Most days Allen Katz can be found on the floor of his distillery hoisting bags of rye or dropping handfuls of botanicals into his copper stills. At the end of the day, he steps out of the New York Distilling Company warehouse and into its neighboring bar, The Shanty, for a gin and tonic or a Martini made with the gin he crafted himself. It’s a satisfying job, tasting the fruits of one’s labor day after day—under the roof of one’s very own watering hole.
Before Katz helped to forge the modern face of New York City’s distilling scene—his Brooklyn company opened in 2011 with two American-style gins—he started off enjoying the fruits of other artisans’ labor. In his 20s, Katz took a trip to Italy and stayed for two years before coming home obsessed with food and wine. Upon returning to New York, he began working with Slow Food, which led him to friendships with cocktail world greats like Dale DeGroff and Audrey Saunders. Today, many count him among the ranks of America’s spirit luminaries—and a remarkable educator. Guiding nascent distillers and budding enthusiasts, he’s been known to offer impromptu gin-distilling lessons during daily tours and tastings whenever someone pipes up with enthusiasm.
So what’s his favorite thing to do when he’s not eating, drinking or drink-making, and what’s the one thing he wishes now that he’d known five years ago? Here, Katz tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share his weirdest cocktail experiment, the first time he ever got drunk (with his grandmother) and the one thing he wishes would disappear from drink lists forever.
What do want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
1998 Bricco del Uccellone.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Pickleback. I’ll just take the whiskey, please.
First time you ever got drunk:
Manhattan with Grandma. Great high school graduation present.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I wish I could remember.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Martinis with a series of tea distillates.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Listening to music.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
“Can you make me something with an infusion of spent mash?”
Your favorite bar, and why:
Death & Co. I lived in the East Village for 17 years as Manhattan’s current cocktail bar culture was developing. The bar was my living room for five years.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
Impossible to answer. One of the best and most memorable was lunch with my wife at Chez Georges. Simple, classic Parisian meal—pickled herring, bone marrow, sweetbreads with morels, filet of sole.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
In a dive bar?
Whiskey on the rocks.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Rest and good food . . . long showers.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Long Island Iced Tea.
The last text message you sent:
“I’ll be home around 5:45, dear.”