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When it comes to alcohol, America is experiencing a revolution of sorts. As more and more small-batch producers put the craft back into the process, the focus has shifted to making the best instead of the most.
Craft beer, for instance, has experienced an explosion of localized talent and enthusiasts. “Beer drinkers and those getting into it now are looking for diversity of flavor, texture, aroma,” says Justin Philips, founder of New York’s Beer Table Pantry (212-922-0008; beertable.com), a boutique shop in Grand Central Station. An enormous selection of beers inspired by styles from around the world are available, and craft brewers display an unprecedented level of experimentation, such as aging beer in spirit and wine barrels.
Craft whiskies are also growing in popularity. So much so, in fact, that many are becoming hard to find on store shelves. And they provide instant gratification. Unlike fine wine, whiskey stops aging once bottled.
“I am thrilled to see the boom in popularity,” says Lynn House, chief mixologist at Chicago’s Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708; blackbirdrestaurant.com) and soon-to-be national brand ambassador for Pama pomegranate liqueur, a product of Heaven Hill Distilleries. “The cocktail renaissance has made Americans more adventurous.”
But perhaps the most significant characteristic American beer and whiskey possess is that, unlike other beverages, both remain profoundly democratic, with world-class options available at every price point. Here are ten producers who embody the creativity, discipline and integrity we honor as ideals in this country.