Long Island Tasting Rooms
Gone are the Gatsby days of flapper dresses and bathtub gin, but homemade booze is still found aplenty on Long Island (legally so). And while the East End vineyards often get the spotlight for drink-local endeavors, we’ve put together a list of distillers and brewers making use of the Island’s terroir in different ways, from apple cider to apple moonshine – and, of course, some gin.
Channing Daughters Winery (1927 Scuttle Hole Rd, Bridgehampton)Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton may not be the largest, but it is certainly one of the most creative wineries on Long Island. Channeling inspiration not from French-style wines, as does most of its local competition, but rather from Northern Italy, Channing Daughters’ main claim to fame is its programs of orange wines, in which white grapes are fermented with their skins, adding minerals, flavors, and colors absent in classic, skinless white wines. There are Pinot Grigios, Merlots, Cabernets, syrahs, and other requisites, but unique use of Malvasia, Gewurztraminer, Refosco, and Legrein grapes often sees Channing Daughters experimenting in ways no one else around here does.
Long Island Spirits (2182 Sound Ave., Baiting Hollow)Distilling was something of a lost art in the region until Long Island Spirits opened in 2007. While home-brewed spirits were standard out here before Prohibition, Long Island Spirits bills itself as the first distillery on the island since the 1800s. Set in an old barn first owned by Polish farmers, it’s surrounded by 5,000 acres of potato farms, whose produce now goes through three distillations before being poured into bottles of “ultra-premium” craft vodka.
In addition to plain, Long Island Spirits also churns out espresso vodka as well as a range of Sorbettas – fruit-flavored liqueurs made from the vodka and macerated limes, lemons, strawberries, raspberries, and oranges – that claim to be the first potato-based, gluten-free drinks in America. Now that it’s perfected the clear stuff, Long Island Spirits has moved on to the realm of whiskies – single malt, rye, and bourbon – as well as botanical gin, made with no less than 28 fruits, herbs, and aromatic plants.
Sagaponack Farm Distillery (369 Sagg Rd., Sagaponack)A vodka distiller of a much smaller scale, Sagaponack Farm Distillery takes notes from the wine world by treating potatoes as grapes. Owner Matt Beamer holds firmly to the fact that Island-grown potatoes inform his Sagaponacka vodka with a richness others can’t, and nearly all of his ingredients come from the surrounding land of Foster Farm, so that quality control is at its absolute top.
Grains such as barley, rye, and corn also come from the farm’s 100 acres, which in
some of his vodka varieties lend their earthy flavors to the 20 pounds of potatoes that go into each bottle, and Beamer further plans to begin experimenting with other liqueurs this year (rhubarb vodka is reportedly on the list). A tasting room in the distillery overlooks the equipment where these fine beverages are made, before being delivered to a wide range of stores around the Hamptons and soon in New York City as well.
Woodside Orchard (729 Main Rd., Aquebogue)
Apple-picking may be a token fall activity for city-dwellers looking to saunter out of town for an afternoon and take cute photos in sweaters. But in the balmy summer months Woodside Orchard’s mildly alcoholic, wildly refreshing hard cider offers perhaps even more appeal than it does when the leaves change.
When you’re craving something cold and juicy, rather than going to the convenience store for name-brand bottles, head out to Aquebogue, where Woodside’s wood- walled tasting room offers fresh, hard cider poured straight from the tap, often in seasonal flavors like raspberry, ginger, apple lemon, and cinnamon spice. There are cider slushies for non-imbibers, cider donuts for drinking food, and – most importantly – growlers and kegs to purchase and take home.
Montauk Brewing Co. (62 S. Erie Ave., Montauk)The stars and stripes have revolutionized beer in the past 30 or so years, and the three Long Island boys behind Montauk Brewing Co. were Long Island’s main contribution to the movement. What began as an enterprise to fuel their friends, with the brewers delivering kegs around town on their bicycles, has since grown into a large-scale national enterprise seeing their candy-colored cans stocked on shelves around the country, reminding drinkers to kick back like it’s summer, no matter the time of year.
True to its roots, though, Montauk Brewing keeps its headquarters in the old woodworking shed in its namesake town where it got its start, just a stone’s throw from the ocean waves. Starting from noon when the tasting room’s doors open, shaggy-haired crews come for post-surf beers, gathering around the picnic tables in the sunshine for Watermelon Session Ales, Wave Chaser IPAs, and vanilla cream ales frothing over the sides of their glasses.