New York Craft Spirits sat down with Doc Herson and learned about making Absinthe the New York City way . . .
Kevin “Doc” Herson is making absinthe in the spirit of Prohibition, he even started his operation undergound. This past April at 1920’s themed New York Craft Distiller’s Festival, Kevin and his partner Stacey fit right in alongside those adorning top hats and tails. A master distiller, world traveler, and relaxed jazz, hipster – Kevin Herson is someone you want to buy a drink for, or rather buy a drink from. At the New York Craft Distiller’s Festival Kevin and Stacey were mixing up some delicious cocktails and seemed to be having more fun than most of the guests.
For the most-part Doc Herson’s Natural Spirits is a one-man operation. The Doc started in his Harlem basement, distilling some of the first Absinthe legally produced in the United States. When the basement was no longer appropriately sized, he has since moved to Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn. The new and improved distillery is located in the old Pfizer building, which has become an incubator for growing independently owned-businesses. Here Kevin has been scaling up the operation and continuing to produce a great product. What started as a hobby and turned into weekends and nights has become full-time for the Doc.
Kevin’s distillery operation is perfectly organized and clean, and yet somehow casual and mad scientist in appearance. While many distillers use consultants to help them establish their business and distill following the letter of the law, Kevin is self-taught. While there were some mistakes made along the way (like starting in a basement), Kevin is doing exactly what he wants to do, legally, paying taxes and creating deliciousness in his tight space.
While there are many things to catch the eye, the true magic is happening in peacefully stacked fermentation barrels lining a wall of the distillery. Here the neutral spirit is combined with various botanicals including the requisite wormwood for a few weeks at a time. The stills are small by any measure, but production is not lacking. After a large order for individually hand labeled bottles Kevin had to commit himself fulltime to the distillery. Lucky for us, otherwise he might not have had time to release his newest creation: Red Absinthe.
But absinthe is supposed to be green right? The coloration of Doc’s latest delight comes from dried hibiscus. Doc Herson’s Red Absinthe is a bold step towards exploring the wide range of potential for absinthe, while still keeping true to its traditional flavor profile. While not entirely different tasting, the pleasant hibiscus tannins and tartness is pleasant enough to warrant its own spot in a bar. Somewhat more refreshing than the spicier Green Absinthe, the Red Absinthe is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
The distinctive packaging is the same as the Green Absinthe, round old-timey medicine looking bottles with tops that are hand-dipped in wax. The Doc has to hand-write proof on every label because there is some natural variance in alcohol content.
by Simon Thomas Lee