By now, with the popularity of craft breweries and local wineries, we’ve all had the opportunity to learn the differences between merlot and cabernet grapes, as well as the reasons hops help stabilize a beer. And yet, our educations are far from over. Welcome to the newest trend in craft alcohol: local distilleries. Think gin, vodka and whisky, handcrafted cocktails and the opportunity for some hands-on learning at its finest.
1. Lazy Eye Distillery. Named New Jersey Distillery of the Year in 2016 and 2017 with a gold medal from the New York International Spirits Competition, Lazy Eye Distillery is nestled in the heart of the Pinelands year round with a summer location in Wildwood. While Lazy Eye is the producer of the only legally made Rakii in the United States, they also make craft-certified, gluten-free vodka and the Lazy Eye Special, a cocktail created with their vodka. Located at 1328 Harding Highway in Richland. Go to LazyEyeDistillery.com for more information.
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2. Cape May Distillery. For a wide variety of locally distilled spirits, head to Cape May Distillery, where products include Beach Rum, Barrel Rum, Blueberry Rum, Toasted Coconut Rum, Back Bay Straight Bourbon Whisky and Prohibition Gin. While you’re there, try a signature drink like Sherri’s Bubble Rum, made with Blueberry Rum, ginger ale, lemonade, a splash of grenadine and a splash of pineapple. Located at 371 Rt. 47 South in Cape May Court House. Go to CapeMay-Distillery.com for more information.
3. Little Water Distillery. Owned and operated by brothers Mark and Eric Ganter, Little Water Distillery produces small batches of artisan spirits in Atlantic City. With a calendar notable for some fun events — think Retro Video Game Night, Harry Potter Night and the occasional acoustic performance — Little Water Distillery is the go-to for small-batch whiskey, rum, vodka and dark rum in Atlantic City. Go to LittleWaterDistillery.com for more information.
4. Nauti Spirits. For a positively “nauti” time, head to Cape May’s Nauti Spirits. Using ingredients grown mainly on their 60-acre preserved coastal farm, Nauti mashes, ferments, distills and bottles their products at their farm distiller. Check it out Thursdays through Sundays for live music, and while you’re there, try the 2000 LB Dog, made with Nauti Spirits vodka, house-made ginger syrup, bitters and bubbles. Located at 916 Shunpike Road in Cape May. Go to NautiSpirits.com for more information.
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5. Jersey Shine Moonshine. Be sure to get your “shine” at Jersey Shine Moonshine in Millville. With an all-natural line of flavored moonshine, including flavors like apple pie, black cherry, cranberry, lemonade, margarita and raspberry, as well as a straight up “White Lightning,” a 100 proof grain neutral spirit, Jersey Shine celebrates New Jersey’s storied history with moonshine. Located at 20 Peterson St. in Millville. Go to DrinkJerseyShine.com for more information.