1640 - 1791
The Colonial Era
The story of distilling in New York begins in 1640, when the first commercial distillery in North America was built on Staten Island. The Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam (as New York was then called) distilled a new-world version of Dutch Genever, a grain-based gin infused with local botanicals like hops and juniper berries. The rich tavern culture of the Dutch flourished in New Amsterdam and an intimate connection between agricultural life and distilling culture emerged.
After the British took over the American colonies, rum became more prominent. In some measure, it can be argued that the Revolution was fought because of the sugar tax imposed by the British on the emergent American rum business. After independence, whiskey became the American spirit and was so vital to farm life that, when a whiskey tax was imposed in 1791, this time by the fledgling American government, it sparked the violent Whiskey Rebellion.