You’d need all your fingers and toes to count the world-renowned watering holes in Manhattan, making New York City’s most famous borough arguably the epicenter of American drinking culture. But for all the boozing that gets done on the island, alcohol production here has long been nonexistent—until now.
Last August, Great Jones Distilling Co. debuted the first legal whiskey distillery in Manhattan since Prohibition. At its 28,000-square-foot, three-level building on Broadway, just north of Houston Street, the company makes two bourbons and a rye from 100 percent New York–grown grain. (They’re barrel-aged at Black Dirt Distillery, in the upstate town of Warwick.) The establishment—which also houses a private lounge, a restaurant, a retail shop, and a speakeasy bar—is rife with local references, from the name (for the adjacent Great Jones Street) to the shape of the 20-foot-tall, pot-column hybrid still, which is designed to evoke the city’s skyline.
“The American whiskey industry has boomed in recent years, but Manhattan remained a very notable exception,” says owner Juan Domingo Beckmann, an 11th-generation distiller from Mexico who is the CEO of Jose Cuervo.
“I wanted to create a whiskey that celebrates the best of New York State agriculture and is also a nod to Prohibition-style whiskeys of the past in this city—a whiskey that every New Yorker would be proud of.” About 10 blocks away, on Vandam Street in Soho, beer drinkers can enjoy their own groundbreaking Big Apple beverage at Torch & Crown Brewing Company, which in October 2020 became the first brewery to open in Manhattan in decades. Aside from the production space, Torch & Crown boasts a restaurant with indoor and outdoor spaces, where it serves pub grub alongside beers such as its Almost Famous New England IPA and Tenement pilsner. CEO John Dantzler and head brewer Joe Correia, New York–area natives who started making beer as teenagers (after they had their fake IDs confiscated at an East Village bar), named their brewery for the accoutrements of the city’s most aspirational symbol: the Statue of Liberty.
“The energy, the sort of buzz that you feel in Manhattan, can’t be replicated and can’t be found anywhere else in the world,” Dantzler says. “That’s what makes it such an exciting place to live.” And, of course, to drink.