BY PATRICK KEARNS
With his specialty gin Queens Courage on shelves throughout the tri-state area, Chris Murillo’s ambitions aren’t subsiding. He’s trying to open the first craft distillery in Queens since prohibition, with a wide variety of spirits that reflect the cultural diversity of the borough.
Chris Murillo has a chance to do something nobody has done in Queens in over a century: open a craft distillery. Not since prohibition was ratified as the law of the land has a spirit been produced within the borders of Queens. While every participant in the recent craft brewing and distilling zeitgeist zigs, Murillo zags, and that’s what makes him and his product, Queens Courage, unique.
“It really kind of came from this idea that nobody’s doing it in Queens,” Murillo said in his Astoria office on a Monday afternoon. “Queens has this phenomenal cultural heritage and diversity. Wouldn’t it be awesome to do a distillery that celebrates that diversity and that cultural heritage?”
The idea started modestly enough: on New Year’s Eve 2011 – with a cocktail in hand, of course – Murillo came up with the idea. He wanted to do something that nobody was doing in the borough, a place he and his wife had called home since moving from Manhattan in 2008. At the time, Murillo was an attorney with no practical experience in the spirits business. But he began the process of developing an idea for a spirit and educating himself on every aspect of opening and operating a distillery. The most important aspect of that: creating the perfect spirit.
“There’s room for craft distillers, but you still need to be bringing something unique to the market,” Murillo said. “Coming up with our idea for a first spirit, which is Queens Courage, was part of that process. We spent over a year-and-a-half developing it to make sure it was absolutely superlative and also unique.”
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