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A Sailor’s Spirit

Christina Garofalo

For those with a penchant for fine spirits and interesting history, a trip to New York Distilling Company in Brooklyn, New York, is a necessity. The distillery opened a few years ago as the brainchild of Allen Katz, Bob Potter, and Tom Potter—a cofounder of Brooklyn Brewery—and it’s quickly made a name for itself, most notably for being the first (and still the only) distillery in the country that’s producing a navy-strength gin. “We had to ask ourselves what it was that we could effectively add to the conversation,” Katz says. “How could we set out to be purposefully different in a world of gin?”

Their answer can be found in a bottle of Perry’s Tot. “It added to the pleasure of the process to reintroduce something historic that people today haven’t tried before,” says Katz.

Named after Matthew Calbraith Perry (the commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard from 1841 to 1843)—and paying homage to the tot, a British measurement for alcohol, New York Distilling Co.’s historically based gin is distilled using 10 botanicals, from classic juniper berry to wildflower honey sourced from upstate New York. At 114 proof, this navy-strength gin is the highest-proof gin in the world, but there’s a reason for that: Navy-strength gin was originally created by members of the British Navy in the 18th century, a time during which officers were paid with alcohol.

As the British officers discovered, gunpowder could still be fired even if it were soaked by a spirit of that strength—which raises concerns about the sobriety of those naval officers in time of battle, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Perry’s Tot can be enjoyed at the Shanty, a bar connected to the distilling company, but it can also be found at select liquor stores. Some of the city’s top cocktail bars, including Death and Company, PDT, and Monkey Bar, are creating interesting libations with the spirit. Just leave your musket and powder horn at the door.

New York Distilling Company, 79 Richardson Street, Brooklyn, 718.412.0874, www.nydistilling.com

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