A Quick Chat with Helen Hollyman

Here is a quick chat with Helen on her radio show, U Look Hungry.  For whatever reason I can chat up a bar all night long but aim a microphone or camera at me and like kryptonite, frozen.  Luckily Helen is a wonderful host and kept me from tripping up too much, also the bourbon helped.


Kick It Into Gear

And we’re back…  Chaos reigns supreme over these last few weeks, but it brought with it a rush of  exciting new adventures!  Finally finding a stride in my working life between the distillery and the new bar I have been able to focus in on some new projects that are long over due, and at the same time build in a little tiny bit of leisure time.  In spite of a looming transition to a new location the distillery seems to be flying along with some really neat new things.  You can now finally find our bourbon on shelves around the city for sale at liquor stores and bars!  Last Friday I jumped into our ever steadfast Metro Moonshine Mobile, Lisa to friends, and zipped through the bridges delivering our first round of the brown stuff to our awaiting accounts.  As it turned out it was actually quite a nerve wracking moment for me as I realized we were finally submitting to the public what we had been working on since the beginning, it was now subject to very wide scrutiny.  That being said it is now out in the world for all to enjoy, and I am anxiously awaiting feedback.  While you can find our Bourbon and Moonshine most everywhere now it is time for me to start working on some other projects.  Recently we began new partnerships with friends to begin working on some cool new releases, which won’t be available for quite some time, but none the less are fun to begin tinkering with.  It is a hard thing to wrap my head around creating some really cool new things to know that they won’t be available to the world for at least 1-2 years, damn the aging process!

Amor Y Amargo is finding its place in the New York bar scene.  Our new little tiny bar is beginning to truly carve out a niche for itself and has found its way onto quite a few publication pages.  Every Saturday night my good friend Chris Elford and I post ourselves behind the bar playing random eclectic music including, but of course not limited to, Tears for Fears, Grizzly Bear, Kanye, Bon Iver, Decemberists, Naked and Famous, Beatles… the list is weird and long.  To the beat of many different songs we pour bitter and amaro based drinks out to friends, family, and customers in what usually escalates to what can only be described as a crowded neighborhood house party.  Our little bar fortunately seems to draw an unusual crowd of nice, interested, and respectful people!  You can’t help but talk to everyone in the bar due to its small size and intimate setting, and that you may or may night be plied with very strong drinks.  It really does amount to being a great time from start to finish, so come find us on Saturdays!

Scotch.  I have talked much about Single Malt Whisky hailing from Scotland.  Scotch is my drink of choice, I drink it regularly and it brought me into my profession, I love Scotch.  Last week I was fortunate to be invited along to a tasting held in the West Village featuring 12+ single malts from every region and style in Scotland.  Hosted by Macallan and Highland Park, both favorites of mine, we enjoyed a non biased (not brand specific at least) tasting of some of the worlds greatest drams.  At 12:30 on a Thursday afternoon I met up with some good friends to be ushered around the world of scotch one taste at a time.  We all sat down to an awesome spread of food, and then were instructed on proper tasting techniques.  After wrapping our heads around being presented with 12 cups of whisky, we dove in.  From Balvenie to Springbank to Highland Park 25… we nosed, chewed, sipped, and drank our way from Lowlands to Highlands.  If you are interested in the actual tasting notes please let me know.  After stepping away from our tables somewhat carefully we then all gathered around the keystone of the day: Highland Park 30 year, and proceeded to pass around the bottle.   All in all, a day to be remembered.

I have lately struck up some new projects through the distillery that have put me in contact with some cool new people around Brooklyn.  Our new friends at Brooklyn Winery in heart of Williamsburg just recently released their first wine, which include an awesome Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot, and in their honor through a gala at their beautiful facilities.  Drinking wonderful wines and mingling a night away with fun people who like to make booze, not a bad way to spend an evening.  I’m really excited to work with these guys on some new stuff coming up soon!  If you haven’t been over to their wine bar or to see their wine making facility it is definitely worth the trip.

Finally summer is upon us!  The heat has been coming and going with the rains but on the occasional clear and warm day we are attempting to take full advantage of the season.  Our park adventures have already taken us up to Central Park with a thermos (or 3) filled with cocktails, alongside a spread cheeses, baguettes, and fruit needed to sustain us for some of the best people watching anywhere in the city!  It truly is nice to have a large area of green to escape from the concrete heat, it is so easy to forget that you are locked in the center of a huge metropolis.  If we can’t make the trip up to the park at least we can always find a cold beer on the block and enjoy a Williamsburg fashion show from open windows.

Much much more to come… Tonight we are off to see the Decemberists play at Prospect Park, a concert that I have waited years to see!  Be on the lookout for our bottles of booze, just yesterday picked us out in Maxim Magazine, things are on the way up.

Moonshine and Mousse

It is hard to remind yourself that sometimes when there is nothing particularly spectacular going on it doesn’t mean that you are being stagnant.  After a whirlwind year of constant adventure the slower times can seem a little unproductive and often leave me very restless at the end of a day focusing on what I am not doing rather than what I am headed towards.  Luckily both Shannon and I have the luxury of working  in the industry we want to end up in allowing us to gain experience while working on other projects on the side.  Every now and then it is nice to get little reminders that things are moving forward.  Last night my sister and I headed down to SoHo for a dessert sitting at the French Culinary Institute featuring our very own Chef Shannon Tebay and her pastry class peers!  Over the past few months it has become all too obvious that Shannon has a knack for pastry.  She has translated a talent for art, a precise hand, and seemingly limitless creativity into edible delights which constantly fill our fridge.  Night after night I get to indulge in tarts, trifles, and truffles and I have yet to stop being impressed, but to go and see Shannon in her element at the helm of a professional kitchen serving fine dining quality plates is another level of awe all together.  Shannon’s Creme Yvette Mousse dessert was supremely decadent, and an awesome reminder of what she has accomplished in such a short time.

Producing something physical, whether it is a beautiful dessert or a barrel of bourbon, is a nice way to remember that you are actually working towards a goal.  When I am not sure what it is I am actually doing in New York I find that wandering through the room where our bourbon barrels are stacked at the distillery reminds me of results that you can’t actually see come to fruition.  The reason I originally sought out work in a distillery was an infatuation with the lore and legend of every single bottle of single malt I have ever tasted, seen, or know of.  Every single bottle of spirit was tended to with great care by some one for years just so that I could enjoy it for a moment.  4… 10… 12… 21 YEARS of work went into a small bottle of alcohol.  You can’t help but admit that the knowledge of someone watching over that very drop of liquid in your glass somewhere across the planet over a decade ago doesn’t make it infinitely more precious.  It’s the thought that someone might scrutinize or romanticize an unknown random bottle of the bourbon that I make at the distillery that makes me care about every single step of everyday of work.  Hopefully I can imbue as much history and care into my bottles I as get from the spirit I myself enjoy.

Lately we have been getting quite a lot of attention from local, national, and international media.  It is flattering to find our bottle popping up in places I would have never thought to find them, thank you J. Crew.  Most recently we had a TV crew from Tokyo do a story about us for the local news:  I thought you might enjoy the clip, so here is our distillery from a different sounding point of view:  Click Here To Watch!

For everyone back home here is a real look into the distillery and our products, just click each link to take a look:

Video Tour!

Cool Pictures


Here are some pics from the new (yet to be named) place, unfortunately I was unable to hold the camera still… not sure what was going on there.  Hopefully I will be able to dig up some good pictures of Shannon’s supreme dessert work in the next couple of days!

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Bourbon Blanket, Staying Warm

It has been so very cold here the last few days with highs ranging from 18-22 degrees and lows too low to recount.  It makes for an amazing excuse to stay in, get delivery, and drink hot cocktails!  As it turns out bourbon goes great with a little lemon, some honey, and a cup of hot chamomile tea, I suggest settling down by the fire with a mug of that, although you may not get up again for the night.  Money saving tip: The more bourbon you drink, the lower you can keep the thermostat!

After quite the wait we finally have un-casked the second round of bourbon at the distillery.  Having bottled a new batch of hand picked barrels we now have something to actually gauge our progress as all of us at Kings County learn our way to the ultimate bourbon.  We knew that the last round of bourbon we put out, our first ever, was going to be something that we had no control over.  Although it came out incredibly successful for having no idea what we were producing, there were obviously things about it that we needed to tame i.e. the intense and somewhat over bearing pine scent and flavor or the the cloying sweetness that was way too rounded and overwhelmed any of the sharp bite.  Being so young, and frankly so ignorant, as a distillery we are learning to tackle problems and improve our work in order to better our bourbon.  It boils down to a few different sets of ideas that we are constantly evolving the first being efficiency: trying to make sure we are doing every process the best and most efficient way, and the second: trying to actually influence the flavor of the end result.  Making things run more efficient is by far the easier task, it is easy to recognize what we need to do to improve a certain system or how to cut back on waste, and easy to quantify results as they are so visible.  Taste…  Taste on the other hand is so hard to wrap your mind around.  Not only do we have to establish what we are going for, which has become very apparent is very different for every single person involved, but also how to get to that different taste.  How do we make a better tasting bourbon?  It ranges from the consistency of how everyone works to the cooper that produces our barrels; some things we have control over and somethings we can’t avoid.  Keeping all of this in mind, this week we handpicked from all of our aging casks the set of barrels that we balance each other out to achieve the results we wanted.  Each barrel we fill ages completely different then the next all showing different qualities, one being sweeter and another showing strong cinnamon flavors.  It is our job to select the barrels that will come together to make a whole and complete palette.  So after cracking open the 10 barrels that were aged to maturity, we hand selected 3 to bottle this week, and I think the results show.  It was unanimously agreed upon that this bourbon was leagues ahead of the last, and I can only hope that we continue to see it progress from here.

Bottling Moonshine!