Bronx Doctor Runs P.R.-Inspired Distillery

Dr. Renee Hernandez at Tirado Distillery, the first of its kind in the Bronx since Prohibition. (Photo by Angely Mercado via Mott Haven Herald)

Dr. Renee Hernández at Tirado Distillery, the first of its kind in the Bronx since Prohibition. (Photo by Angely Mercado via Mott Haven Herald)

After some inspiration from a Bacardi distillery in Puerto Rico, Dr. Renee Hernández, 39, of Mott Haven in the Bronx, started Tirado Distillery in 2002, making it the first of its kind in the borough since Prohibition in the early 1900s. Hernández meanwhile practices internal medicine nearby, a field of study that has played a role when it comes to brewing liquor, finds Mott Haven Herald‘s Angely Mercado.

It all started after a trip to the Caribbean island, during which Hernández visited a Bacardi distillery.

Hernandez decided to enter the liquor business after taking a weekend trip to Puerto Rico with his father-in-law four years ago. While visiting the island, the two men took a tour of the Bacardi distillery in San Juan. Hernandez learned that the company creates its world-famous rum by charring the insides of the barrels, forming a carbon layer that filters the rum. That process results in the smooth taste Bacardi is known for.

“I thought, ‘ok, how can we adapt something like that and make our own liquor?’” said Hernandez.

With a background in science, Hernández started dabbing in liqueur, which led to other products that made their way into his distillery – and the mouths of older Puerto Rican New Yorkers.

Armed with curiosity and a degree in organic chemistry from Fordham, Hernandez began to experiment. The result was a liqueur he named Supreme, a legal version of pitorro, Puerto Rico’s outlawed moonshine. The company is yet to officially launch it.

But since making Supreme, the distillery has marketed other products, such as Pitito, named after Hernandez’s father, Pito. Hernandez notes that his creations appeal to older Puerto Ricans who have lived in the Bronx for a long time.

As a doctor, it’s not the alcohol that interests Hernández, but rather the “math and science of the distillation process.”

“You first start off playing with different variables. Once you get it with a particular taste, you lock those variables and repeat it and repeat it to see if you’re going to get a similar flavor,” he said, crediting that scientific precision for the consistency of his products.

Tirado Distillery’s website emphasizes the Bronx- and N.Y.-bred quality of their products. All workers live in the Bronx and 80 percent of the products come from farms in the state. As Mercado mentions:

Most of the liquors are made from local organic corn, another element Hernandez says is crucial to the quality of the end product.

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  1. Pingback: Bronx distillery cooking up traditional boricua drink for Christmas | Voices of NY

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