There’s a reason people loved Tito’s vodka when it was introduced in 1997. Sure, it made a damn fine martini, but in a sea of Grey Goose and Ketel One, it was also one of the few small-batch liquors available. That’s since changed as looser distribution laws have lowered the bar for microdistilleries to set up shop. “Things are starting to snowball,” says Distiller magazine editor Andrew Faulkner. “The market has grown 50 percent every year since 2010.”
While everybody wants to make a Scotch or a bourbon, focusing on aged spirits isn’t a smart business move for a startup. “They need to get something into the market to keep the lights on,” says Faulkner. So newer distilleries are creating clear liquors like gin, vodka, white rum and whiskey, and tequila, using high-quality grains, botanicals, fruits, and vegetables. We asked a dozen bartenders for their favorites. These seven came out on top.
- Vermont Spirits White Vodka; Quechee, Vermont; $29*
- Van Brunt Stillhouse Moonshine Whiskey; Brooklyn, New York; $39
- Tuthilltown Spirits Indigenous Empire State Wheat Vodka; Gardiner, New York; $27
- Mezcal Vago Espadin; Oaxaca, Mexico; $50
- Montgomery Distillery Whyte Laydie Dry Gin; Missoula, Montana; $28
- Montanya Distillers Platino Light Rum; Crested Butte, Colorado; $27
- Leopold’s Navy Strength American Gin; Denver, Colorado; $43
*The print version of this article misstated the name of Vermont Spirits. Outside regrets the error.