If you’re driving through the hamlet of Gardiner one of these evenings and do a double-take because you think you see moving images in the window of the building next to the post office, don’t worry; you’re not imagining things. A short video about the new business coming to the space — along with some vintage footage of undetermined origin — is being projected onto a sheet hanging in the large front window that faces the street. But it won’t be there for long, because it’s all just an eye-catching way of drawing attention to the soon-to-open-there GLM Farm Bar & Mercantile.
The proprietor of the new business is Gable Erenzo. He is the son of Ralph Erenzo, who founded Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner in 2005 (along with his business partner, Brian Lee). Gable Erenzo was initially chief distiller in the family business, later moving into sales and marketing and then serving as Brand Ambassador. Now Erenzo is going out on his own, “stepping out on the plank,” as he words it, to start his own business, Gardiner Liquid Mercantile, LLC.
And just as Tuthilltown Spirits was revolutionary a decade ago as the first whiskey distillery in New York State since Prohibition, Gardiner Liquid Mercantile is a new type of venture breaking ground as the first of its kind.
One arm of the enterprise is a nano-distillery that Erenzo has set up at Dressel Farms in New Paltz, where he’s distilling small batches of spirits in his “old-school” 50-gallon copper still, sharing the space with the farm’s Kettleborough Cider House operation. The other arm of Gardiner Liquid Mercantile (GLM) is the opening of a “branch office,” so to speak, of the new distillery; an eating and drinking establishment on Main Street in Gardiner that will include a retail shop on site.
GLM Farm Bar & Mercantile will offer craft cocktails made with the spirits produced in small batches by Gardiner Liquid Mercantile along with other locally produced artisan farm beverages — hard cider, wine, beer and spirits — served by the glass. Patrons who find a new favorite beverage product can then step into the Mercantile shop on site and purchase a bottle to take home with them. The menu will offer “small plates” — basically appetizer-sized — of seasonal local fare produced with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. “We’re working now on pickling some of this year’s harvest in order to have vegetables throughout the winter,” says Erenzo. “The goal is to keep it as fresh as possible, to be seasonal and local and not have freezers and microwaves.” The price for the small plates will generally be in the $10 range.
This type of business has only been made possible within the last year due to changes in state laws that govern the marketing of craft beverages, easing restrictions and encouraging craft beverage production in New York. The amended D Farm Distillery License allows a farm distillery to have a branch office where beverages may be sold by the glass for on-premise consumption. In addition, a food and drinking establishment may be opened on or adjacent to the satellite location and a retail operation maintained there. And as far as he knows, Erenzo says, he’s the first in the state to take advantage of the new law and set up a business like this.
Construction is currently in full swing readying the premises at 128 Main Street for an October opening. The building was formerly a residence that had been gutted and was in the process of being converted to a wine bar before construction on it stopped several years ago. The building has sat empty since. A sneak peek inside recently revealed that the 1,500-square-foot space includes a two-story soaring vaulted ceiling over the bar area and the floors are made of nicely milled 12-inch wide planks of oak. A ten-foot-long oak porch has been added to the front of the building where people can sit outside on a nice day to sip their beverages. Erenzo credits his crew led by Chris Rawl of Custom Craftsmanship for the quality construction work going on.
The general aesthetic of GLM Farm Bar & Mercantile will reflect the distillery business and the history of the Gardiner region, with vintage agricultural and distilling equipment used in the decor along with historic photos and eclectic finds. The bar will have a concrete top and corrugated metal front. A room on the second floor may eventually be turned into an event space with a balcony built out for musicians to play live music suspended over the bar below.
“People are stopping in every day to check out the construction,” says Erenzo. “The buzz around town has been extremely positive. I’m getting amped up about launching this and a lot of that has to do with the support from the locals.”
Producing spirits in small 50-gallon batches allows for experimentation and innovation, given the lesser amount of raw materials needed. Erenzo says he’ll be able to utilize much of the fruit grown on Dressel Farm’s 400 acres to produce unique beverages according to what is available. “Partnering with a local farm is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he says. “And knowing Tim [Dressel] so long, he was a natural fit for that. Every time he has some excess peaches or pears, or strawberries or apples, he always asks me if I want them.”
Starting this new business has been “a great opportunity for me to get back to the distilling side of things,” Erenzo says. “I had a great time being Brand Ambassador for Tuthilltown Spirits, traveling to a lot of great cocktail bars and talking about whiskey for a number of years, but I did miss actually creating something from scratch. Gardiner Liquid Mercantile allows me to test the waters with some unique products. It’s just a really cool opportunity to create some fun, unique spirits and take those directly to the consumer in one location.”