here for the [inaudible to me] or the winery." Well, I was there for the winery, so that's what I said. I figured the inaudible part was a wedding or something. "Just park over there then." As I started pulling away, the missus turns to me and says "distillery event?"

"Wait, what?!?!?!?!" I threw the car into reverse and backed right the hell up. I got so excited I'm not even sure I looked in the rear-view mirror.

"Distillery event!?!?!?" I frantically asked the guy. "Yeah, there's a distillery event up on the hill. Twenty distillers, live music, food."

"Uhh, yeah, we're now here for that."

It's a good thing my wife's ears work better than mine, or we would have completely missed the first Straight Up New York Craft Spirits Festival.  And this was an event not to be missed (although you probably did). Indeed, even a more perfect way to spend an hour (or two) than the cider-wine-gin thing I was looking forward to at the winery.

We paid the admission fee ($40), got our little glasses, and entered the tent. Distillers lined both sides, as far as the eye could see (probably an exaggeration--in addition to my ears, my eyes suck, too). We were giddy.


Each distiller was offering a taste of three (sometimes more) spirits. Some had signature cocktails. Most typically, there was gin, vodka, and whiskey (bourbon, rye, un-aged). Black Dirt Distillery had applejack, and I'm kicking myself for forgetting to buy some. There was even vermouth from a Atsby.

I wish I would have taken notes--to share here, and for my own sake. But we sort of made mental notes of the stuff we liked. It was all available for purchase, and purchase we did.

With my love of whiskey I would have thought I'd be all about the bourbons and ryes. However, the gins made a big impression on me, and captured my interest. Most notable was the gin from Brooklyn Gin. I was immediately taken with the citrus notes, and could hardly wait to incorporate it into a cocktail (and I have...several times).



That's not to say the whiskeys weren't notable. They were. And we walked away with about 12 bottles of vodka, whiskey, and gin in all.

This event, organized by Warwick's Black Dirt Distillery, was comprised only of New York State producers. From the Hudson Valley, Brooklyn, to out on Long Island. All of these folks are relatively new to the game, and they are obviously passionate, and no doubt talented.

It's not often you get a one-on-one with so many distillers in one place. This was great opportunity for them to get in front of spirit-lovers, and a great chance for spirit-lovers to discover how these products are made and learn about the creators. The stories behind how these people ended up making booze were without exception interesting.


The band was set up right next to the tent and playing with gusto. I have no idea who they were and can't seem to find the name anywhere. If anyone knows, please let me know.  They were banging out bluegrass, rootsy stuff, some proper shit-kicking music, and were a blast overall. I'd like to see them set up a little off of the tent next year (I have to assume there will be a next year), maybe with some additional seating.

The event seemed to be very well managed and organized. There was water at every distiller's table (for rinsing, and if you're like me, drinking), as well as tables set up with bottled water. Keeping hydrated was certainly a requirement in the heat, and with all of that booze. If you wanted to buy the distillers' products, you purchased at their table, get the receipt, and when you're done present the receipts to the folks at the front, who then boxed your stuff up and sent you on your way. Nice and easy.

There was one food truck (cheesesteaks) and some other food in the tent (all available for purchase). Perhaps next year they can expand the offerings so people can really make an afternoon of this event.

Stumbling upon this hilltop that afternoon was the happiest of mistakes in a while. We're looking forward to next year, when I'll hopefully pay more attention to what the hell it is I'm drinking.

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery : 114 Little York Rd : Warwick, NY