From whiskey to rum, this shortlist spotlights a variety of options from Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned distillers.
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10th Street Distillery
Located in San Jose, California, the distillery was cofounded by former engineers Virag Saksena and Vishal Gauri, who now build terroir-minded American malt whiskeys. Its limited-edition peated whiskey finished in a Sonoma Port wine cask channels the flavor of dried cherries toasted over a campfire, while permanent offerings like the Distiller’s Cut is aged in Bourbon barrels.
Inspired by her maternal family roots, Alexandra Dorda sources this mellow, coconut-tinged rum in the Philippines. Though the brand launched in February, Dorda knows a thing or two about spirits—she’s the daughter of Tad Dorda, cofounder of Chopin and Belvedere vodka.
In 2015, Ann Soh Woods launched Kikori, a rice-based whiskey. Two years later, she added yuzu liqueur Yuzuri, also made with a base distilled from Japanese rice. While Soh Woods is based in Los Angeles, both spirits are made in Japan.
Latitude Beverage Co.
This independent Boston-based wine and spirits company was founded in 2007 by Kevin Mehra. Its brands include Steel Dust Vodka, Wheel Horse Whiskey and Tequila Zarpado.
Located in Brooklyn, New York’s Bushwick neighborhood, this lively craft distillery is co-owned by Marie Estrada, originally from the Philippines, and Israel-born Hagai Yardeny. The distillery makes rice whiskey, inspired by a motorcycle trip that Yardeny took to Vietnam, and jabuka, an apple-based spirit with Croatian roots.
Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
Steve Yeng, a Cambodian refugee and former restaurateur based in San Diego, developed a popular whiskey-based peanut butter cocktail to serve at The Holding Company and OB Noodle House. In 2018, his wife and business partner, Brittany Merrill Yeng, leveraged the recipe to create this flavored whiskey brand.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Vinn makes rice-based baijiu, whiskey and vodka, among other products. It’s owned and operated by the Ly family, which includes five siblings, originally from China. All five share the same middle name, Vinn.
West 32 Soju
Daniel Lee introduced the Korean spirit soju to Max Fine while both were in college in the early 2000s. A decade or so after graduation, they created a domestic version distilled from corn sourced from New York and Connecticut. It’s named for the epicenter of New York City’s Koreatown neighborhood.
In 2015, Korean-American lawyer and mother of twins Carolyn Kim created this brand with the support of her husband, James Kumm. The soju is made in New York from Finger Lakes Catawba grapes.
Published: June 7, 2021