Making the perfect Manhattan starts with the right stuff, and for Daric Schlesselman, founder of Van Brunt Stillhouse distillery in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the “right stuff” is his own whiskey.
He became a distiller about six years ago, after leaving a career as a video editor on The Daily Show. He said distilling mixes was a lifelong interest that became a part of him over time.
“It’s part plumber, and part farmer, and part scientist,” Schlesselman said.
He poured his heart into it a decade ago. Then the pandemic hit, and overnight 20 percent of his business was gone this past spring.
He pivoted to making hand sanitizer, after the state granted distilleries the ability to make a product in high demand, using the undrinkable alcohol from the still.
“That was a lifeline,” Schlesselman said.
With his tasting room and bar closed to customers because of its intimate size, the closures instituted from several months ago were hard to swallow. And after a summer of many businesses reopening, things were looking up, with revenue somewhat back.
Some things are just right on this day in early October, when Schlesselman cracked open a barrel of Empire Rye for a taste. It’s a type of whiskey designated for distillers in New York State, with the grain grown in