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The Unstoppable Rise of Craft Liquor by Cindy Middleton

Updated on November 1, 2015

The latest and greatest way to get wasted.

Craft liquor used to just be a select group of enthusiasts and small-town companies. 50 or so backyard operations, with the same familiar faces distilling all sorts of hooch and moonshines. However, in the last decade, this number has exploded. There are now thought to be some 600 craft distilleries operating in the US, with more and more cropping up every day. And the demographic has switched, too. These are not just grizzled woodsmen with a leftover recipe from the days of prohibition anymore. They are tattooed hipsters, dentists and teachers. Modern professionals are getting in on the game in a major way. Craft liquor production has hit the mainstream and is coming to a bar near you very soon.

The craft liquor industry is, without doubt, on the rise. Smaller distilleries are getting their products into local bars, and exotic spirits from foreign countries are replacing the old stalwarts on cocktail menus. Don’t be surprised to see the familiar names Jim Beam and Jack Daniels being replaced by locally distilled spirits or foreign imports that you’ve never even heard of, let alone tried. One such usurper is Baijiu. It’s the national spirit of China but no one would blame you if you hadn’t heard of it. It is brewed from a thing called chu, which is basically a brick of bacteria, mold and yeast. It may not sound like the most appetizing tipple, but there’s one group that think you will love it. They will be bringing Baijiu to 20 cities across the country for the first World Baiju Day, letting bartenders loose on the spirit to create the most exciting and interesting cocktails. It’s this sort of pioneer spirit, when it comes to spirits that is going lead the charge for craft liquor and new, exotic booze.

And, we know this because we’ve seen it happen before. Craft beer has been a booze-based revolution in the US. Going from a handful of breweries, it now commands a double-digit market share. Even those at one time fiercely loyal to their Miller Lite are starting to dip their toes into the brave new world of craft beers. To go from a few small breweries to a double-digit market share suggests more than just a fad. People are looking for less generic experiences in whatever they do and drinking has not been exempt from this. Craft liquor means sophisticated and unique drinking. We want things our friends have never seen or tasted. We want to try everything at least once. Craft liquor and unknown spirits turn a regular night into a new experience. The arrival of craft liquor at your local bar means you can sample spirits from all sorts of distilleries without having to invest in a bottle that may end up just gathering dust on your shelf.

Craft liquor allows you to have a little taste of the unknown whilst the makers are open about their ingredients and artisan methods. Homemade and perhaps a little rough around the edges, artisan products have an authenticity and individuality that the big brands just can’t replicate. There's a huge amount of pride in the craftsmanship and origins of these liquors. As well as trying something new, people are starting to want to know where their buzz comes from. Makers of small batch whiskeys and rums are starting to import a ‘farm to flask’ mentality. They are transparent about the distilling process and from where they source their ingredients. Whilst it may not make it any easier to bare, at least you will know exactly where your next massive hangover came from.

So, next time you’re out, why not live a little and try something a little more adventurous than the usual Jack and Coke? You may just find a surprising new drink of choice.

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