You already know about bourbon. But a cavalcade of micro-distillers throughout the region has begun turning out everything from vodka to rum to modern-day moonshine. This is what you should be sipping.
UA Navy Strength Gin
James River Distillery, Richmond, Va.
This full-bodied, 114-proof gin, made with organic local grains, is all milled, cooked, fermented, bottled, and labeled by hand. It goes down easy, with notes of juniper, cardamom,citrus, and coriander.
Silver Carolina Rum
Muddy River Distillery, Belmont, N.C.
The state’s first rum distillery. The best way to drink this smooth liquor made with cane sugar from Louisiana and Florida and molasses: right out of the bottle at room temp.
Cathead Distillery, Madison, MS.
Booze aficionados like to joke that there’s only one kind of flavored vodka, and it’s called gin. But they obviously haven’t tasted this one, made with natural honeysuckle extract and Louisiana cane sugar.
Belle Meade Bourbon
Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, Nashville, Tenn.
In the late 1800s, Andy and Charlie Nelson’s great-great-great grandfather was the largest whiskey producer in America. Now the brothers have resurrected the old family business. Their bourbon, high in rye content and made with Tennessee grains, is as small batch as it gets, with runs of just four barrels each.
Honey Habanero Premium Moonshine
Belle Isle Craft Spirits, Richmond, Va.
The formerly illicit hooch is reclaiming its Prohibition-era status as a premium white liquor. This one marries organic corn and North Carolina honey with organic corn and locally grown habaneros to produce an exceptionally smooth, mixable spirit.
Craft Distilled Brandy
Copper & Kings American Brandy Co., Louisville, Ky.
Five tons of California-grown white grapes go into just one barrel of brandy, made in hand-hammered copper pot stills and finished in Kentucky whiskey barrels.
Power of Punch
Southerners may not have invented super-potent large-batch cocktails, but these days, no one does them better. Atlanta’s H. Harper Station pours concoctions like the off-the-menu Chatham Artillery Punch—a bourbon-brandy-rum-champagne drink first made in Savannah. (Some say it dates back two centuries.) In nearby Decatur, Revival tempers its Chatham Artillery with oolong tea and Catawba wine, while Charleston’s Edmund’s Oast uses lemon shrub and Avinyó Cava and dispenses it from a tap. In New Orleans, Cane & Table is known for its American Orange Punch, a mix of rum and orange and lemon juices that was served at Andrew Jackson’s inauguration. Ask for it in a hollowed-out pineapple.