by Matt Alderton | April 11, 2018
There's a reason that so many conferences and conventions have cocktail receptions on the agenda: When it's enjoyed responsibly, a stiff drink can turn an otherwise stuffy meeting into a social and celebratory affair. Combined with attendees' thirst for non-traditional venues, interactive experiences, and artisanal food and beverage, that makes distilleries ideal places to host meetings and events. Whether your group has a taste for craft vodka, gin, or whiskey, here are five places where it can wet its whistle after -- and perhaps even during -- a hard day's work:

Still Austin Whiskey Co. (Austin, TX)
 
You've heard of farm-to-table. At Still Austin Whiskey Co., however, it's all about grain-to-glass. Co-founded by three Austin families who are backed by a group of friends and supporters, this locally owned and operated American craft whiskey distillery was inspired by Mexico's tequilas and mezcals. "While we weren't looking to create agave-based spirits, we took inspiration from using the resources around us," the company explains on its website. "Like Mexican distillers use of local agave plants, utilizing local Texas-grown grains invokes a similar taste of place for Still's whiskey expressions."

Located in The Yard, a reinvigorated warehouse district in South Austin, Still Austin Whiskey Co. features a tasting room that offers whiskey classes with free tastings; a tasting bar where guests can purchase whiskey flights and cocktails; an outdoor patio with picnic tables and a food truck; and 3,000 square feet of private event space.

Castle & Key Distillery (Frankfort, KY)

Kentucky is synonymous with bourbon. And you can get plenty of it at Castle & Key Distillery, which distills not only its own bourbon whiskey, but also its own gin, vodka, and rye. Built on the site of the Old Taylor Distillery -- originally built in 1887, and subsequently abandoned for 42 years until partners Marianne Barnes, Wes Murry, and Will Arvin purchased it in 2014 -- it's known for its 113-acre estate. The picture-perfect grounds include a charming limestone castle, intricate gazebos, a quarter-mile botanical garden path, and a natural spring whose limestone-rich water is the secret ingredient in the distillery's house-made whiskey.

The estate is home to numerous spaces where groups can host meetings and events. In addition to the distillery's namesake castle, there are several outbuildings and garden spaces that have been transformed into private spots for tastings, meetings, and cocktail receptions. There's the Shooken Building, for example, which is a bare-framed warehouse space that serves as a blank slate for groups of up to 250; the Sunken Garden, a manicured lawn for outdoor soirees; and the Springhouse, a peristyle venue whose centerpiece is the aforementioned natural spring.

Hotaling & Co. (San Francisco, CA)

For years, Anchor Brewing has been hosting craft-beer lovers at its historic brewery in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood. Dating back to the California gold rush, the brewery opened its own distillery, Anchor Distilling, in 1993 and began hosting guests of its own in 2016. Now under new ownership and known as Hotaling & Co. -- named for 19th-century San Francisco spirits merchant A.P. Hotaling -- the distillery makes its own gins, whiskies, and vodka, and imports more than 300 specialty spirits from nearly 23 countries.

For private events, groups can arrange a private tasting and tour for up to 20 people. Or, they can reserve the distillery's private rooftop tasting room: designed for up to 75 people, it includes a bar indoors and a patio with gorgeous San Francisco views outdoors. 

St. Augustine Distillery (St. Augustine, FL)

The beverage for which Florida is best known may be orange juice, but gin is giving OJ a run for its money thanks to St. Augustine Distillery, whose New World Gin has citrus notes that scream "Florida" from inside your gin and tonic. Established in 2014 by a collaborative of 28 locals who wanted to bring the craft spirits movement to Florida, where it had been conspicuously absent, this small-batch distillery is located in the historic FP&L Ice Plant, which was built in 1907 and is Florida's oldest commercial ice plant. There, St. Augustine Distillery makes not only craft gin, but also craft bourbon, vodka, and rum.

Groups who want to take advantage of St. Augustine Distillery's unique setting can reserve the entire facility or any of its individual spaces, which include a museum and theater for up to 60 seated guests, a tasting room for up to 40 standing guests, and an outdoor patio.

Philadelphia Distilling (Philadelphia, PA)

When it opened in 2005, not only was Philadelphia Distilling one of only 50 distilleries operating in the United States -- today, there are more than 1,300 -- but it was also the first new distillery to open in Pennsylvania since Prohibition. Today, founders Andrew Auwerda and Timothy Yarnall offer house-made absinthe, vodka, and gin, including its popular Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin, which it describes as a "gin for whiskey drinkers."

Although it's one of the nation's oldest craft distilleries, Philadelphia Distilling continues to keep things fresh. Not only with its product line, but also with its facilities: In 2017, it moved from a warehouse-turned-lab in Philadelphia's Byberry neighborhood to an abandoned metal plant in Fishtown. Following a $4.5 million makeover, the former home of Ajax Metal Company now features 13,000 square feet of production space, a 3,000-square-foot cocktail lounge, a 1,200-square-foot tasting room, a retail shop, and 3,000 square feet of outdoor space. For groups seeking an industrial vibe, private events can take place in the cocktail lounge, which can accommodate up to 120 people; the tasting room, which can accommodate up to 40 people; or the outdoor space, which can accommodate up to 100 people.