New York City is known for many things, from being the #1 Fashion Capital in the world, to its tireless nightlife, but did you know it’s also the home of the 1st and very special, all natural, small batch absinthe producer named Doc Hersons?!
New York City is known for many things, from being the #1 Fashion Capital in the world, to its tireless nightlife, countless fantastic restaurants and yet a priceless art scene. Of course, there is much more to this list!
But, maybe something you didn’t know: It’s also the home of the 1st and very special, all natural, small batch absinthe producer named Doc Hersons.
A while ago, we hosted a great tasting event, paired with fantastic acoustic music, at one of Williamsburg’s coolest rooftops. Doc Hersons was the brand we brought in to offer the tasting and share a bit of his journey.
We were so intrigued with the product and their story, that we decided to interview Kevin Herson that founded the brand with his wife, Stacey Luckow.
1) Tell us a bit about your background and what lead you two to start Doc Hersons? Is it a family tradition, or a personal passion?
We started the distillery in 2012 in our basement in Harlem. My day job as a commodity broker ended around 3pm each day, while Stacey would only return home from working at our vintage clothing store in the East Village around 9pm.
This left plenty of time for me to experiment in the basement of our Harlem apartment. I started buying distilling equipment and experimented with making Whiskey and Moonshine.
Then I decided to try make some Absinthe, since I had always enjoyed drinking it.
My Chemistry background and knowledge supplied the baseline for which soon became a full functioning Absinthe distillery on 142nd and Broadway, the 1st Absinthe distillery in NYC.
2) We love Harlem! What is it about this neighborhood that relates to the brand and being there during the journey to bring this product to life?
I feel that starting a distillery in a Harlem basement just seems sort of a natural beginning for an Absinthe distillery. Harlem has many great stories and an amazing history, as does the Absinthe.
3) Why absinthe? I feel that not many people know how to drink it, so what are the challenges when trying to introduce this spirit into people's lifestyle?
Absinthe has an interesting history and many myths associated with it.
I think the spirit is very misunderstood, and the controversy surrounding it was intentionally made well know through the efforts of the French wine industry - read the "History" paragraph on Wikipedia).
Our Absinthe is very unique and we simply enjoy it over ice or in the various different cocktails that call for Absinthe as an ingredient.
I feel the biggest challenge regarding Absinthe is dispelling all the myth's surrounding it. This will take time, for almost 100 years Absinthe was illegal in the USA so we have some truthful storytelling to do to educate people that Absinthe can be enjoyed just like all the other wonderful categories of spirits out there.
4) So, what’s the biggest myths about absinthe?
Absinthe doesn't make you hallucinate, it never did and it never will. It's a unique spirit and the truth is it's delicious!
5) Tell us a bit about how absinthe is made.
We start by fermenting grains from upstate New York. We then run that ferment through a stripping still to get a raw alcohol, raw meaning all the good and the bad alcohol mixed together.
Then, we take that raw alcohol and transfer it into our pot still, add a bunch of different botanicals from fennel, anise, Grand Wormwood, mint, lemons... etc. That concoction is boiled and fractionally distilled to collect all the good alcohol infused with the flavors and essential oils from all the herbs.
Once we collect the good stuff, we proof it and then add additional herbs for color and flavor, all 100% natural. Finally, we strain off the spirit from the botanicals, let it settle and then bottle it all up to enjoy.
6) Do you know a few curious historical facts about the spirit that you can share?
Wikipedia does a good job of this. However, most people don't know that Absinthe was originally developed as a Malaria prevention. This was way back when it was first produced, in 1792.
7) What are the main characteristics of each of the 3 products by Doc Hersons?
- Green Absinthe: Notes of licorice, mint and slightly bitter
- Red Absinthe: Floral Hibiscus, licorice and citrus notes
- White Absinthe: Poppy seed, licorice and vanilla woody spice
8) Besides having the drink neat or with ice, when you teach people about how to consume it, what are the best easy mixes with each of the 3 flavors?
Each of our different styles of Absinthe can simply be enjoyed over ice or in the various traditional cocktails that call for Absinthe as an ingredient.
Or, one can enjoy them in the following simple cocktails:
- Green Absinthe (1/2 oz) over ice, fill the glass with ginger beer and garnish with a mint leaf
- Green Absinthe (1/2 oz) over ice, fill the glass with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge
- Red Absinthe (1/2 oz) over ice, fill the glass with ginger ale and garnish with an orange wedge
- White Absinthe (1 oz) over ice and garnish with a jalapeño slice
Or even add 1/2 oz White Absinthe to your favorite Bloody Mary cocktail for an extra note of flavor and fun.
9) Are there any upcoming flavors we can expect to see in the near future?
We are working on some other spirits projects, but as for Absinthe we just produce the three styles traditionally know, Green, Red and White.
10) The bottles and the labels are very unique and give us a delicious, nostalgic feeling. What's the idea behind the visual communication?
Branding and aesthetics are all centered around classy, simply, elegant and intriguing. Visual representations of what one can expect when they enjoy sipping on our Absinthe.
11) Do you offer any catering service and experience, for people interested in learning more?
People are always welcome to reach out personally to find out more about our Absinthe. They can even email or call to schedule a special distillery tasting/tour. We do both public and private events to promote our brand on a regular basis. Each event is coordinated on a case by case basis.
12) Where can people purchase your products, besides online?
Besides online, there are a number of liquor stores listed on our website DocHersons.com under our "buy" tab. There are also many bar and restaurants throughout NYC and NY State that serve our Absinthe.
13) Any new upcoming project that you'd like to share with us, as a "teaser"?
We are working on a new spirit to be released in February of 2018. Keep an eye out but it’s a surprise!
14) Since you're a Harlem-expert, we're curious to know what are your favorite "behind the scenes" spots!
Regarding a couple cool spots in Harlem, I can suggest our favorite spot, Harlem Public. You can ask for Roni the bartender, he is awesome and makes some of the best cocktails in the city.
There's also a great liquor store there called Pompette Wine. When you get there, ask for Mozel. He owns the store and knows a lot about great local wines and spirits.
We don't live in Harlem anymore and haven't for about 5 years, so we are not really current with some of the newer happening spots.
Thank you Kevin, and Stacey for sharing your beautiful story with us. It's certainly an exciting journey, and we will stay tuned for the new spirit launching soon!
If you want to learn more about Doc Hersons, this small batch absinthe producer, take a look at their website.
When you decide to visit the neighborhood, you might want to start by visiting a park we love called Morningside Park. Plus, stop for lunch at Seasoned Vegan, even if you're not Vegan. We promise, you'll be amazed with their dishes!
Lastly, if you’d like to be put in touch with them, we can connect you! As Kevin mentioned, they offer very exclusive tasting tours, so let our experts organize it for you! For Corporate requests, for catering or tours, talk to our team.