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  1. Alex Clark Pens a Love Letter to Rye at Fort Hamilton Whiskey in Brooklyn

    Alex Clark Pens a Love Letter to Rye at Fort Hamilton Whiskey in Brooklyn

    1985 might not seem like much of a year as years go--‘Take on Me,’ by a-ha, was on the charts for 27 weeks; you might have played the cassette in your IROC-Z Camaro or your Prelude. That said, it’s a critical time in the evolution of the spirits trade in the United States. The story goes like this: two guys named Elmer and Dale walk into a bar and forever changed the way we drink in this country.

    Elmer, as in Elmer T. Lee, was in a bind. As an executive with Buffalo Trace, he had been tasked with enlivening an industry that had never fully recovered from Prohibition. Whiskey was what old men in raincoats drank; vodka was fresh and fun and easy, particularly when it danced with fruit juice. Lee wagered everything on the bet that the American drinking public was ready to fall in love with whiskey again. He was right, and his hunch filled a younger generation with dreams of craft whiskey and small barrels, spirits that were artisanal and unique.

    Meanwhile in New York a restaurateur named Joe Baum was in a bind of his own. He was reopening the celebrated Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. His goal was to invigorate the cocktail program, at a time when America’s drinking tastes ran to Bobby Tonics and Cosmos. To that end he promoted young Dale DeGroff to run the bar. According to the lore, Mr. Baum handed DeGroff a copy of ‘How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion,’ the seminal Jerry Thomas recipe book of American cocktails from the late 19th century. All of the beautiful concoctions that had vanished or gone underground during Prohibition were in the pages of that book, crying out to come alive again. The project was a revelation. Cocktail culture was reborn and New York City was the epicenter.

    As young city bartenders took DeGroff’s lead and ran with it, a measure of dissatisfaction sank in as they searched for hard-to-find or even extinct ingredients for particular cocktails. In America, in particular, a dramatic consolidation in the whiskey business occurred as producers recovered from Prohibition. New York, for instance, once home to a thousand small distilleries, had none in the late 20th century. Refusing to be stymied by conditions as they found them, a few of these disaffected bartenders struck out on their own to make spirits they had read about but never tasted.

    Fast forward to 2007, when the state of New York introduced the Farm Distillery Act. For those entrepreneurs willing to use New York produce in their operations, the cost of a license dropped from tens of thousands of dollars down to just below a thousand. As other states adopted similar incentives, the craft distilling movement began to spread across the country. New York alone saw the number of legally operating stills increase from a handful to a few dozen to over a hundred in less than ten years. And as these fledgling operations found their footing, distillers began to revive lost styles, the forgotten spirits that made the drinks in forgotten books really sing.

    Meet Alex Clark, owner of Fort Hamilton Whiskey in Industry City, Brooklyn. A cocktailian bartender with Big City Restaurant chops and a South London accent, he stepped out from behind the stick a few years back to pen a love letter to 19th century New York rye whiskey. Personifying the trends set in motion back in 1985 (and 2007), he’s currently producing 24,000 bottles a year, everything from a very affordable high rye double barrel Bourbon to his house signature, a single barrel no-corn New York rye that’s voluptuous and full of flavor, equally at home in a cocktail or over ice at the end of the n...

  2. Distinctly Greek! A New Style of Retsina Is Revitalizing One of the World’s Longest-Lived Wine Traditions

    Distinctly Greek! A New Style of Retsina Is Revitalizing One of the World’s Longest-Lived Wine Traditions

    The story of retsina wine can be traced back to ancient times, when wine was typically stored and transported in clay jugs called amphorae. In Greece, one of the world’s oldest winemaking civilizations, winemakers used thick resin from the abundantly-growing Aleppo pine trees to seal the amphorae and protect the wine from oxidation. Evidence of pine resin has been found in Greek wine amphorae dating back to the 13th century B.C.

  3. Infiné 1939 Pinot Grigio: A Son 'At Last' Fulfills a Father's Dream

    Infiné 1939 Pinot Grigio: A Son 'At Last' Fulfills a Father's Dream

    "Inside the uniquely shaped bottles of Infiné 1939 Pinot Grigio and Infiné 1939 At Last, a white blend, is a son’s love and admiration for his late father, “gone too soon,” the son, Marc Taub, told us the other day, describing his dad, David Taub."

  4. Librandi: A flickering light in a dark past of Calabrian wine, with hopes of keeping on the lights

    Librandi: A flickering light in a dark past of Calabrian wine, with hopes of keeping on the lights

    Even though Calabria is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, it has had an obscured past unbeknown...

  5. Surprise of Texas: Bending Branch’s Dr. Bob Makes a Sizzling Rosé Sparkler from Tannat

    Surprise of Texas: Bending Branch’s Dr. Bob Makes a Sizzling Rosé Sparkler from Tannat

    We taste many wines for this column and we always hope for the best, but, look, we’re human; we do open some with greater anticipation than others. One wine we tried recently was a sparkling rosé of Tannat from Bending Branch Winery in Texas. Here are the first two words of our tasting notes: “We’re surprised.”

    It’s not news that ...

  6. Photos: Maison Albert Bichot

    The Treasure that Lies Beneath Their Feet: Maison Albert Bichot on Taking Care of the Soil, from Chablis to Beaujolais

    "Our goal is really to promote the different terroirs and to be able to show the little differences we have in the different climats." - Matthieu Mangenot, Maison Albert Bichot

  7. railsback_pic_horizon

    Why Lyle Railsback left his dream job at Kermit Lynch to become an entrepreneur

    "One time in Collioure, our grower had paid a diver to go bring up sea urchins, and they had a whole box of sea urchins. So he stood there and shucked the sea urchins and drank Collioure Blanc." Lyle Railsback on some of the magical moments working for Kermit Lynch

  8. Diora Rosé: Winemaking With a Large Palette; Two Vintages, Two Strikingly Different Blends

    Diora Rosé: Winemaking With a Large Palette; Two Vintages, Two Strikingly Different Blends

    We’ve been told for years and we’ve even written it: Good wines are made in the vineyard. It’s all about the place, the terroir and, yes, that does exist.
  9. Summiting Mount Etna - The Revitalization of a Volcano's Ancient Viticulture

    Summiting Mount Etna - The Revitalization of a Volcano's Ancient Viticulture

    As the wines of Mount Etna have risen in quality and acclaim over the course of the 21st century, credit is due to the dedicated growers and producers who brave the unforgiving terrain of one of the world's most active volcanoes.
  10. A Great Springtime Wine for $11? Yes, and There’s More!

    A Great Springtime Wine for $11? Yes, and There’s More!

    "OK, John and the girls tease me that I’m like Marshall from that episode of “How I Met Your Mother” during which he greets everyone he comes across on the sidewalk. I am a bit like that." -Dorothy Gaiter
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