Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Mixologist, Vol. 28: The Business of Booze

Posted on: November 5, 2010

Giant agricultural conglomerates use misleading bucolic imagery of small family farms to sell the industrialized food-like products of concentrated animal feeding operations.  To be sure, the red barn on that package of bacon bears no relation to the actual origin of the product inside, delicious as it still may be.  Similarly, large banking and financial interests peddle their self-interested and often disastrous policies to the public using the imagery of The American Small Business Owner.  Ah, capitalism, who could have any objection?

Dirty 19th Century Hippie

The mythologized lone proprietor may have been eradicated in many areas of the retail landscape, e.g. pharmacies, but there is one area in which small business owners still stand strong: your local liquor store.  Not all liquor stores are created equal, however.  If, like many of us, you simply go to the store closest to either your house or the party you’re going to, you are missing out on a lot of great stuff (and probably paying more than you need to, as well).  To that end, the Frontier Mixologist wants to help you out with a highly-biased review of several of New York City’s best liquor stores.  For readers further afield from New York, my apologies.

Dry Dock

There once was a store in Red Hook called LeNell’s.  It was legendary, with an idiosyncratic and passionate owner, as well as one of the best collections of American whiskey ever.  Indeed, the rye whiskey revival that took place in the early-to-mid naughts can be directly traced to LeNell’s.  Sadly, LeNell’s closed due to her rent being too damn high.  Luckily for fans of booze and Red Hook, Dry Dock spirits opened last year.  They’ve got a friendly and knowledgeable staff, who expressed curiosity in Frontier Mixology.  With a very impressive selection of whiskeys, both domestic and foreign, they even have many hard-to-find Japanese whiskeys.  If you make it out to Red Hook, which you should, be sure to stop by FP favorite Fort Defiance as well.

Smith & Vine

This Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens shop’s focus is on wine, but they do not leave cocktails behind, sporting a large selection of obscure small production volume spirits including numerous Italian amari and disgestivi.  Also, you can get some really interesting liqueurs, too.  Their prices are very reasonable, given the nature of their selection.

Scotto’s Wine Cellar

A small business well worth supporting, also in Carroll Gardens.  Scotto’s was originally opened prior to Prohibition on Hicks Street, and in 1934, once that failed experiment concluded, rose again like a phoenix from Arizona at their current Court Street location.  While it may look more like an old-school wine store, they’ve done a great job of keeping up with some of the more interesting trends in cocktails, and have decent prices to boot.  It’s also one of the few places where you can get Vya vermouths, which are excellent vermouths from California that are very hard to find.

Astor Place

Heaven.  Simply put: probably one of the best liquor stores on the planet.  Their selection is as wide-ranging as you’re going to find anywhere, for both base spirits and liqueurs.  Plus, their prices are really good.  One of Frontier Mixology’s favorite spirits is applejack, and, so far as we’ve found, Astor is the only place that sells the pure 101-proof bonded variety.

So go beyond the basics, and seek out some artisan fruit liqueurs, small batch Bourbons, and mysterious Italian aperitifs.  Liquor stores, they’re not just for hilarious failed robberies anymore.  Also, let us know any favorites you have in the comments section.

Drink up,


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