Livingston’s Distillery


Philip Livingston (1716–1778) is mostly known for signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Livingston family were so called “patroons” owning huge colonial land parcels of almost 250 square miles before the Revolutionary War. Philip Livingston was a Manhattan lawyer, politician, businessman and slave trader, and lived in his country house in today Brooklyn Heights, NY from 1765. He traded with the British sugar plantations in the West Indies, invested in the slave trade, and was known to have made a fortune in privateering (pirating) during the French wars (1756-1763). During the occupation of the British he was forced to move to Kingston where he died two years later in 1778.

Lesser known is that Livingston owned a distillery on his property at the shoreline of River Road (Joralemon Street), New York City as early as 1767. He had purchased the 40 acre property across from Manhattan overviewing the harbor from the Remsens family in 1750. This more remote location across the river was strategically interesting for building a larger distilling production facility as Manhattan had already seven smaller distilleries operating in 1755. The local forests provided enough fuel for running the larger distilling operation, and the location at the river was ideal for shipping products.

Many conclude today that the Livingston distillery must have distilled gin, or a at this time the common genever style juniper distillate. Philip Livingston though had been engaged in the American Rum trade with the West Indies since his early days as a merchant. In 1756 he was known to import and sell double distilled rum from Jamaica, a product very high in demand at the time. Investing in a large scale distillery venture in the 1760th guaranteed him an adequate future supply of American Rum, and a decent profit producing locally at his own distillery in Brooklyn, NY.

Read about another 1776 well known American Rum distillery in Medford, MA, and the first American Rum distillery in the colony of Georgia.


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