Locally-sourced libations have been shared among friends since alcohol first touched the human tongue. Centuries of dedication to the craft of distilling, the isolating of alcoholic vapors after the fermentation process, has engineered many of the hard liquors we know and love today. And while some may enjoy a drink only for its intoxicating properties, distilleries have created a sub-culture for people intrigued at the prospect of seeing magic made and bottled. New Jersey is home to some of the greatest advancements in alcohol production, its diverse list of distilleries provides lip-smacking liquor that expertly merges old-fashioned tradition with modern mixology.
Serving as both an educational experience and tasty tour de force, this list we’ve put together of top-notch facilities offer you and your friends a freeing night out not felt since pre-COVID. Stare in amazement at the towering silver, intricate machinery that distills hundreds of thousands of barrels of alcohol a year. Enjoy the myriad of drink options, all locally sourced in the Garden State, and be sure to snag a bottle of in-house hand sanitizer on the way out.
These 12 New Jersey distilleries serve as proof that happy hours still exist—you just have to be brave enough to find them. And if drinking out isn’t your cup of Tea-quila, many spirits on this list are sold locally around the tri-state area.
1. Bellemara Distillery
Hillsborough Township, NJ
With Naval officer training, a background in engineering and a passion for Scotch whisky, Camden Winkelstein founded Somerset County’s first distillery in December of 2021 alongside his wife, Christina Lee. The idea for Bellemara Distillery, meaning “beauty of the sea,” came when Winkelstein was at a crossroads in his career. When he left active duty, he decided to chase a long-time dream and spent a year in Scotland studying the art and science of whisky-making. Now the head distiller at Bellemara, Winkelstein combines Scottish production techniques with American distilling and aging methods to create his one-of-a-kind single malt spirit and gin. As New Jersey’s first single malt distillery, everything at Bellemara is made on-site, grain-to-glass, from 100 percent malted barley.
The Bellemara tasting room bar and lounge are open Wednesday through Friday. Here, you can try seasonal cocktails featuring their spirits. There’s also an outdoor patio and pre-packaged snacks available.
2. Asbury Park Distilling Co.
Asbury Park, NJ
Asbury Park has become synonymous with exciting nightlife that not even COVID-19 can put a stop to. Asbury Park Distilling Co. embraces the town’s unique nautical vibes with their mermaid-logo adorned, hand-crafted gin, vodka, and bourbon whiskey. The first and only distillery in Asbury Park since prohibition, APD hopes to provide a place of inclusivity and acceptance that reflects the town they love for many more years to come.
The APD Tasting Room is open every Tuesday through Sunday.
3. Cape May Distillery
Cape May, NJ
What started as the dream of two ambitious best friends in college, Cape May Distillery has since grown into a top-tier spot for enjoying great drinks. Boasting a beautiful green space outside–cornhole included, of course– this distillery’s charming aesthetic only adds to your experience. Home-crafted delicacies, like their seasonal Toasted Peanut Butter Cup cocktail, make for an unforgettable treat.
Reservations are not needed for the Cape May Distillery. They are open Thursday through Sunday from 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
4. Colts Neck StillHouse
Colts Neck, NJ
In his journey from television executive to distillery owner and operator, founder of Colts Neck StillHouse, Geoff Karch, sought the wisest whiskey advisors in Bourbon country to learn all he could. Bringing back to New Jersey the distillery secrets of Kentucky, Karch’s full-service farm offers eclectic and colorful cocktails, including their signature Muckleye Spirits. An impressive collection of purchasable glassware and flasks should catch your eye on the way out.
The StillHouse offers indoor and outdoor seating with a strict maximum of six to a table. No reservations are required, first-come, first-serve.
5. Corgi Spirits
Jersey City, NJ
As its adorable namesake suggests, this Great Britain Inspired distillery offers Earl Grey and Pembroke Gin that will leave you barking for another glass. The family-owned distillery’s open, dog-friendly picnic rooftop offers a casual setting to drink to your heart’s desire. Corgi Spirits’ love for dogs extends past their playful, yet regal branding, as portions of all proceeds go to animal rescue groups around the country. Further praise can be given for Corgi Spirits because of their generous philanthropy during the coronavirus pandemic. Their puppy-filled Instagram is reason enough to give these dog-lovers a joyous visit.
The Tasting Room and The Patio are open to limited capacity Thursday through Sunday.
6. Dachshund Distilling
Neptune City, NJ
Experience the stark contrast between craft and commercial distilling at this micro, craft brewery whose individualized approach to producing small-batch alcohol is something to be revered. Their dog-friendly facility’s motto is #drinkmorerum, and their selection of signature Dachshund Distilling Gold and Silver Rum definitely encourages just that. Free tours and tastings are available Friday through Sunday starting at 12 p.m., where you can see the facility’s renowned double distillation process unfold.
Due to COVID safety precautions, this distillery now operates Wednesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Private groups should make reservations from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
7. Independent Spirits Distillery
Woolwich Township, NJ
Situated on 10 acres of farmland, Independent Spirit Distillery’s (ISD) presence in Gloucester County has welcomed distillery-loving tourists for years. Husband and wife co-owners Kerry and Morten Thomsen love fielding questions from impressed guests who tend to marvel at the heart of their operation: their custom-built, one-of-a-kind, copper still that was special ordered from Oberkirch-Tiergarten, Germany. And while the distillery jokes on Facebook that their beast looks admittedly funky (friendly comments equate it to Dr. Who’s TARDIS mating with a saxophone), they could not be prouder to infuse their Danish and Irish-American ancestry into every grain to glass.
The ISD farm is available for tours upon request, which can be made through their website.
8. Little Water Distillery
Atlantic City, NJ
Mix up your Atlantic City staycation with a tour and tasting of Little Water Distillery. Hidden between the city’s casinos and sun-faded boardwalks is this hidden gem ripe with barrel-aged blessings for your consumption. The distillery also offers a bunch of fun events, including an upcoming virtual tasting Jan. 28 to benefit the community food bank of New Jersey. Huddle with a small group around a trendy keg-turned-table, or rent a room for the whole gang to sample Atlantic City’s best spirits.
The distillery is open every weekend for guided tours and tastings. Reservations are encouraged.
9. Nauti Spirits
Cape May, NJ
Nauti Spirits’s two acres of backyard open-space serves as the perfect outing for the COVID-cautious. Bring your beach chairs and blankets for a variety of events the distillery hosts, including movie nights, bar trivia competitions, and live music featuring local artists every weekend. Order a Signal, their “shore-borne” botanical gin, from the bar-window before you get an impassioned tour, available at the top of each hour.
Self-guided and guided tours are available every day, while the Tasting Room is open from Thursday through Sunday.
10. Pine Tavern Distillery
Family-owned Hidden Pond Farm of Salem County is home to the Pine Tavern Distillery, the first farm distillery to emerge in the state of New Jersey. Offering a rustic charm off the typical drinker’s path, Pine Tavern Distillery invites you to try locally sourced and barrel-aged Whiskey in the quiet openness of the farm’s picturesque countryside. We recommend a Friday visit on a clear night so you can share a glass of Muddy Run Rum, next to the Muddy Run River, under the endless starry sky.
The Pine Tavern Distillery is open for business on the weekends, so set your plans accordingly.
11. Recklesstown Farm Distillery
Springfield Township, NJ
Centered in the field where the soon-to-be plucked, fermented, and distilled ingredients are grown is a cluster of picnic tables ready to host some guests. Come for the homegrown potato vodka and moonshine, and stay for Food Truck Fridays. Recent appearances by local delicacies Cousins Maine Lobster, Latin Bites, and the Wing Kitchen should be incentive enough to get you to Recklesstown Farm Distillery. Their virtual cocktail classes and trivia nights are also bound to make your quarantine a little less sobering, pun intended.
Outside seating is available throughout the week with limited seating available inside by reservation only. See who’s coming for Food Truck Fridays by keeping up on Facebook.
12. Silk City Distillers
The northernmost of the New Jersey distilleries on our list resides just a few blocks south of the Passaic River. Harnessing the power of locally-sourced corn, rye, and barley, Silk City Distillers’ 1,000-liter still will certainly drop your jaw. The mechanical behemoth is custom-designed to satisfy a rotating menu of crafty cocktails and spirits; now notably serving Maple Cask Bourbon you can even pre-order.
Be sure to follow Silk City Distillers’ Facebook page for updates and events.
Which of these New Jersey distilleries have you been to? Let us know in the comments below.