Boston has had a tumultuous history with beverages. After all, it was the site of the world’s most destructive tea party back in 1773. But no one’s throwing potables into harbors these days. In fact, Boston is now home to a smattering of fantastic distilleries.
You may find these local spirits behind bars and on store shelves, but even better: Boston’s talented distillers are offering tours, tasting rooms, and a chance to buy their artisanal products direct from the source. So whether you’re a local resident supporting the neighborhood, or a visitor swinging through for an otherwise hard-to-find drink, these Boston distilleries and tasting rooms are a great place to spend your time.
Boston Harbor Distillery
12R Ericcson St, Boston // bostonharbordistillery.com
A new venture from Samuel Adams co-founder Rhonda Kallman, Boston Harbor Distillery is steeped in history. Its vast brick building was first built in 1859, and saw use as everything from a horseshoe factory to an ice cream house.
Many of the spirits produced by Boston Harbor Distillery are named for past occupants of the building. Putnam New England Rye Whiskey is named for Silas Putnam, the wily horseshoe manufacturer that supplied both sides in the Civil War. Light and dark Lawley’s Small Batch Rums pay tribute to yacht maker George Lawley. And Seymour’s Boston Cream Liqueur and Seymour’s Local Roast Coffee Liqueur draw their titles from the Seymour Ice Cream Company.
The gloriously restored building is split between an expansive bar room and the actual distillery. The bar provides the opportunity to try their spirits in cocktails like the Ward 16, a slight variant on Boston’s classic Ward 8 cocktail, made with Putnam’s Rye, orange, lime, and grenadine. If you’d like to learn more and really immerse yourself in all things Boston Harbor Distillery, they offer 30-minute tours each Friday and Saturday.
383 Dorchester Ave, Boston // grandten.com
Located in an old South Boston iron foundry, GrandTen Distilling has a plucky, hardworking vibe that gels with its industrial locale. While most known for its Wire Works Gin, GrandTen’s diverse spirit portfolio also includes eclectic spirits like Fire Puncher Vodka, produced with hickory smoke and chipotle peppers, and the 50% ABV Rare Bird Overproof Rum.
Their fully functioning bar utilizes the spirits to make classic and original cocktails, and anything from their extensive spirit lineup can be tasted for just $1. On each “8-bit Sunday” a Super Nintendo and wall projector are broken out to promote gin-fueled, classic gaming bliss.
For those looking to get up-close-and-personal with the distillery side of GrandTen, free tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday.
Bully Boy Distillers
44 Cedric St, Roxbury // bullyboydistillers.com
Founded by a pair of brothers, Bully Boy commands an impressive spirit portfolio that spans gin, rum, whiskey, vodka, and two bottled cocktails: The Old-Fashioned, and a rum-based Hub Punch based on a historical recipe.
Their new South Boston digs house the distillery itself, and a handsome tasting room decked out with ottoman rugs and a 10-foot mural depicting the founders’ great-grandfather atop his favorite horse, “Bully Boy.” The bar showcases Bully Boy’s offerings in classic cocktails, two rotating draft cocktails, and a barreled cocktail served directly from a 53-gallon whiskey barrel attached to the ceiling. For a more thorough run-down of what Bully Boy does, opt for a cocktail flight. One in particular provides the chance to sample a trio of 1.5-ounce Old-Fashioneds made with the distillery’s whiskey, gin, and rum, respectively.
To dive deeper into the details of Bully Boy, take advantage of the distillery tours that run every Saturday from 1-5 p.m.
Short Path Distillery
71 Kelvin St, Everett // shortpathdistillery.com
Short Path Distillery, located in Everett, Massachusetts, is just five miles north of Boston proper. It can be found in an alley behind a peanut butter factory, and easily mistaken for a garage at first sight. Once inside, you might still think it’s a garage–albeit one filled with distilling equipment.
The decidedly DIY distillery is most identified with its excellent, lavender-heavy SPD Gin. But its year-round roster of spirits has grown to include a white and aged rum, a barrel aged apple cordial, and a rare craft triple sec and ouzo. Short Path also produces seasonal releases, like a Summer Gin made with Maine blueberries.
You can enjoy the spirits in well-made cocktails at their bar, which also provides spirit samples upon request. Even better, the distillery’s patio gives you the chance to sip a Tom Collins outside.
For a better understanding of the magic happening inside Short Path, attend one of the 20 minute tours offered Thursday through Saturday.
Worth a Trip: Privateer
28 Mitchell Rd, Ipswich // privateerrum.com
Situated some 35 miles north of Boston is one of America’s premier rum producers, Privateer. Founded by the descendant of an actual Privateer, the Ipswich-based distillery produces light and dark rums, plus a gin that uses cane spirit as the base.
Privateer currently offers one tour a month, and your place on it must be reserved ahead of time online. The extensive tour lasts 90 minutes and includes the chance to taste not only rums but also the sugars used to make them. And Privateer is about to get a major upgrade: they’re in the process of installing a 35-foot long, 1930s yacht turned “boat bar” directly into the distillery. Once the installation is completed in the fall, tours will increase and visitors will have the chance to taste rum on deck.