2022 Tastemakers: Joe Bidinger and Nikhil Sharoff of Echo Spirits Distilling Co.
In just three years, the Echo Spirits co-founders have opened their own distillery and cocktail bar, and garnered international accolades.
In just three years, Echo Spirits Distilling Co. co-founders Joe Bidinger and Nikhil Sharoff have opened their own distillery and cocktail bar in Fifth by Northwest, produced a unique roster of spirits and garnered accolades from the Berlin International Spirits Competition. Last year, Echo Spirits landed four medals at the competition and was named the USA Flavored Rum Distillery of the Year. Not bad for a couple of newbies.
From Homebrewing to Spirits
Friends since age 14, Bidinger and Sharoff were homebrewing buddies in college before venturing into IT and engineering. “We wanted to do something that wasn’t our office jobs,” Sharoff says. “That originally was going to be a brewery but, looking at the trends, we thought distilling’s up next.”
In a short time, the pair have gone from seeking advice from established local distillers to becoming experts in their own right. “A lot of people look at us to answer questions now,” Bidinger says. “We were always the ones to be asking the questions, and now we’re giving back to the community in this way.”
Looking to the Past
The distillery’s first three spirits echo a bygone era—hence the name. Echo Spirits’ rye whiskey, white rum and genever—a cross between a malt whiskey and a botanical gin—were more popular pre-Prohibition. “In Ohio, everybody’s got a vodka, gin, whiskey,” Bidinger says. “That’s a small craft representation of what the bigger spirits market looks like. Rather than compete directly, we thought, ‘Why don’t we work on other stuff?’”
The Bar at Echo Spirits
Although Bidinger and Sharoff were focused on manufacturing spirits, a bar was always on the horizon. “When looking for locations, we found the old Four String Brewing spot, which had a bar. But we wanted to be a distillery [that] happened to have a bar, not a bar that makes its own spirits,” Sharoff says. The Bar at Echo Spirits opened in December 2020, with Derek Reno, who had operated his own cocktail consultancy, leading the program. Echo’s bar quickly became a destination. “The bar allows us to present the spirits in the way we want them to be presented," Bidinger says.
More Spirits on the Way
The co-founders plan to continue growing the bar business and adding new spirits to their roster. They recently released a cherrywood-smoked rum. And coming Aug. 27 is Sandbar, a new tiki-style block party on West Sixth Avenue with a DJ, steel drum band and spiced rum release.
Echo Spirits Distilling Co.
985 W. Sixth Ave., Fifth by Northwest,
About Joe Bidinger
Local food he craves: Katalina’s Mazatlan Sunrise Sammy
Distillery/bar business advice: “Don’t panic. The biggest mistakes we’ve made have been when something isn’t working immediately, and we change course.”
Something Columbus needs: “A little more self-pride in our drinking and eating scene. We all travel and see the things going on in other cities and think, ‘Wow, we aren’t cool enough to have anything like that.’ But we have a world-class scene going on here.”
About Nikhil Sharoff
Hometown: “Born in Casper, Wyoming, but lived in Columbus since I was 10.”
Local food he craves: Sí Señor’s sandwiches
Go-to bar: Denmark on High
Podcast recommendation: Whiskey Business
Joe Bidinger and Nikhil Sharoff are one of nine “Tastemakers” profiles in the August 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.