Cocktails & Spirits

South Florida Distillers Launches New Gin-Making Class in Fort Lauderdale

Learn to flavor your own booze with Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Distillers.
Learn to flavor your own booze with Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Distillers. Photo by Nicole Danna
If you've ever wondered what makes a good gin — or envisioned creating your own secret concoction a la Beefeater or Hendrick's — South Florida Distillers cofounders Joe Durkin and Avi Aisenberg have a class for that. The duo recently launched an innovative educational class dubbed "I Made This," a straightforward name for the distiller’s latest venture that introduces locals to the art of creating your own unique spin on gin.

With locally grown sugar cane aplenty, South Florida Distillers was the first to bring a locally made rum to Broward County. The creators of Fwaygo, Durkin and Aisenberg debuted their small-batch spirit with the launch of their award-winning white rum in 2015. Today, the Fort Lauderdale-based distillery also functions as an incubator program, offering contract manufacturing and labeling services for start-up spirit brands including the agave-based Florida Kush.

The duo's do-it-yourself gin classes, held every Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m., kicked off last year, utilizing an open space at the distillery's newly expanded location in Fort Lauderdale. Here, gin enthusiasts can pair up or work solo to craft their own signature gin using a 192-proof vodka made from American wheat that is further distilled during class using up to 24 botanicals that range from dried herbs and spices including chamomile, clove, and licorice root to more obscure picks like orris root, rosebuds, and wild cherry bark. Pricing ranges from $125 to $150 for one to two people, with discounts currently available through Groupon.
click to enlarge PHOTO BY NICOLE DANNA
Photo by Nicole Danna
"What you choose is up to you, but each recipe must contain some measure of juniper berry, cardamom, and Angelica root — the three main ingredients that separate gin from your average vodka," says Matt Plunkett, South Florida Distillers' associate distiller.

The two-hour gin making class begins with a short, 15-minute brainstorming session led by Plunkett, also the distillery's event coordinator. During the course, Plunkett educates students on various types of gin and the spirit's basic distillation process before sitting them at a table where botanicals are arranged for sampling purposes. Sniffing is standard, and taste testing optional.

"We encourage people to rub, sniff, taste, and experiment with the ingredients," Aisenberg says. "It's a fun and easy way to create something that's special and unique to you and your tastes. Every distillery has its secret mix of botanicals, and now you can create your own special blend. When you're done, we'll keep your recipe on file so you can reproduce it whenever you want."

Once you've chosen your own unique blend of botanicals, the distillation process begins. Each batch is placed into its own mini still for up to 60 minutes, allowing the chosen ingredients to infuse into the spirit. During your class, expect plenty of face time with Plunkett, an informal tasting of the distillery's spirits produced in-house, and a mini cocktail hour. From there, Plunkett assists with measuring your gin for final proof before bottling and labeling to take home.

South Florida Distillers. 2608 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-541-2868;
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna