In Upstate New York, winter is coming, and just as was implied by the phrase in Game of Thrones, this year’s will be a lot more ominous than merely several months of snow and ice. Whereas the fictional people of Westeros were on the cusp of an impending war with an army of the dead, flesh-and-blood Saratogians are staring down something just as terrifying: a potential second lockdown.
Luckily, we’ve been through this once before, and we know that if bars and restaurants are forced to close again, there are plenty of ways to get our firewater fix in the Capital Region. One prolific provider of lockdown liquor is Albany Distilling Co., which has been arming upstaters with liquid courage since 2012. “We started off with just whiskey,” explains John Curtin, who co-owns the Capital City business with Rick Sicari. “Then we realized Albany’s first distillery from the 1750s was right around the corner from us. They made rum, so it seemed like a natural sort of progression.” Nearly a decade later, the distillery also produces vodka and brandy, as well as its Cocktail Club line of canned cocktails.
It’s The Cocktail Club that has really taken off since the beginning of the pandemic, especially in the New York City market, says Curtin. “For people who are used to going out more, it’s kind of a bridge between their former lives and the realities of quarantine,” he says. For those more interested in the straight stuff—and in supporting more than one locally-owned business—there are plenty of options, too. Death Wish Coffee Vodka is Albany Distilling’s coffee-flavored collaboration with the popular Saratoga-based “World’s Strongest Coffee” brand, and 10th Pin Apple Brandy is an aptly named add-on to Nine Pin Cider’s alcoholic, apple-y offerings. “The motto of distilleries, and I think of a lot of small businesses, is ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’” Curtin says of his company’s partnerships with other Capital Region businesses. “The idea of the community spirit—pardon the pun—is very much part and parcel of our business model.”
While Albany Distilling’s bar and bottle shop on Livingston Ave. in Albany is temporarily closed to customers, you can order pre-mixed cocktails, plus Cocktail Club cans or bottles of liquor, for in-shop pickup. Any pre-packaged products, including Albany Distilling’s hand sanitizer, which it has offered free of charge for those who need it since this past spring, can also be shipped anywhere in New York State. And in Saratoga Springs, you can grab the distillery’s products at Purdy’s Discount Wine & Liquor (which offers curbside pickup and delivery), among other area liquor stores.
Yes, winter may be coming, but here in the Capital Region, we’re going to be ready.