Local food & drink tourism booms

By Pauliina Siniauer. “Savor the Bronx – Brewery & Distillery” tour participants an access to Bronx's booming brewing and distillery culture. Port Morris Distillery's co-owner Ralph Barbosa, tour guide Angel Hernandez and visitor John Marshall are tasting pitorro samples at the Port Morris Distillery on Oct. 8.

By Pauliina Siniauer. Port Morris Distillery’s co-owner Ralph Barbosa, tour guide Angel Hernandez and visitor John Marshall (left-to-right) taste samples of Puerto Rican pitorro at the Port Morris Distillery on Oct. 8, as part of “Savor the Bronx-Brewery & Distillery” tour.

Visitors find no shortage of tasty options on bar and restaurant tours

The tipsy crowd is chuckling as it heads into the Port Morris Distillery.

”Ple-e-ease try to behave so I don’t have to be embarrassed by you,“ cracks the tour guide, Angel Hernandez, as his group steps into the old warehouse. Ralph Barbosa, co-owner of the Port Morris Distillery is pouring samples of pitorro, a Puerto Rican moonshine into the glasses, and a hum of satisfaction fills the air.

It’s 3 a.m. and the group has visited three breweries and one distillery before coming here – and there has been no lack of free beer and whiskey samples. This “Savor the Bronx – Brewery & Distillery” tour, organized by the Bronx Tourism Council, has offered insights into the thriving craft-beverage business in the Bronx since May, and most tours have been sold out.

For Hernandez, who works for the Bronx County Historical Society, it’s a matter of giving respect to the history of brewing in the Bronx and to talk about everyday life in the borough, past and present.

“I’m a Bronx boy,” he said. “I’ve seen how the area has changed, and I’m happy to share it. What people think about the Bronx when they leave the tour is important to me. The borough has been showcased in negative light in the past, but it’s Bronx’s time to shine now.”

John Marshall, 33, a Bronx resident, is finishing his coconut-flavored pitorro with an approving nod. He came to the tour out of curiosity: “I hadn’t seen what’s in my backyard,” he said. “I knew the Bronx Brewery is here, but that’s it. The high quality of the products being made here and the consistency of the production have surprised me. It’s great to see how much honor, respect they have for the area. You can feel the character of the Bronx.”

Next to him, Matt Levy, 36, of Brooklyn, gives thanks for Hernandez’s passionate and personal approach: “It’s a great mix of history, information – and booze.”

The growth of culinary tourism has been noticed also by the New York Botanical Garden that organizes food and farm tours. The number of participants has doubled to about 100 since they started six years ago. In these trolley tours with themes like “Italian Culinary Tour,” “Bronx River Tour” and “Caribbean Culture Tour,” groups visit community gardens and other green spots and learn about the local food.

“We want to present the rich community garden and urban farm scene the Bronx has,” Ursula Chance, New York Botanical Garden’s Director of the Bronx Green-Up, proudly says, “and to show how the locals bring positive vibe to this area – how they give back to the community.”

Olga Luz Tirado, executive director of the Bronx Tourism Council, agrees. “The reputation of the Bronx is bad,” she says. “And that’s what we are working here for. And a good way to experience what the Bronx is really about is food.”

The breweries and distilleries tours run once a month, and the next and last food and farm tour this year takes place Oct. 29 with a Halloween-themed tour. For more information, see the Bronx Tourism Council website: ilovethebronx.com.