If you were to guess which booze brand in the city opened a tasting room this month, your first guess probably wouldn’t be a single-product producer, even less if that product is a flavored liqueur. But that’s exactly what Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur is doing, and they’re using it as an opportunity to celebrate spirits distilled all over New York State.
Barrow’s has been housed in Industry City in Sunset Park for several years, but as of this winter they’ve soft-launched their first public-facing space that officially opened to the public early this month. And while their ginger liqueur will certainly be on offer in the cocktail menu, the tasting room celebrates New York State–grown and –distilled spirits.
Josh Morton, the owner and founder of Barrow’s Intense, credits his personal connections with New York’s distillers for birthing the idea. When the plans for a Barrow’s tasting room began to kick around, it started with the liqueur and went outward from there.
“Our liqueur is great to drink on its own, however, it also makes amazing cocktails and we started to think, ‘Okay, we’re going to have a gin cocktail, we’re going to have a whiskey cocktail, we’re going to have a vodka cocktail,’” and so on, Morton said. “I’m friends with a lot of the New York distillers, so the question was, whose gin am I going to use?”
The answer: Why not bring in all of them?
“Next thing you know, we have 160 different spirits behind the bar.” Those 160 (and counting) bottles come from 35 different distillers, and visitors can have the unique experience of taste testing and comparing spirits from across the state in a single sitting. The Barrow’s team has curated several different flights and invites visitors to make their own as well.
It’s a unique experience inherent to the fact that under few other occasions does one get to try several craft spirits made by different producers at one time. Morton is taking advantage of this situation in order to act as a sort of hub for New York spirits, offering interesting and unusual selections like a vodka flight wherein each vodka is made from a different base. Visitors can also sample all of the nine currently available Empire Ryes.
And all of these offerings are within a certain restriction: Because Barrow’s is operating with a tasting room license under the farm distillery bill, everything they serve is not only distilled in New York but made from at least 75 percent New York agricultural product. They’ve even had to tweak their own product to comply with the law—the version of the liqueur they serve in the tasting room is made from neutral grain alcohol rather than the sugarcane in their standard product.
The personal and regional ties are a source of pride for Morton, who refers to bottles by the name of the distillers who made them, i.e, “Brian’s gin” and “Colin’s whiskey.” New York State distilling is a community he’s proud to be a part of, citing its economic impact, job creation and support for agriculture across the state. And of course, because New York spirits have quickly become downright delicious across the board. He hasn’t had a need to be picky with which bottles make it to his bar.
“I think in the beginning people were still learning, and now the depth and quality has gotten just phenomenal,” he says. “I didn’t have a problem bringing in anything because everything’s just so good.”