Sure, Pennsylvania’s regional beer and wine are great — but sometimes, you just need to (responsibly) enjoy something a little stronger. Lucky for us, PA has plenty of great craft distillers making tons of great liquors to try.
Historically, that only makes sense. American whiskey, in fact, traces its roots back to the Mid-Atlantic generally, but specifically to Pennsylvania, which is often credited as the birthplace of rye whiskey. Then, of course, there’s that whole Whiskey Rebellion thing in the late 1700s, when western Pennsylvania farmers and distillers refused to pay an excise tax on their spirits in an uprising that was quelled by George Washington and 13,000 troops.
And Pennsylvania was replete with distilleries until Prohibition, which left our distilling industry something of a shadow of itself for decades. But back in 2011, Pennsylvania began easing distillery regulations, opening the door for a whole new crop of liquor makers — whiskey and otherwise — to fire up their stills in earnest.
Today, there are dozens to choose from. So, with that in mind, here are some of the most interesting spots in the Philadelphia area that you might want to check out for your next tipple, if you haven’t already.
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If you’ve ever had any Kinsey rye or bourbon, then you know how good the folks at New Liberty are at their craft (and if you haven’t, you really ought to). But this Kensington-based distillery, launched in 2014 by former Philadelphia Distilling master distiller (and creator of Bluecoat Gin) Robert Cassell, isn’t just about whiskey — they also happen to make some killer vodka, rum, gin, and liqueurs, too. Order bottles ahead for pickup, shop on-site, or have them shipped to you.
This Fishtown spot has been at it since 2005, when they opened in the former Ajax Metal Company headquarters as Pennsylvania’s first distillery since Prohibition. Since then, they’ve been making a number of spirits at their home base — like the excellent Bluecoat Gin, Vieux Carré absinthe, Penn 1681 rye vodka and The Bay, a vodka seasoned with classic Chesapeake Bay spices that’s begging to be in your next Bloody Mary. Tours, sit-down service, and curbside pickup are available.
When it comes to booze, it doesn’t get much more South Philly Italian than Pollyodd’s take on the beloved lemony after dinner liquor limoncello. Founder Joanie Verratti opened in East Passyunk in 2012, and is reportedly among the first — if not the first — licensed female distillers since Prohibition. Today, Verratti offers different takes on the digestif, including water- and cream-based ‘cellos, as well as chocolate or banana. Call ahead and schedule a time for pickup.
Owners Zachary Cohen and Brian Forrest launched Red Brick in 2015 on the wings of a successful crowdfunding campaign, and they’ve been making good on producing small-batch liquors made with local ingredients ever since. Whiskey is a focus here, with offerings like their Barrel Strength Single Malt Whiskey, From the Woods Black Birch (a birch beer-inspired take), and Obsidian (a dark-roasted white whiskey). But their rums — including a pineapple variety — aren’t slouches, either. Curbside pickup and same-day delivery are available.
Former Philadelphia Brewing Company brewer Dean Browne is behind this small-batch Philly distillery, which first opened in a former auto garage across from PBC in 2014. Unique offerings abound here, like the Nordic Akvavit (a Scandinavian spirit made with dill, fennel, and caraway), and Arak (a grape-based liquor flavored with anise with roots in the Middle East) — or you can keep it simpler with their juniper-forward Rowhouse Gin. Order ahead for pickup at the East Falls Farmers Market.
Stateside Vodka is probably one of Philly’s most recognized liquor brands, which ain’t bad considering brothers Matt and Bryan Quigley launched it in their parents’ basement less than a decade ago. Today, their home base is in a 6,000-square-foot facility in Kensington, where they make batches of their 7x distilled namesake vodka. Right now, you can order online for pickup, shipping or local delivery (and psst, there’s also a bourbon available).
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Founder and head distiller Walter Palmer keeps it simple at his Manayunk-based distillery — as in, they have one offering in their Liberty Gin. But they do it really well. The recipe actually dates back a 1700s Dutch manuscript, and features just six classic ingredients including coriander, lemon peel, cardamom, and other botanicals, perfect for a martini or gimlet. No pickup currently, but you can order via email for delivery or shipping.
IN THE SUBURBS
It’s all about locally grown grains (ground on an 1800s grist mill, no less), hand-crafted spirits, and reclaimed wood at this Bucks distillery. Running since 2014, Hewn has a focus in brown spirits, like their Shipmate gold rum, Dark Hollow bourbon, Red Barn rye whiskey, and Reclamation single malt — but they also make a New Moon moonshine made from local corn. Order online to pickup some bottles (or even pre-mixed, bottled cocktails) at their Peddlers Village location.
📍 Street Road between Routes 202 and 263, Store #42 in Peddler’s Village, Lahaska, 📞 267-544-0720, ✉️ email@example.com, 🌐 hewnspirits.com, 📷 @hewn_spirits
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Known for their line of Dad’s Hat Rye whiskeys, this Bucks-based spot is a quintessential Pennsylvania distillery thanks to its adherence to some 200 years of distilling history in the state. It’s all rye all the time here, with varieties that include honey and maple cask-finished versions, single barrel selections, and an un-aged white type for the purists. There’s even some pre-mixed “pocket cocktails” if you’re feeling adventurous. For now, you can order online for direct delivery in Pennsylvania, but the distillery is closed to visitors.
Don and Scott Avellino broke into the liquor world after spending much of their lives in the auto parts industry, but that all changed in 2014 when they bought a century-old stone barn in Chester County. From there, their Revivalist and Resurgent spirits brands were born with a focuses in botanical gins and whiskeys, respectively. Check them out at their bottle shop and bistro, or order online for delivery in the state.
South Philly folks know this distillery for its Passyunk Ave. tasting room, but Manatawny is actually based out of Pottstown, where it first opened in 2014. These days, they’ve got all kinds of cool offerings, like a gin finished in port barrels, a variety of four-grain American whiskeys, some rum, and a wheat-based vodka with a name that we can’t print. Order ahead for pickup in Pottstown, Philly, or the West Chester Grower’s Market, or have bottles shipping anywhere in Pennsylvania.
OUT OF TOWN
Open since 2017, Stoll & Wolfe is technically a newer distillery in Pennsylvania — but it’s steeped in more than 250 years of distilling history. They’re based out of the former Bomberger Distillery headquarters, which dates back to 1753 — and cofounder Dick Stoll, who died last year, was trained in the distilling arts by the grandnephew of Jim Beam, and called one of America’s “greatest whiskey distillers” by Whiskey Advocate magazine. So whether it’s bourbon, rye, or American straight whiskey, that’s a whole lot of history in one glass.
Founder Russell Fletcher opened up Mishka Premium Vodka in Allentown in 2007, reportedly making it the first and only Black-owned distillery in Pennsylvania. Vodka, of course, is the focus here, with cranberry and honey-flavored varieties, as well as a classic, unflavored version. The distillery is not currently open to the public, but you can place an order online for delivery.
Thistle Finch is the first distillery to operate in Lancaster since the end of Prohibition, and since opening in 2013, it’s gained a reputation for its stellar small-batch un-aged white rye whiskey. But these days, it’s also branched out to include gin and vodka, as well as ryes flavored with peppercorns and coffee beans. No tours or tastings at the moment, but you can shop online to have bottles shipped, or stop in and pick up a bottle in person.
This veteran-owned, family-run distillery operates out of the Lehigh Valley, where they make just about anything a liquor lover could want — including rye whiskey, bourbon, rum, gin, vodka, applejack, and even an agave-based spirit that serves as their take on a traditional tequila. And, what’s more, many of their products are made with their own homegrown corn, wheat, rye, and barley. Curbside pickup is available, or you can make reservations for a visit.
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