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BEVERAGE MEDIA
September 2013
The wall of New York spirits is the
store’s real surprise: I am flabbergasted
by just how many small, truly artisanal
producers there are. Dozens, from ev-
ery agricultural region plus New York
City. And you quickly run out of fin-
gers trying to count the ones less than
five years old.
Having focused personally more on
the market for New York wine, seeing the
wave of new spirits labels instantly made
me wonder how New York distilleries can
compete against large outfits with huge
production, typically lower prices, estab-
lished distribution channels and large
sales forces behind them.
Turns out, small-batch distillers are
connecting with restaurants, retailers and
customers, building reputations at the
highest level. Much like local breweries
and wineries, New York distillers are capi-
talizing on buyers’ and consumers’ sense
of adventure, local pride and desire for
unique, delicious drink experiences.
If anyone would know about market
obstacles, it would be Adam Ford, who
recently launched Atsby Vermouth—an
unknown brand in an under-appreciated
category in a crowded market. Even more
so than other craft distillers, Ford is up
against some powerful preconceptions not
just due to geography. “Some bartenders
and beverage directors have it ingrained
in their minds that vermouth is a com-
modity that should be purchased for the
cheapest price possible,” says Ford.
And yet, Ford has found a market
for his distinctive vermouths, primar-
ily through the power of sampling buyers.
“Many retailers are starting to create entire
shelves dedicated solely to New York spir-
its, in part because they are made in New
York,” he notes. “But retailers and consum-
ers are really savvy and they’re not going to
buy something just because it is from New
York. The product has to be excellent.”
TASTE OF ADVENTURE
Even though the NY craft distilling move-
ment is still in its infancy, the sheer diversity
is impressive. The focus isn’t on one specific
type of spirit, says Nick Venditti, who now
serves as wine and spirits supervisor for New
York Wine and Spirits after working in re-
E
mpire State Cellars, a retail store on Long Island, sells only New York–
made beer, wine and spirits. It’s a “drink local” guy’s dream. But it
can also be overwhelming, with the state now home to 320 wineries
and more than 100 breweries.
A
NEW YORK
STATE...
O F S P I R I T S
CRAFT SPIRITS ARE ON THE CUSP OF BOOM STATUS,
WITH BOTH PRODUCTION AND INTEREST GROWING DYNAMICALLY
BY LENN THOMPSON
From left:
Finger Lakes Distilling
New York Distilling Company
Bridget Firtle of The Noble
Experiment NYC
BRIDGET FIRTLE PHOTOGRAPH BY KAREN ULRICH OF T. EDWARD WINES
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