Puerto Rico Distillery
“Puerto Rican Born. Maryland Made.” That’s the motto of Puerto Rico Distillery, a family-run business from Frederick, Maryland, led by father and daughter Angel and Crystal Rivera. Angel was born on the island but serving in the Navy brought him to Maryland, where the business he founded with Crystal belongs to the Maryland Distillers Guild and the American Distillers Institution. Puerto Rico Distillery specializes in high-quality artisanal Puerto Rican diaspora rum, otherwise known on the island as pitorro, that is distilled from sugar cane molasses. It has been enjoyed by Puerto Rican families and friends for centuries.
Pitorro, according to the Riveras, is the first and true rum of Puerto Rico. First referenced in 1797, it was made historically as a form of clandestine spirit, or moonshine, that is still sold underground on the island and shared at holiday gatherings and special occasions. A traditional rum, pitorro continues to be an integral part of life in Puerto Rico to this day—it is deeply ingrained in the culture.
Continuing a craft tradition that goes back in their family for generations, the Rivera family opened their distillery during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as a passion project, launching a business venture by combining family traditions with an entrepreneurial spirit. Angel learned to distill from his father. Yet his own family was only able to experience the tradition during family visits to Puerto Rico. The Riveras grew tired of these limitations; with Frederick’s “siren call” for wineries and distilleries, the Puerto Rico Distillery was born.
At the festival, Angel and his wife Albita will demonstrate the blending and mixing of flavors with their pitorro, an important part of the tradition in Puerto Rico, using some flavors that are based on Angel’s father’s recipes. By learning to extract flavors and mix them into favorite cocktails, festival patrons will learn how to create their own custom creations at home. This educational experience fits with the aim of the Puerto Rico Distillery: “[to] share the unofficial national spirit of Puerto Rico and its rich traditions” and to be ambassadors of their culture in Maryland.