It was almost a year ago, when I last stepped foot into the Niagara Distilling Company. At the time, the bar wasn’t quite open, but the distilling process was underway. It was only yesterday (just as it was opening) that I got a chance to stop in for a cocktail, and boy was I floored with what I found. The distillery’s bar operation is quite impressive. It’s a refined speakeasy atmosphere that is very ‘put together’. Of course the most noticeable distinguishing features include a view into the distilling operation and a sprawling jigsaw wall of hundreds of framed celebrity photos.
The cannons hanging behind the bar are kind of impressive too. But it’s the way that it all comes together that makes the place so special. There’s a lot of room, yet it still feels cozy.
My bartender, Ashleigh Dopp, was a whiz behind the pine. Before I knew it I had a 1812 Champs (equal parts 1812 vodka, champs, pineapple) in my hand – a very refreshing drink that she had tweaked to perfection. I also tried the Moscow mule (1812 Vodka), which was certainly a pick-me up, served in a proper mule mug. As I sipped the drinks, Ashleigh rattled off a few of the awards that the distillery has recently given for its vodka and gin, including a bronze for vodka and a gold for gin in the SIP Awards. The vodka also won a silver in the American Craft Spirit Awards.
In true Buffalo fashion, the distillery’s bar carries a number of other locally produced spirits, including One Foot Cock, Black Squirrel, and Lockhouse. There is also a regional beer and wine selection – due to the Farm D license, they can only serve NYS varieties. As for their wholesale operation, Niagara Distilling Company spirits (gin and vodka) are now foiund at over 150 bars in the area. The distillery just got the approval to produce and sell bourbon – the company’s third spirit to hit the market.
To add interest to the establishment and distillery, Ashleigh told me that they are offering a barrel program where groups can work with the distiller to make their own private barrels of spirits. Participants bottle and label their own batches – sounds like a great idea for a bachelor party.
As for the front entranceway of the distillery, the company is still waiting for the green light to build a patio. The building is a bit tucked away, directly next the The Washington Market. At this point, the facade has a nondescript speakeasy feel about it. One day that will change, but for now it only adds to the uniqueness of the place.