When you’re looking to experience the flavor of a new place, you’re certainly going to need to do a little taste testing. After all, isn’t the saying, “do as the locals do?” In our experience, that means not only eating like a local, but sipping like one, too! And as the craft spirits industry keeps booming — with more than 1,000 craft distillers in the U.S. and growing — it’s obvious that travelers are seeking out handcrafted, locally-sourced moments more and more.
Unlike wineries, however, great distilleries aren’t geographically limited, you’ll find them all over! Before you become overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options, take a look at our guide for helping you narrow down a great destination for your craft spirits inspired escape. Check out our picks for the top 10 small metro escapes to shop, sip and buy craft spirits, a little off the beaten path, but worth the detour!
San Luis Obispo, CA Metro
Halfway between L.A. and San Francisco sits California’s San Luis Obispo, a relaxing metro on the Central Coast that seems like it was made for relaxing with your favorite adult beverage. Fine wine isn’t the only thing you’ll find in Cali — or at Autry Cellars — where barrel finished brandy is as popular as its vino. Want a variety of distillery options? The rolling hills of Paso Robles is a hotbed for them, with options like Krobar Craft Distillery, Re:Find Distillery, Red Soles Stillhouse, and Wine Shine all waiting to quench your thirst for local artisan refreshments.
Santa Rosa/Petaluma, CA Metro
Sure, the Santa Rosa metro area and its surrounding cities, like Sonoma, might be synonymous with Wine Country. But, don’t discount its ability to wow visitors with premium craft spirits, too. Get in on the grain to glass movement at Spirit Works Distillery, whose dedication to milling, mashing, fermenting and distilling whole grains on site is made obvious in the quality of its finished product. Petaluma’s Griffo Distillery offers a comfortable escape that feels like home, as husband and wife duo Michael and Jenny welcome you to their family-run business. While you’re there don’t forget to meet “Betty,” the distillery’s true star (a 250-galllon copper pot still!)
Boulder, CO Metro
Colorado is like paradise for craft spirits lovers, with more than 50 local distillers across the state. Catch a flight to Denver, then head to Boulder’s Vapor Distillery. Here you’ll experience the fine art of small batch craft distilling that is so local, even the water used during its making is straight from the Colorado Rocky Mountains. And they’ve made a name for themselves as award winners for their new and innovative creations. Try the Pumpkin King cordial for an intriguing blend of hand-roasted baby pumpkins, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla beans and their original gin. Yum!
Ft. Collins, CO Metro
The city of Fort Collins, and its surrounding metro, has long been known for its excellent craft brewing heritage, so craft distilling also finds a natural home here. Discover inspired spirits at CopperMuse®, where only the best ingredients are used to ensure top-shelf quality no matter when you sip. Sometimes there’s nothing like the original, as Feisty Spirits Distillery boasts with its claim as Fort Collins’ first distillery with a passion for great whiskey. And for a local twist you might not expect, check out the newest venture from a local pastor with a sense of humor, Big Fat Pastor Spirits. With bottles of liquor featuring the chuckling pastor himself, it’s the perfect “souvenir” to bring home to your friends — or save for yourself!
Kingston, NY Metro
Heading upstate? Escape the bustle of the city and drive north to the Kingston metro area, a cozy destination that seems worlds away but is only a short 2-hour jaunt from New York City. Go ahead, rent a car for the weekend and make the trek to distilleries like Springbrook Hollow Farm, tucked away in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains or Lake George Distilling Company … featuring its can’t miss “32 Mile Moonshine” named for the length of Lake George.
Glens Falls, NY Metro
Even further upstate you’ll find Glens Falls, with distillery experiences paying homage to its industrial roots. Visit Coppersea Distillery in West Park to discover the difference in quality vs. quantity. The craft distillery focuses on traditional techniques such as floor malting their locally-sourced Hudson Valley grain and using direct fire for producing their spirits for handcrafted perfection in each and every batch. Or explore the options that the farming town of Gardiner has to offer, with delicious libations at both Gardiner Liquid Mercantile and Tuthilltown Spirits.
Bend, OR Metro
The picturesque mountain town of Bend is another inviting setting to inspire your tastebuds with local spirits. And the beautiful scenery and great weather make the experience all the better. Spend the afternoon hiking, biking or skiing, then relax at your choice of craft distilleries, including Oregon Spirit Distillers, featuring tours 7 days a week at 5 p.m., or Crater Lake Spirits by Bendistillery, where even spirit connoisseurs will be impressed by their award-winning selection.
Corvallis, OR Metro
Just 1.5 hours south of Portland, is the metro area of Corvallis, where small batch fine spirits reign. Pull up a barstool and relax in this comfortable getaway that’s made a name for itself in the craft spirits arena. Stop into Spiritopia Craft Spirits for “The World’s Finest Sipping Ginger,” and head to Vivacity Spirits for everything from Turkish coffee liqueur to traditional rum. Or check out Hard Times Distillery for their original Sweet Baby Vodka made from molasses.
Wenatchee, WA Metro
Want to sip your spirits with a view? You can’t lose in the Wenatchee metro area, where beautiful scenery pairs perfectly with your favorite liquor. Check out It’s 5 Artisan Distillery for products made from fruits and grains grown in Washington State — and bottles so artistic, you’ll want to gift one to all your friends! Or get close to nature at Blue Spirits Distilling, where its drinks are inspired by the pristine Lake Chelan nearby.
Mt. Vernon/Anacortes, WA Metro
You know what pairs perfectly with craft spirits? Breathtaking scenery. And the Pacific Northwest is the place to find it! Located in between Seattle and Vancouver, the metro area of Mount Vernon and Anacortes is rich with natural beauty. Go ahead and savor its beauty as you sip drinks at Valley Shine Distillery, home of the All-American Benjamin’s Bourbon, Bonfire Toffee liqueur and the summer favorite, Limoncello liqueur, to name a few. Moonshine fans will appreciate Deception Distilling, offering clear corn whiskey made from Washington State barley.
Looking for a craft spirits experience with a big city backdrop? Check out our Roaming Gnome’s top 10 major cities to sip and explore!
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