Astoria, Bars, Food and Drink
Jul 30, 2013

An Evening With the Astoria Whiskey Society

We spent an evening tasting Hudson whiskey and bourbon, and eating barbecue with the Astoria Whiskey Society.

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This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the July meeting of the Astoria Whiskey Society. This group, which meets monthly at various places around Astoria, has been operating since December 2012, originally meeting at founder Emily Ross-Johnson’s living room. These days they have their events at places like William Hallet and Hell Gate Social, and usually have a rep from a whiskey company there to lead the tasting and answer questions.

This month the tasting was at Hell Gate Social, and took place in the backyard patio, despite the fact that it was rainy. We snagged the covered area near the back wall, and that worked out for the most part.

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This month they tasted a variety of whiskey from Hudson Whiskey, a New York State spirits distillery, and the tasting was led by Hudson rep Freddie May, who was extremely knowledgeable and very personable. Here he is being thoughtful about what he’s telling us.

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Some of the things I learned:

  • Hudson Whiskey was the first distillery to apply for a license in NY State since Prohibition.
  • George Washington used to make Rye.
  • Rye makers in the early days of this country were going to be taxed, so they headed to Kentucky, used corn instead, and made bourbon.
  • Hudson uses—for the most part—locally grown grains (rye, corn, barley, etc).
  • Originally, all whiskeys used to be clear.
  • Historically, barrels were charred in some cases to burn off the fish smell (from the previous occupants).

We tried five different kinds of whiskey and bourbon—White Corn Whiskey, Baby Bourbon, Manhattan Rye, Four Grain Bourbon, and Single Malt, tasted in this order. People seemed to really love the Rye and Single Malt in particular. Not surprising to me, I liked the Bay Bourbon quite a bit and also liked the idea of making limoncello next winter with the White Corn Whiskey, since it had such a clean flavor, with a little sweetness.

Before each whiskey, Freddie talked a little about that particular spirit. It was very educational and I learned a lot. Freddy provided us with a nicely designed paper tasting mats, too.

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We also had food pairing with each drink, prepared by Hell Gate Social proprietor George Rallis. With the New York Corn Whiskey, we had cuban pork with sweet pickles and spicy mustard.

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With the Baby Bourbon, we had peach barbecue pulled chicken.

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With the Manhattan Rye—which one person said was one of the best ryes they’ve tasted, ever—we has a skewer of jalepeño and Mexican chorizo.

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With the Four Grain Bourbron, we had barbecued corn with cayenne. This was extremely spicy and my lips tingled for some time.

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And with the Single Malt, we had a lovely slice of maple braised slab bacon.

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Afterwards, we had a cocktail made with the Baby Bourbon, I believe, that had a bit of lemon in it.

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Despite the rain, there was still a small crowd, with folks from Astoria, Manhattan, and North Jersey. Overall, it was a really nice time—friendly people, great whiskey, and tasty food. The Astoria Whiskey Society is open to anyone with any size and shape of appreciation and interest in whiskey and bourbon. You can request membership at any time—it’s free! You can also follow then on Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for having me, AWS! I had a great time!

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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