Red Hook rum

Small-batch rum makers dock in Red Hook

The Brooklyn Paper
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Rum makers are popping up in Red Hook faster than you can scream, “Yo-ho-ho!”

In the past three weeks, two small-batch rum distilleries have begun bottling organic sugarcane-based hooch that’s tasty enough to make Captain Morgan switch labels.

One distillery belongs to Daric Schlesselman — a Comedy Central editor-cum-booze buff — who crafts his vanilla-noted liquor using fair trade, unprocessed sugar at his Van Brunt Stillhouse.

“It’s a lot like cooking: I get the best ingredients then use my palate to steer flavor in the most interesting direction,” Schlesselman said.

Schlesselman distills the elixir — dubbed “Due North Rum”($35), which is not yet for sale — at a low temperature to create a light-but-full-bodied flavor.

He said he opened the 225-barrel operation in Red Hook because there’s enough industrial space to set up shop and the hood has a “pioneering spirit.”

Rum makers are rare outside the Caribbean — and there are only a handful in New York — but Schlesselman is not the only one anchoring the trade in Red Hook: Cacao Prieto bottles chocolate-based rum using organic cacao from the Dominican Republic just four blocks away, proving the liquor has sailed far beyond its days as cheap pirate swill.

A spokesman for Cacao Prieto, Alex Clark, said the neighborhood’s zoning rules actually help up-and-coming neighborhood booze-makers.

“Red Hook’s got the zoning — and it’s a great spot for creative people,” he said.

Van Brunt Stillhouse [6 Bay Street at Ostego Street in Red Hook, (718) 852-6405].

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:31 pm, July 9, 2018
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