There’s an old expression we hear too little of these days. No, it’s not “It is what it is,” which has become trite and way overly used.
I would prefer to focus on the expression, “A rising tide raises all boats.” That’s a better sentiment anyway. Hope, not fatalism.
We have lived through the not-yet-over craft beer craze. Now it’s the turn of spirits. Several important developments have occurred in a sort of chicken and egg non-order. First, there is the technology that allows for the creation of a premium product from distilling equipment that does not require a city-block warehouse for the task at hand: distillation. Much smaller quarters will suffice.
Which means the cost of the equipment is not a king’s ransom. Smaller pots and columns mean less copper which translates into reduced investment for infrastructure. It also translates into lower output but for a new distilling operation, they are not seeking a huge amount of product. They mostly want to get their name into the marketplace and that will possibly translate into a bottle on your home bar.
And then there has been in many states, Louisiana included, the reasonable modernization of archaic legislation, which made opening and operating a distillery akin to men giving birth. Actually, that would have been easier. New laws have not made distillery start-ups all that easy but it’s much better now.
It gets really exciting when these budding entrepreneur distillers start using their creative juices and developing products that the big distillers don’t want to mess with because they are unproven and are essentially niche offerings. Some segments of the consumer market will never stray from the tried and true, while other more adventuresome imbibers will try the newest thing that comes in an interesting package.
One of these new companies doing new things is located in the darndest of places, near the Lafitte Greenway in the heart of the city, on North Claiborne right across from the city’s auto pound. We all know the location because after a night of enjoying New Orleans’ charms, what better way to finish off the evening than a visit to the auto pound because on returning to the car, it was not where you left it. Maybe it was stolen but more likely it was “hooked” and taken to the auto pound because you have no idea what 20-feet from a corner, a fire hydrant or a bus stop means.
Anyway, there is a distillery across the street from the auto pound and it’s 73 Distilling, complete with a full bar, tasting area, and a lot of hoses and barrels. 73 Distilling is named, according to the owners, because there are 73 distinct neighborhoods in New Orleans. Seems like a high number but since I’ve never done the counting exercise, I’m moving on and taking their word for origin.
There’s Gentilly Gin, St. Roch Vodka, Irish Channel Whiskey, and Marigny Moonshine. It’s the last product that ties together rice from South Louisiana’s James Farm along with the distillation skills of Seven Three assembled artisans where the whole project takes on more excitement and builds local pride.
My guess is that all of this has been happening right under your nose, right in your own hometown, and you were not even aware. At least not until this very moment. Well, now it’s your turn. These spirits which celebrate the uniqueness of New Orleans are on the retail shelves. They are worthy of your attention because they are local and quite good.
You know what to do, now get to it.
As created by Abigail Gullo, Compere Lapin Restaurant and Bar
- 2 oz Gentilly Gin
- 1/2 oz Cane Syrup
- 1/2 oz Falernum
- 1 oz lime juice
Add all ingredients into a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
St. Roch Blush
As created by Seven Three Distilling
- 2 oz St Roch Vodka
- 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
- .75 oz Grenadine
- Soda Water
Add first three ingredients to a tall glass filled with ice and stir. Top with soda water. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprig.
Fleur de Louisiana
Courtesy of Eric Dahm, Café Atchafalaya
- 2 oz St. Roch Cucumber vodka
- 3/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3/4 oz elderflower syrup
- dash Tabasco
- Cucumber garnish
Build in a Collins glass. Add vodka, lemon, elderflower to tall collins filled with ice. Stir and top with soda and one dash Tabasco. Garnish with cucumber wheel.
Read Happy Hour here on www.myneworleans.com on Wednesdays, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed, as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature about cocktails in New Orleans, every month in New Orleans Magazine.