The events of 2020 have brought big changes to the adult beverage industry, transforming how, where and what Americans are drinking. According to a report from market analysis firm IWSR, consumers tend to favor quality over quantity and gravitate more towards local products and ready-to-drink beverages.
And according to the Craft Spirits Data Project, the U.S. was home to more than 2,000 craft distilleries by the end of 2019, an 11 percent growth year over year. That means consumers have a lot of choice when it comes to premium, American-made spirits.
10Best wanted to find the best craft and small-batch spirits producers – family-owned distilleries, grain-to-glass operations or distillers using only the best local ingredients in their products. We recruited a panel of craft spirits experts including spirits journalists and judges to help us nominate 20 companies in each of the following categories: whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, brandy, specialty spirits, new distilleries, craft mixers and canned cocktails.
For the past four weeks, our readers have been voting for their favorites, and the results are in.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners:
Best Canned Cocktail Company: F!ve Drinks Co
Winning ready-to-drink cocktail company produces six classic cocktails — Photo courtesy of F!ve Drinks Co
F!ve Drinks Co in fact offers six varieties of canned cocktails that are ready to drink whenever you are: Moscow Mule, Margarita, Mojito, Gin & Tonic, Paloma and Watermelon Vodka Soda. They range in ABV from 5.9 to 11 percent.
Best Craft Brandy Distillery: Laird & Company
Winning distillery transforms Virginia-grown apples into a range of sipping brandies — Photo courtesy of Laird & Company
Laird & Company specializes in apple spirits made from Virginia-grown, tree-ripened apples. The distillery makes several brandies, including a single cask selection, bottled-in-bond apple brandy and both aged and un-aged apple brandies.
Best Craft Gin Distillery: Revivalist Spirits
These winning gins feature flavors and aromas distinct to each season — Photo courtesy of Revivalist Spirits
The lineup of Revivalist gins takes inspiration from the four seasons of the year: Equinox, Summertide, Harvest and Solstice. Each expression starts with malted and un-malted grain mash.
Best Craft Mixer: Element Shrub
Element uses only organic cane sugar, apple cider vinegar and fresh fruits, herbs and spices in their line of shrubs and sipping vinegars — Photo courtesy of Element Shrub
At Element Shrub, organic apple cider vinegar with the "mother" serves as a base for every shrub and sipping vinegar. Only organic cane sugar, whole fresh fruits, herbs and spices are added – nothing else. Options include cranberry hibiscus, blood orange saffron, chai pear, and honeydew jalapeño.
Best Craft Rum Distillery: LYON RUM
This Chesapeake Bay microdistillery makes their winning rum from Louisiana-grown sugarcane — Photo courtesy of LYON RUM
LYON RUM is the flagship spirit of Windon Distilling Company – a micro distillery on the Chesapeake Bay dedicated to distilling American Rum from 100-percent Louisiana sugarcane using traditional pot stills.
Rum lovers have numerous options to choose from: White Rum, Dark Rum and barrel-rested Sailors Reserve Rum, plus Curaçao, Coffee Rum, Rock&Rum and seasonal specialties like toasted Coconut Rum, Overproof Pineapple Rum and Blackberry Harvest Rum.
Best Craft Specialty Spirits Distillery: Desert Door Texas Sotol
Winning spirit tastes like gin crossed with smooth tequila — Photo courtesy of Desert Door Texas Sotol
Desert Door Texas Sotol is a sweet, citrusy, herbal spirit distilled in Driftwood, Texas from wild-harvested West Texas sotol plants. The resulting 80-proof spirit tastes like a gin crossed with a smooth tequila. The oak-aged version spends time in new charred American white oak.
Best Craft Vodka Distillery: McClintock Distilling
Winning vodka is distilled from organic white wheat — Photo courtesy of McClintock Distilling
Epiphany Organic Vodka from McClintock Distilling in Maryland begins its journey from grain to bottle as organic, non-GMO white wheat. The spirit is double-distilled through an 18-plate column still, then triple-filtered for a clean and smooth finish with notes of butter and wheat.
Best Craft Whiskey Distillery: Ironroot Republic Distillery
This is the second win for this Texas distillery — Photo courtesy of Ironroot Republic Distillery
Ironroot Republic mashes, ferments, distills, ages and bottles all their spirits in Denison, Texas for a true grain-to-glass experience. The lineup includes three whiskies – two straight bourbons and a limited release straight corn whiskey.
Best New Craft Distillery: Lost State Distilling
Winning distillery operates from downtown Bristol, Tennessee — Photo courtesy of Lost State Distilling
This family-owned distillery in downtown Bristol, Tennessee produces small-batch botanical-heavy gin, vodka (distilled from corn), rum and Tennessee whiskey.
Congratulations to all these winning distilleries, mixer and canned cocktail companies!