When most Americans want a bottle of liquor, they reach for a mass-produced brand that’s available the world over. Many of us who indulge in such libations have yet to catch up with the explosion in local distilleries that has been happening.
Every liquor you’re looking for can be found here in Ulster County, and it’s probably better than what you’re currently sipping.
The Hudson Valley – and Ulster County in particular – is fast becoming nationally and even internationally known as the source of some of the finest craft liquors the industry has to offer.
This gift-idea list is not a cobbled-together smattering so you can “support local business” and feel good despite the quality. This local liquor list is truly top-shelf.
There’s an incredible variety of spirits to choose from, and we encourage you to visit each distillery in person to sample the many options. If you can’t make it there in person, each operation has a great website with a wealth of information on how each spirit is made and how to acquire them locally or online. Cheers!
Excelsior Straight Bourbon
by Coppersea Distilling (New Paltz)
Among spirit lovers, Coppersea is known far beyond county borders for being a vanguard player in the craft-distilling landscape. Christopher Briar, chief distiller and blender, co-founded the Empire Rye Whiskey Association, and is a founding board member of the New York State Distillers Guild.
As they blaze new ground, they do so by using “heritage methods distilling,” traditional techniques to create rich and unique flavor profiles. From direct-fired stills to floor mashing and open-top fermentation, each step of the distillation process is handcrafted and carefully tuned.
There are many varieties to choose from, none more “New York” than their Excelsior Straight Bourbon, a 100 percent New York concoction right down to the charred Hudson Valley oak vessels it’s barreled in. Good for enjoying neat, on the rocks, or in a classic cocktail.
Available at local liquor retailers, search at https://coppersea.com/locations/
by The Hudson House Distillery (West Park)
This locally made vodka consistently makes lists of the best brands in the world, especially those best vodkas to enjoy straight or in a martini.
The Hudson House uses artesian well water fed by a Catskills aquifer. Since the distillery was built in a century-old monastery on the Hudson River, the naturally soft starting liquid is technically also holy. The Vatican literally had to approve Hudson House’s purchase of the property.
Spirit lovers will find Altair holy for its twelve-times-distilled, limited-batch taste that’s been said by many to be unlike any vodka before or since. As if the uncommonly superior taste weren’t enough, the distillery is committed to locally-sourced, non-GMO ingredients and support of the local farmers who provide them. They are doing right by our region and right by our taste buds.
Purchase online at https://thehudsonhouseny.square.site and at select local retailers.
by Stoutridge Distillery & Winery (Marlboro)
Where some local distilleries go deep on producing the peak of a singular liquor’s aesthetic, Stoutridge goes wide with a dizzying array of locally made small-batch spirits. They offer absinthes, bitters, brandies, gins, mastics, orange liqueurs, whiskies, vodkas … and yes, those are all plural, as the company has several varieties and flavors within most of those categories.
If that weren’t prolific enough for you, they also produce red, rose and white wines, each unprocessed to retain an earthy, organic flavor profile. It’s all made “from glass to grain on-site” using local ingredients and environmentally sustainable methods.
With such a selection, it’s easy to tailor your gift to its recipient’s individual tastes. Absent that knowledge, we recommend the Grand Seville, one of the distillery’s flagship products. It’s a luxurious and unique triple blend of two-year-old cognac cask-aged Seville-orange-peel “Amertume” extract, a housemade base spirit, and a three-year, barrel-aged, double-pot-distilled local grape brandy.
That should be more than enough hyphenation to get you excited.
Available for pickup at the distillery, pre-order online at https://www.stoutridgesales.com.
Hudson Whiskey — Bright Lights, Big Bourbon
by Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery (Gardiner)
This Hudson Valley spirit is immaculately designed from liquid to label. Sporting a bold facade reminiscent of a New York City subway sign, Bright Lights, Big Bourbon has grown to be famous for being bold and rustic, yet with refined characteristics ideal for straight sipping.
This versatile spirit appeals to more than just the bourbon aficionado. It’s accessible and fun slipped into coffee or drizzled in a sauce over vanilla ice cream.
You might have had this one back when it was labeled as ‘Baby Bourbon Whiskey,’ but now this spirit is full-grown and ready for a gift bow to be slapped on it.
Available at local retailers. Search https://www.hudsonwhiskey.com/en-US/buy-hudson-whiskey/#e40
Honey Flavored Whiskey
by Catskill Mountain Moonshine (Saugerties)
Catskill Mountain Moonshine (CMM) is one of the newest additions to Ulster County’s distillery scene, having opened earlier this year in Saugerties with a small-batch setup.
Their specialty is whiskeys and whiskey cocktails. Their smooth-sipping’ Honey Flavored Whiskey (featuring the fruits of Hudson Valley bee labor) is a bestseller. They’re also known for their corn whiskeys, maple whiskey (with local maple syrup), vodka and gin.
CMM is one of the more down-to-earth distillers in the area – they’re not trying to be all artisanal and fancy. This brand is all about having a fun and tasty time, while enjoying booze lovingly handcrafted on-site from locally farmed ingredients.
Available on location at https://catskillmtnshine.com/