Distillation is the process that converts the sugars from grains or fruit into alcohol by way of evaporation using metal columns or pots known as stills. Spring break is the process that converts otherwise fine, young people into somewhat unrecognizable party demons by way of sun and alcohol. For a spring break experience that is both on-theme (i.e. alcohol-based), yet educational (i.e. “how does a blade of wheat become this potent, mind-altering elixir?”), a distillery tour is one way to beat the ennui of treading the same path between the pool, beach, bar, and hotel all week, without wreaking the kind of havoc that would surely ensue should one suggest anything so revolutionary as a visiting a museum. Distillery equals booze museum. Highbrow, yet on-theme. Fun to be had. Everyone wins.
The idea of touring a distillery is not exactly a modern invention, as many of the world’s finest spirits have been crafted for centuries in locations that were at least occasionally accessible to the public. However, small-batch, craft spirits are now on the rise, so much so that just about any given component of a Long Island Iced Tea—vodka, rum, gin, tequila—can be found in local distilleries who offer tours or tasting rooms within striking distance of the most popular spring break destinations.
Where: Fort Lauderdale, FL
If you’re spring breaking in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or otherwise Atlantic coast Florida, contact South Florida Distillers about a private group tour. On offer are a variety of rums to sample under the FWAYGO brand, including a grilled pineapple rum (ummm, daiquiri potential, hello?) as well as several agave-based spirits. (Can’t call it tequila unless it’s from Jalisco, but I imagine you still know the drill.)
Where: Nassau, Bahamas
Important question—if you travel to the Caribbean and don’t visit a rum distillery, does it even count? The John Watling’s Estate was founded in Nassau in 1789, so not only is there rum to be had, but there’s history! And rum! And also they have a legit museum on the premises, so if the most culture you’ve experienced on your cruise before the stop in Nassau is bingo, you might be in need. Did I mention the rum? There’s rum!
Where: Sandia, TX
If you’re whooping it up on South Padre Island or Gulf Coast Texas, pay a visit to the home of Wild Rag Mesquite Bean Vodka. Named after a bandana and made by cowboys, I don’t know what to make of the “mesquite bean” part, but for $10 you can sign up on their website for a tour and tasting and find out. (I mean, you can make vodka out of just about anything…)
Where: Le Moule, Guadeloupe
Perhaps you prefer your rum with a slight French accent. The French Caribbean specializes in a form of rum called rhum agricole, which is distilled from fresh sugarcane juice and gives a clean, almost sour taste reminiscent of Brazil’s cachaça. If you’re a progressive spring breaker who prefers the off-the-beaten-path and mellow vibe of Guadeloupe (or like, maybe you just got a really cheap flight), Damoiseau is a charming, hillside distillery located near the funky beach town of Le Moule. A self-guided tour of the open air distillery will have you feeling like a kid on a playground without supervision, perhaps aided by the generous tasting opportunity that operates next to the gift shop.
Where: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Most of the finest tequila brands are located inland, in the highlands of Jalisco. If you have the time and wherewithal during your spring break in Mexico, many are worth a detour. However, if you simply can’t be lured away from the beach, you’re still in luck. Several smaller distillerias are located right in the city of coastal Puerto Vallarta, and local tour operators offer visits, including Baston Del Rey, who not only makes the full spectrum of aged tequilas, but also produces whiskey. Mexican whiskey? If I’m not in college anymore can I still go on spring break?
Where: Cataño, Puerto Rico
I mean, this is kind of a no-brainer, right? (Which, now that you mention it, is doubly on-theme for spring break.) You’re in Puerto Rico, you’re on the beach, and like, one of the most famous spirit brands on earth is being made right there in the same salty air as you are breathing. Plus, they not only offer historical and tasting tours, but a mixology class, and even the opportunity to prepare your own personalized bottle directly from the barrel. For a no-brainer it sure seems like a genius move to me.
Related Video: A Refreshing Jamaican Rum Cocktail