The water in the best bagels and pizzas now turns into whiskey

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The main goal of leveraging the city’s supply isn’t necessarily to make the mash – and ultimately the whiskey – taste better, but rather to create an ideal environment for the yeast to thrive. It is a question of efficiency.

“The water here does just for the happy yeast,” Perez says.

Across the East River in Brooklyn, Widow Jane is also making native hydrology a selling point. In fact, the Red Hook Distillery, founded in 2012, takes its name from the limestone cave where its water comes from in Rosendale, NY, 99 miles north.

“We don’t use it for fermentation, but to prove bottling strength to our whiskeys once we have extracted our bourbons from the barrel,” says Lisa Wicker, President and Chief Distiller. “This water, unique in its material composition, is our New York ‘fingerprint’ on each bottle. It gives our whiskeys a smooth and creamy mouthfeel and a finish of impressive length.

Lime-rich water has long been marketed as a key point of separation in bourbon’s birthplace, Bluegrass State.

“It’s interesting that New York is similar to other geographies known for making whiskey,” Perez said. “Both New York and Kentucky can claim water from gentle, stone-rich rivers and quarries. “

As for how it all plays out on the palate at Great Jones, you’ll have to wait patiently: the distiller’s newly brewed Manhattan spirit is due to be cask aged over the next four years. What you can find in the bottles at his gift shop is now a trio of pure whiskeys – two bourbons and a remarkable 100% rye – produced at the Black Dirt Distillery in the Warwick Valley, a bucolic farming region. in the upstate from which Great Jones all sources. its grains.

Perez, for her part, is convinced that she has it all figured out. “When we tested the city’s tap water on our hydrometer, it showed one-fifth of a decimal to the density of distilled water,” she says. It may not seem like much of a difference, but, according to her, “you would taste more salt. [in the latter], which would reduce the complexity or tone down the sweetness of a finished bourbon.

Some New Yorkers argue that the consistency of water in the five boroughs is uneven.

“Not all waters are created equal,” says Franky Marshall, spirits educator and industry figure. “People always say New York water tastes good, but it really depends on where you live, the plumbing, the age of the pipes, etc. I recently moved, and the water that comes out of my tap now is quite nasty and tastes completely different. “

A brief tour of Great Jones’ pristine 28,000 square foot Distillery and sparkling art deco tasting room at NoHo suggests that a lot has been invested in proper plumbing. And Marshall herself is excited to get a taste of what’s on offer here. But his personal experience bears witness to the fine line between perception and reality.

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New York’s water has built up a mystical aura over the years. You can even buy a device that mimics its purported attributes. And although people who have tasted a slice of pizza in the five boroughs would agree that something is the there, a degree of magical realism is inextricably part of the secret sauce.

Great Jones taps into it right out of the gates. Before Prohibition, “whiskey had a rich history in New York,” says Perez. “When we brought distillation back to Manhattan, we knew we would be using New York City tap water, relying on the rich mineral content available at hand. “

The unique source of water at its disposal might one day make a better whiskey. It is already guaranteed to offer a superior sense of belonging.


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