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Albany Distilling Co: Act II

April 6, 2018

Before Albany Distilling Company opened to the public back in 2012, I sat down with the distillers to share some thoughts on how their new make whiskey could be crafted into cocktails. One of the drinks I suggested even made it onto the opening day menu.

They’ve come a long, long way in less than six years.

Today marks the beginning of the next act for the distillery. Today is the day their new bar and bottle shop on Livingston Avenue opens its doors. Going to the ribbon cutting ceremony earlier this week was a little like deja vu.

Except this time, the cocktail menu wasn’t scrawled on a piece of cardboard with a sharpie. Nor did it feature drinks made solely from unaged whiskeys. Considering that when the distillery first opened its doors cocktails were almost an afterthought, it’s great to see the business as one of the champions of the local craft cocktail scene.

Let’s start with the obvious, and let’s go from there.

More than anything, this new location is a bar, and a pretty handsome one at that. You can learn all about the physical space from the recent story on All Over Albany, and see some picture there as well.

Today Albany Distilling Company has Jeff Krenn, formerly of Speakeasy 518, on the bar and working events. He created the “Easy Like Sunday Morning” which is a combination of ALB Vodka, cucumber, mint, triple sec, lime juice, and simple syrup. That is just one of eleven drinks on the ADCo Signature Cocktails list. It also includes the “Strawberry Smash” from Pat Taney who manages the bar program at Slidin’ Dirty. Pat’s drink is made from Ironweed Malt, lemon juice, simple syrup, cilantro, strawberries, and club soda.

The bar even has the popular “Warehouse District” cocktail on draft, which combines the distillery’s Ironweed Rye with the ginger cider from its neighbor Nine Pin, in addition to some honey simple syrup and a bit of cherry juice. I’ve had this before and its delicious.

But the cocktail menu goes on from there. It has a section that’s called Classics With a Twist and another called O.M.Tea which combines spirits with locally produced tea and one with kombucha.

Less obvious, but no less cool, is the role Albany Distilling Company is taking in supporting our local growing cocktail culture.

This is actually the second year that ADCo is hosting a Capital Region cocktail contest. They go around to the four corners of the region: Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga Springs. And in each of those cities, different local bartenders compete against each other to create some delicious new cocktails. The winners from each city then go head to head to determine the Capital Region’s best bartender.

What I love about this, is that our craft cocktail culture is finally developed well enough that such a venture is possible. It wasn’t too long ago that there was only one place in Albany to go for a well made drink.

The initial rounds have already been completed. Josh Mackenburg from Rare Craft Steak House won the Schenectady round; Lindsey Miller from Brown’s Brewing won the Troy round; Abena Okeyle from Speakeasy 518 won the Albany round; And Sonia Castellini from Hamlet & Ghost won the Saratoga Springs round.

While I would love to have the play-by-play of what each bartender made—and what drinks they bested—I missed the early rounds and haven’t been able to get a list of the cocktails and their builds.

Now on Saturday, April 21 at 7pm the four finalists will bring their A-game to the new bar and bottle shop to compete for the title. Will the Speakeasy win for the second year in a row? Or will Hamlet & Ghost inch ahead to claim the crown. It’s even possible that Browns known primarily for beer, or newcomer Rare will show up these two regional cocktail giants.

All of these events have been free and open to the public, but may not have been super well publicized. Regardless, competitions like these are really important for the local cocktail scene. Not only does it help bring our best bartenders together, but competition helps people to get better at their craft.

Bravo to Albany Distilling Company for taking this on.

The last thing, which also may not be on your radar, is that ADCo is hosting an Official Yelp Event on Tuesday, April 17. Right now the event is taking RSVP requests, but I’ll tell you right now it’s not going to be easy to get on the guest list.

This event isn’t just to bring active members of the Yelp community into their new space, but it’s also designed to promote the cocktail program. Yes, there will be a brief education session and tasting of their base spirits. But we’re going to sample four of their cocktails over the two hour event. Ama Cocina will be there as well, providing some tasty nibbles to go along with these delicious drinks.

What I love about having Ama participate in the event is that ADCo’s new space really helps to connect downtown to the warehouse district. And bringing the two of them together for the night helps to highlight their proximity. I have a few more thoughts on this, but let’s save those for another day.

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