By Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef

Though there are no “legal” regulatory definitions when it comes to using the word “craft” to describe spirits, any distillery can legally use the word when it comes to labeling there products. There are always of course, “guidelines” when considering what really makes a product “craft.”

Shake your way into the Craft Cocktail Trend

According to The American Craft Distilling Association, formed earlier this year, a spirit should call itself “craft” if it adheres to these points:

  • The Spirit must have been run through a still by a certified craft producer.
  • Less then 25% of the distillery is owned or controlled by industry members who are not themselves distillers.
  • Less then 52,000 cases physically distilled and bottled on site. 

Another aspect of “craft” spirits is using artisanal ingredients and/or methods in making products. For example: the type of apples used in the distillation of Core vodka; the maceration and blending process of G’Vine Gin; or the revival of making hand crafted whiskey in New York since Prohibition like Hudson Valley Whiskey.

Related: Hybrid Spirits Are Here

My whole theory of using craft spirits when making cocktails stems from my philosophy that starting with a well made spirit and building on it with fresh ingredients is the perfect equation to make well balanced cocktails that taste great and at the end of the day, are better for you. 

A great of example of a hand crafted cocktail created with one New York’s finest craft spirits is a cocktail that I created and served through out the Bloomberg administration. I wanted to utilize ingredients from New York with of course a touch of Mexico, my heritage, to combine the two places that have most influenced me in both my life and my career. 

The Big Apple 

2 oz Hudson Four Grain Whiskey

1/2 oz grilled Empire apple juice

1/2 oz Dainzu Elderflower & Ginger Syrup

3/4 oz fresh lime juice

1/4 oz Xtabentun Honey & Anis Liqueur

1 dash Junior Merino Roasted Apple & Toasted Spices Bitters


To make the apple juice, blister the apple skins on an open flame or grill. Set aside and let cool. Peel the apples then cut and core the apples. Pass pieces of apples through an extractor.

Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice, shake vigorously and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.

Click HERE to check out last month's Monthly Mixology with Junior Merino: Shrub Cocktails

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