The new Grandview distillery was “this close” to opening its tasting room when bars were forced to close. The founders are making the best of it.
One evening in mid-March, I settled in front of my laptop to watch a cocktail class livestreamed from a distillery in Grandview. Then, as instructed, I went to my kitchen, dusted off a cocktail shaker, made some simple syrup, squeezed several limes and opened a new bottle of white rum from Echo Spirits Distilling Co. Voila! A traditional daiquiri.
This new way to engage with customers in a stay-at-home environment was concocted on the fly by Echo Spirits, a nascent operation on West Sixth Avenue that was within a few weeks of opening its new bar to the public when Ohio’s dine-in ban began.
“We’re a distillery [that] was gearing up to open up our bar, and it seems like just about every day we’re kind of pivoting on what exactly our business is and what it does,” says co-founder Joe Bidinger.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Bidinger and fellow co-founder Nikhil Sharoff, two high school buddies from Bishop Watterson High School, are becoming experts in the art of the sharp turn.
In 2008, Bidinger graduated from college with a finance degree and a penchant for good craft beer, but jobs (and cash) were sparse because of the Great Recession. It was cheaper to make his own beer.
He and Sharoff started homebrewing, and their interest in the practice grew from there. “We made mead, we made wine, we made sake,” Bidinger says. “We kind of made all the different fermented beverages just for fun. We just think it’s a really cool process.” The pair started putting together plans to open a brewery when the white-hot craft beer revolution took off. Reticent about the growing competition in brewing, they shifted their business plan to distilling and moved into their production facility last year.
The distillery’s first two products—a white rum and a forthcoming genever (what Bidinger describes as “a hybrid between gin and malt whiskey”)—are spirits that deliberately hark back (or in this case, echo back) to olden days, specifically the pre-Prohibition era. Instead of whiskey or vodka, the founders chose to enter the market with spirits not being produced by the two bigger distilleries in town: Middle West Spirits and Watershed Distillery.
“A lot of it was just a desire to do something different,” says Bidinger. “If we’re going to build this company, the last thing I need to do is start out by trying to compete with the products from the two other distilleries in the area that I love.”
The distillery’s rum, which is available for sale at Echo Spirits’ on-site bottle shop, is bound to challenge what people think about light rums. Often used in cocktails, they tend to be stripped down and neutral in flavor. “We went out intentionally trying to design a rum that’s very flavor-forward,” says Bidinger.
It’s uncertain when customers will be able to visit Echo Spirits’ new bar, which features cocktails developed by beverage director Derek Reno, a veteran Columbus bartender. In the meantime, the team plans to continue connecting to people virtually through its series of cocktail classes. Get those shakers ready. echospirits.com