In 2007 the New York Farm Distillery Act ignited the state’s craft spirit industry. In 2014 the Craft New York Act moved the industry forward. Today, small distilleries dot the landscape from Western to downstate New York.
We thought it would be naughty and nice to celebrate the holidays (and coincidentally the 83rd anniversary of Prohibition repeal, Dec. 5) on a two-day journey to explore Central New York’s craft distillery scene along with breweries. The trek provides opportunities to fill baskets with cheer and other gifts too.
The route loops out and back, including an overnight stay and optional detours. Of course, you could select destinations to meld into a long day trip. Whether you go before, during of after the holidays, a One Tank never goes out of season.
Day One: Buffalo to Adirondack Distilling/Saranac Brewing in Utica (three-hour ride)
Adirondack Distilling is a big operation that occupies a historic bank building. Spirits include everything from its 1,000 Stills White Whisky, ADK Gin and ADK Vodka to the new 601 Bourbon released in June. Tours are offered Monday-Saturday, $10 per person. Call (315) 316-0387 to reserve. Be sure to say hello to the distillery’s two cats – Gin and Tonic.
From Adirondack Distilling it’s a short walk down Varick Street past restaurants and shops to Saranac Brewing, aka F.X. Matt Brewing Co., the fourth oldest family-owned brewery in the nation. The brewery shop/tour center is open Tuesday-Saturday with tours at 1 or 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Cost is $5 per person. At the shop buy Saranac gear, or even better Utica Club swag. Hang out at the 1888 Tavern & Tasting Room.
Optional: If you have time and feel like extra driving, head to KyMar Farm Winery & Distillery in Schoharie County at the Catskills Mountain foothills before heading to Sharon Springs. Only open Saturdays this time of year, noon to 5 p.m.; tours are 1 or 3 p.m. Spirits include Schoharie Maple Jack, an apple brandy with a touch of maple syrup, and Schoharie Shine, a “tribute to Southern moonshiners.” The Eau De Vie Pomme is a sophisticated apple brandy. (Distillery closes Christmas to Memorial Day).
Overnight: Sharon Springs/Beekman 1802 Mercantile (one hour from Utica)
From Utica, head to historic Sharon Springs. It’s a little out of the way, but the town is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was once a resort town visited by rich folks of the Gilded Age (like the Vanderbilts) who sought treatment in the healing spa waters. Some ruins of the Imperial Baths still stand. The Victorian Holiday Celebration is Dec. 9-11.
Explore shops including the famous Beekman 1802 Mercantile (of the Cooking Channel’s Fabulous Beekman Boys show, and Cobbler & Company, a gift emporium. For dinner, the 204 Main Modern Bistro serves creative, locally sourced dishes. Suggestions for overnights include the The Nash, American Hotel and The New York House B&B.
Day 2: Cooperstown Distillery / Ommegang Brewery / French Distillers & Alchemists / Beak & Skiff
Rise and shine, its time to play ball. Fuel up at the Black Cat Café & Bakery or the American Hotel in Sharon Springs, then head to Cooperstown, 30 minutes away.
The Cooperstown Distillery features spirits from clear (Cooper’s Clear White Whiskey, Glimmerglass Vodka, Denimroe Gin) to dark (Spitball Cinnamon Whiskey, Sam Smith’s Boatyard Rum, Bean Ball Bourbon, Classic American Whiskey). Open noon-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, hourlong tours are 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $10 with a souvenir shot glass. Reservations online.
Beer-drinking friends would never forgive you if you didn’t visit Cooperstown’s Ommegang Brewery open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Tours on the hour are free. Tastings are $5. The new Ommegang Café features Belgian-style foods along with gastro pub selections. Also in town is Cooperstown Brewing.
From Cooperstown it’s about an hour and 45-minute ride to French Distillers & Alchemists in Lisle. The first distillery in Broome County since Prohibition, FD&A uses locally grown wheat, barley, rye and corn to make whisky, including Lilah’s Lightning. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.
Heading up Route 81 to the Thruway, the final stop is Beak & Skiff/1911 Spirits about 50 minutes from FD&A in Lafayette. The 105-year-old apple farm has become a major distillery producing apple vodka and gin. The “apple campus” is huge, with a separate tasting room that is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Taste and purchase bottles of gin and vodka, along with hard ciders and wines. Custom bloody mary mixes and gourmet olives, gift boxes, etc., are also for sale. If you are feeling peckish (sorry for the pun) the tavern serves tasty food. There is also a separate country store and bake shop.
From Beak & Skiff it’s a 2½-hour ride to Buffalo. If you’d like a break, the Honeoye Falls Distillery is halfway, 20 minutes off the Thruway. Its motto “come for a drink, stay for a meal” is the perfect way to end your weekend.
Option 2 from Cooperstown or Sharon Springs: If you are feeling ambitious, head to Binghamton to visit Galaxy Brewing Company and Water Street Brewing Co. – right around the corner from each other in downtown Binghamton. Both have gastro pubs. If time allows, you could hit French Distillers & Alchemists and Beak & Skiff on the way up Route 81 to the Thruway.
For a list of other distilleries and breweries not mentioned, and more about Central New York, visit brewcentralny.com, cnyfresh.com and cooperstownbeveragetrail.com.